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HomeGerman FinanceRenting through Airbnb & Co: The tax office (Finanzamt) knows everything

Renting through Airbnb & Co: The tax office (Finanzamt) knows everything

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Online portals à la Airbnb are a thorn in the side of many German cities, because living space in the metropolitan regions is becoming increasingly scarce. Sometimes draconian penalties for “unauthorized” short-term rentals are threatened.

The financial authorities (Finanzamt) are increasingly monitoring the earning opportunities on the Internet arising from house rentals. In this way, tax offices also have the activities of Airbnb landlords on their radar and other short-term rentals.

In the case of a so-called temporary rental, income of up to 520 euros per calendar year is tax-free.

Not every city in Germany allows you sublet your apartment

Would you like to go on vacation yourself and capitalize on the most beautiful time of the year? You can do this with short-term rental of your own four walls to tourists, trade fair visitors or tradespeople on assembly via online platforms such as airbnb.de, wimdu.de or 9flats.com. Homeowners don’t really need to ask anyone’s permission if they want to rent their apartment for a short time Left to strangers.

However, tenants absolutely need prior approval of the house owner to sublet (BGH judgment of 8 January 2014 Ref .: VIII ZR 210/13). There can also be legal problems for owners of condominiums. Ask the property manager whether short-term subletting to constantly changing guests is permitted.

The online portals are a thorn in the side of some cities such as Berlin, Munich and Hamburg because affordable living space is becoming increasingly scarce. With regulations against the misappropriation of living space, they are therefore trying to limit the boom in short-term rentals to tourists and trade fair visitors.

short-term rental

Since May 1, 2014, it has been forbidden in the city of Berlin to rent entire apartments to tourists without a permit (judgment of the Berlin Administrative Court of June 6, 2016 – VG 6 K 103.16).

At  www.berlin.de/ Zweckentfremdung citizens of the city administration can also anonymously report illegal holiday homes. Landlords without a permit face a fine of up to 500,000 euros.

In Munich, your own apartment or house can only be offered as a holiday home for a limited period of time – up to a total of eight weeks a year – during your own vacation or business trip.

TIP: Check with your city council to see if there are any restrictions before you start.

Reporting short-term rental income

You must report the income from a short-term rental to the tax office. Whether you actually have to pay taxes on the rents achieved depends on your individual income situation and other factors.

Taxes are only incurred if you exceed the basic tax-free allowance with all of your income over the year. In 2019, this amounts to 9,168 euros for singles (2018: 9,000 euros), and for married people 18,336 euros (2018: 18,000 euros).

Also note: the sales and trade tax. However, this may not apply if your income from Airbnb and other short-term rentals and other businesses does not exceed the total revenue of € 17,500 in the previous year and € 50,000 in the current year. This means that you fall under the heading of “small business owners” at the tax office. If you exceed these limits, you are automatically subject to regular taxation.

short-term rental

Occasional landlords do well

Just because you have earned a few more euros over the year does not mean that the tax office will collect you in full. Owners and tenants with little additional income benefit from an exemption limit for short-term renters.

Income of up to 520 euros per calendar year remains tax-free – whoever invokes this simplification rule cannot, however, deduct any costs that have arisen in connection with the short-term rental. If the de minimis limit is exceeded, all income is fully taxable – but then costs can also be offset.

TIP: The tax office is also increasingly monitoring the earning opportunities on the Internet. If you want to rent out via the brokerage portals, you should know that the providers must disclose all brokered rentals in response to inquiries from the tax office. So you shouldn’t pocket the earned money untaxed. The risk of discovery is high and the penalties are severe.

What is taxable from income generated from a short-term rental?

If your income over the year was higher than 520 euros or if you want to claim higher income-related expenses, account for the short-term rental using your tax return. The receipts are declared on the front page of Appendix V.

The income includes everything that you have earned for the short-term rental – in addition to the room rental, also amounts for bread and laundry service or a flat rate that the guest has to pay for the final cleaning.

You can claim advertising expenses on the reverse. For tenants, this includes the pro rata apartment rent and ancillary costs, for landowners the pro rata ongoing charges for property such as property tax and insurance, the running costs for garbage disposal and water supply, as well as the pro rata depreciation of the building.

Added to this are the fees for advertisements and agency commissions for the operators of the online portals, expenses for cleaning the rooms and proportionate costs for craftsmen. You can also deduct equipment that you have procured specifically for renting – for example, for the purchase of a tumble dryer, so that you can deal with the towels and bed linen more quickly.

short-term rental

Even with furniture purchased earlier, you can still save taxes in retrospect. For example, if you bought a large wardrobe five years ago for 1,200 euros privately and rent it out from the sixth year onwards, the proportional depreciation for the furniture can be deducted from tax. The Munich Finance Court ruled on March 29, 2011 (Az .: 13 K 2013/09).

The depreciation period for furniture is ten years with normal use. That makes an annual depreciation of 120 euros (purchase price 1,200 euros x 1/10). You can deduct tax year after year for the past five years of useful life.

TIP: If you have only rented your apartment on a daily basis, determine the deductible income-related expenses by dividing the total costs incurred for the year by 365 days and multiplying by the number of short-term rental days. If you have only rented one room in your apartment, you have to allocate the deductible costs not only proportionally but also in terms of area based on the number of square meters.

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Tim Gumbert
Tim is the go-to guy when it comes to finding all the gems regarding life as an Expat in Germany. His whole motto is discover Germany on your own and without a roadmap, explore new routes while climbing or mountain biking.
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