Law made simple

Simplifying tax declarations

Every year, the tax offices in Germany receive more than 28 million salary and income tax declarations. Nearly half of these tax declarations are submitted in paper form, a little more than half online. For many citizens, completing the income tax form is associated with a great deal of effort, partly because many people consider the tax forms to be difficult to understand.

Ein Kugelschreiber liegt in Straubing (Niederbayern) auf einer Einkommensteuererklärung. Steuererklärung, Steuer, Finanzamt,


Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/Armin Weigel

The Federal Ministry of Finance wants to simplify tax declarations for citizens. The Ministry therefore commissioned the wirksam regieren project group to develop suggestions for improvements to two parts of the income tax declaration to begin with.

Aim of the project

Improving the clarity of the income tax statement, specifically appendix N (income from employment) and the pension expenses appendix.


Identification of formulations, enquiries and form specifications which are difficult to understand from the citizens’ perspective;
development of proposals to simplify forms which are clearer and simpler for the citizens;
compilation of general guidelines for citizen-friendly form design


In order to understand the problems which occur when completing the forms, qualitative individual interviews with citizens were carried out. Here, the participants were presented with a typical tax case.

In the next step, a variety of possible solutions were developed in web-based discussions with 40 citizens.

Finally, the results of the discussions with citizens were summarized for the project report, their feasibility was discussed with experts and an example of an improved tax form was created.

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