The motor vehicle tax is a very extensive and complex subject. In this article, we therefore only want to deal with its most important framework conditions and some special features. Further information on motor vehicle tax can be found at the end of this article.
Type of tax
The motor vehicle tax has been a federal tax since 2009; previously it was a tax of the federal states. Since 2014, the Federal Customs Administration has levied the motor vehicle tax, whose revenue in Germany amounts to almost nine billion euros annually. The customs administration is now legally responsible, but nothing has changed for drivers. Customs has only taken over the previous work of the state finance authorities.
At regional level, the responsible main customs office collects the vehicle tax. The tax office is expressly not responsible. There are 43 main customs offices in larger cities in Germany.
The collection of motor vehicle tax is regulated by the Kraftfahrteuergesetz (KraftStG) and the Kraftfahrzeugsteuer-Durchführungsverordnung (Kraft StDV), as is its amount. The provisions of the Vehicle Registration Ordinance (FZV) and the Road Traffic Registration Ordinance (StVZO) also play a role.
Purpose of the motor vehicle tax
All states levy a motor vehicle tax because, in return, they pay from the public purse those expenses which are necessary for the infrastructure of a functioning transport system. These are not only roads and road maintenance departments, level crossings and zebra crossings, but also traffic lights, digital traffic monitoring and the work of the traffic police, which is not financed solely by parking tickets.
Because the legislator raises the tax from the polluter (the so-called polluter pays principle), it demands it in advance. In Germany, an annual contribution is usual, which the main customs office collects by direct debit. Deviations from this are hardly planned.
In addition to investments in infrastructure, the funds from the motor vehicle tax also serve to promote innovative, mostly environmentally friendly technologies. This is also reflected in the design of the tax: Particularly environmentally friendly vehicles pay only a very low vehicle tax or are (even temporarily) completely exempt from it.
In general, the level of the tax for many vehicles depends on their pollutant class. With such regulations, the motor vehicle tax as an expense tax in Germany has been further developed in the last century. It has been in existence since 1906, for a long time only the engine capacity of the car was decisive for the amount of the tax.
Who pays the vehicle tax?
Owners and in special cases users of motor vehicles pay this tax. In return, they receive a registration number as a service provided by the state.
Motor vehicles are all vehicles driven by an engine that travel on the road and not or not exclusively by rail. The taxable owners may have registered the vehicle within the country, the tax is due regardless of the actual use.
Vehicles registered abroad are also taxable in Germany if their owner has his main residence in Germany. Furthermore, even vehicles that are not registered, i.e. illegally used (or parked in public space) are subject to tax.
The amount of tax can be determined according to the type of vehicle, and there are also tax exemptions and reductions due to the purpose of use. For example, there are special tax rates for classic cars that can drive continuously with the H-plate and for vehicles with red plates that are used for transfer, test and trial runs. A vehicle with a red number plate for test drives alone is exempt from vehicle tax. Its registration number begins with 05.
The taxpayers may be different persons for the registration types mentioned. The motor vehicle tax law determines in § 7 as tax debtor
- for domestic vehicles, the keeper (to whom the vehicle is registered),
- in the case of foreign vehicles, the domestic user,
- in the case of vehicles used unlawfully, the unlawful user and
- For red indicators, the person to whom the indicator was assigned.
Vehicle Tax: Unlimited Tax Exemptions
Some vehicles are exempt from vehicle tax. The purpose, the keeper and/or the type of vehicle are decisive. There are both permanent and temporary exemptions.
For example, agricultural and forestry machinery is used tax-free. These include
- special-purpose vehicles
Excluded from this are tractor units and their trailers.
Vehicles for very special tasks are also exempt from tax. These are vehicles for the following areas of application:
- Fire brigade
- Rescue service (ambulance)
- civil defence
- disaster control
- street cleaning
- road construction
- Buses in regular service
- German Armed Forces
In addition, there is no motor vehicle tax for light motorcycles up to 11 kW and 125 cm³ cubic capacity, for self-propelled machines and motorised patient elevators.
Vehicle tax: Temporary tax exemptions
While the tax exemptions just mentioned apply generally (permanently), there is a temporary tax exemption for electric vehicles. This depends on the date of first registration. Until 17.05.2011 five years tax exemption were fixed, from 18.05.2011 - 31.12.2015 then ten years, from 01.01.2016 - 31.12.2020 again five years. Thereafter, a tax reduction of 50 percent will apply to each of these vehicles.
Foreign passenger cars also benefit from a temporary tax exemption for one year. The prerequisite for this, however, is that they are not used for the carriage of goods or passengers against payment.
There was also a temporary tax exemption until 31.12.2013 for emission-reduced diesel passenger cars registered from 01.01.2011 - 31.12.2013. The engines had to comply with the Euro 6 standard (Motor Vehicle Tax Act § 3b).
Tax exemption for certain keepers
Severely handicapped persons receive tax exemption for their motor vehicle if their severely handicapped ID card contains one of the abbreviations H, BI or aG (helplessness, blindness or extraordinary walking disability).
This regulation is based on a more recent legal situation. Those severely disabled persons who were already exempt from motor vehicle tax under the previous laws of 1979 remain exempt if they are VB (entitled to care), KB (war-damaged) or EB (entitled to compensation). They are former soldiers with severe injuries, seriously war-affected and victims of National Socialist injustice.
The carnies are another group of people who are generally exempt from motor vehicle tax. Their vehicle must be used exclusively for commercial purposes. These are their caravans from 3.5 tons, tractors and luggage vans from 2.5 tons.
Application for tax exemption
Some exemptions from vehicle tax are granted only on request. This must be submitted to the registration authority for agricultural and forestry vehicles and to the main customs office for vehicles of severely disabled keepers. Electric vehicles, self-propelled working machines and motorised patient elevators are automatically exempt without an application.
If a tax exemption was granted on application, but the reason for it no longer applies (for example, a carny now uses his vehicle privately), this must be notified immediately in writing to the competent authority. Failure to do so would result in a frivolous tax reduction and, in the case of a higher amount of tax evasion (longer and/or for many vehicles), tax evasion.
Vehicles exempt from motor vehicle tax carry special green plates, which they receive from the registration authority. However, this does not apply to all exempt vehicles. Excluded are severely disabled vehicles, mopeds, low emission vehicles, official vehicles and vehicles of diplomats and consulates.
Refund of vehicle tax
Under special circumstances there is a refund of the motor vehicle tax (motor vehicle tax law § 4). This is the case if a vehicle has been transported often (at least 125 times a year) by rail. It does not matter how far the entire journey was and whether parts of it were covered by the vehicle itself. For slightly fewer journeys there are partial refunds, for example 75% for 94 journeys or more. The refund must be applied for in writing and a documentation (ticket) must be enclosed.
Vehicle tax reduction
In certain cases a reduction is possible, often by 50%. This applies to severely disabled people with an orange-coloured imprint on their severely disabled ID card and the entry G (walking disability) or GI (deafness).
However, the applicant must refrain from using public transport, which is otherwise free of charge, in order to benefit from the tax relief. The reduction also applies if the severely disabled person does not drive the vehicle himself. However, this may only be used for their personal needs. Here, too, the reason for the tax reduction must be reported immediately to the responsible main customs office.
A further 50% reduction applies to electric vehicles after the complete tax exemption has expired. The reduction does not have to be applied for. For classic cars, their owners also pay a uniformly low tax rate.
From when and for how long does a motor vehicle tax apply?
With the registration also the tax liability applies. Registration allows the vehicle to be used (driven, parked) in public spaces. The holders then issue a SEPA direct debit mandate to the main customs office. When a vehicle is deregistered, its taxation automatically ends. For proper deregistration, the registration certificates and license plates must be submitted to the registration office.
On sale, the previous holder’s tax liability ends on the day the vehicle is registered with the new holder. The new owner must bring the sales contract with him for the re-registration. The previous owner can also deregister the vehicle before the sale in order to protect himself from tax and insurance consequences. This usually does not happen because the buyer is then only allowed to move the vehicle with a special license plate. It is therefore always noted in the sales contracts that the buyer is obliged to re-register in a timely manner. This means about one week.
A stolen vehicle can be deregistered, then the damaged owner’s tax liability expires. He must report the theft to the police, the main customs office and the registration authority.
A curious aspect of motor vehicle tax is that it is due when the vehicle is used illegally. During this time, the tax is also due. Whoever receives a license plate and does not deregister again must pay motor vehicle tax for the duration of the validity. This applies, among other things, to export license plates that motorists use for the permanent transfer of the vehicle abroad. They must then deregister the license plate from the German registration authority.
The minimum period for tax liability is one month. There are also tax refunds when a vehicle is deregistered. The tax was finally paid in advance.
Due date for motor vehicle tax
The tax is paid one year in advance from the date of registration, after which it is payable annually on that date. If the tax burden exceeds 500 euros, a half-yearly payment method is possible; if the tax burden exceeds 1,000 euros, quarterly payment is possible. Both are connected with a small surcharge and must be requested.
The motor vehicle tax for foreign vehicles registered in Germany can be paid in advance for thirty days in each case during the temporary stay of the owner in Germany.
If it is not possible to collect the vehicle tax, the owner is sent a reminder and the vehicle is deregistered ex officio. The owner must submit his vehicle registration document to the registration authority, and the papers are also marked accordingly at the registration office. Those who do not surrender their vehicle registration papers will be caught during a police check. In addition, the registration number is unstamped and any trailer directories are corrected.
Determination of the tax rate
When the vehicle is registered, the registration authority establishes the relevant data for taxation. These are:
- Size of the cubic capacity
- emission class
- drive type
- Weight (for trucks, caravans, some trailers)
- CO₂ output
The registration office transmits the vehicle data to the responsible main customs office. The Main Customs Office determines the amount of the vehicle tax, the holder receives a tax assessment and issues the SEPA Direct Debit Mandate to the Main Customs Office. It does not necessarily have to be the holder’s own account. If the registration of a vehicle reveals tax arrears on the part of the keeper, the latter must first settle the arrears before he can register the new vehicle.
According to the Motor Vehicle Tax Act, tax bases can change and the tax must then be reassessed. This sometimes results from changes in the law, but also from the fact that the owner is classified differently for tax purposes due to changes in his circumstances - changes in his profession, possibly a disability. A changed validity period of seasonal license plates also changes the tax. A tax change can also only be effective temporarily.
Factors influencing the amount of motor vehicle tax
There are various vehicle tax classes. The motor vehicle tax rate depends on the factors mentioned above, which play a different role for individual vehicles. For example, the registration date currently has a major influence, as new rules have been set for first-time registrations from 1 July 2009. In addition, there are different exemption limits for pollutant emissions depending on the registration date, which also have an influence on the amount of vehicle tax.
And depending on the engine capacity, different taxes are levied from these exemption limits, which in turn vary between gasoline and diesel engines. Weight is also relevant for Wankel engines.
Calculate the amount of motor vehicle tax
Since the amount of the motor vehicle tax depends strongly on the influencing factors mentioned above and their combinations, the question “How much motor vehicle tax do I have to pay?
It is therefore better to use the vehicle tax calculator to calculate the vehicle tax. This calculator supports you individually and quickly in calculating the tax for your vehicle. It is free of charge and easy to use. When calculating the tax for your car, for example, you only have to use the
- the date of first registration,
- the cubic capacity and
- specify the motor type.
- Depending on the registration date, the vehicle tax calculator then queries the pollutant class or the CO2 emissions in g/km.
You will find all the necessary information in your registration certificate Part 1. By moving the mouse over the respective input field description of the computer, it will also show you exactly where you will find the information on the registration certificate.
If your car is registered throughout, you do not need to make any further entries. If the vehicle is only used seasonally, you only need to enter the period.
The vehicle tax calculator will then immediately show you the expected amount of vehicle tax to be paid.