Everyone knows that anyone who submits their tax returns or advances returns late or pays due taxes late or not at all must expect surcharges for late payment, late payment surcharges, interest on arrears, etc. The legislature and the tax authorities are also extremely strict when it comes to deadlines for objections.
Conversely, each of us has had the feeling that some tax offices take a lot of time – especially when it comes to our tax refunds.
The positive first: The majority of the tax offices process the tax returns reasonably promptly. Most tax assessments are sent within six to eight weeks and the tax refund is usually credited to your account before the assessment is received in the mail.
Despite this, many taxpayers feel they have been treated unfairly. The common opinion: While your omissions (e.g. late submission or payment) are punished immediately, tax offices and their clerks seem to have enough time to process declarations and objections.
Legally, there is no maximum processing period for tax returns, applications, or objections. Authorities have to deal with their administrative files “in a reasonable time.
The few legal norms show how vague this term is:
- If no decision has been made on your tax return “within a reasonable period of time” and you have not been given a reason for this, you have the option of filing an objection with the tax office for inaction under § 347 Para. 1 AO. Six months are considered “reasonable” here.
- If an objection to a tax assessment is not decided within six months, an action for failure to act can be filed according to § 46 FGO.
- Interest accrues no earlier than 15 months after the end of a calendar year in which the tax arose. The interest rate is 0.5% per completed month (§ 238 AO). Interest is regulated by law in § 233a AO.
Many tax officials are more accommodating than is often claimed. Our advice:
- If the tax assessment has not been received five to six weeks after submitting your tax return or after filing an objection, call the responsible clerk at the tax office and ask politely about the processing status.
- If the notification shows a refund and this has not yet been credited to your account after 10 days, you should also inquire by telephone.
- If the clerk cannot give you a good reason for the delay and cannot give you a reliable processing date, do not hesitate to write a letter to the head of the department or office in which you objectively point out the long processing time. Kindly ask for speedy processing.
- If the tax office has still not processed it after six months, an objection to the failure to act or action for failure to act is possible, depending on the situation. At this point, you should seek the help of a tax advisor.
Conclusion: Offices and authorities can take their time and have a great deal of discretion when it comes to making many decisions. Anyone who knows their options and rights and makes use of them in a friendly but firm manner will usually achieve their goal – even if it sometimes takes a little longer.