You can deduct these training costs from the tax
Whether it’s an apprenticeship, studies or training: learning a profession costs money. We show you how you can deduct the costs.
According to the current tax law situation, everyone can deduct their training costs from the tax. This applies to initial training as well as to any further training. The difference only becomes clear when it comes to how much can be claimed against tax and whether the training costs are special expenses or advertising costs. More on that later.
Costs for continuing professional development are always considered as advertising costs and can be deducted accordingly. You can find out more about this in our tax tip: deduct costs for further education from the tax.
By the way:
Attending a general school, such as a high school or secondary school, is not considered vocational training.
Our video on training costs gives you a quick overview. For the details: just read on!
You can deduct these training costs
No matter whether first or second training, you can claim these costs for tax purposes:
- Interest on an educational loan such as BAföG. More about this in our article Education Loan: Interest is deductible.
- Tuition fees as well as semester, course, examination and admission fees etc.
- Postage costs for letters to the university, especially for distance learning.
- Expenditures for so-called work equipment such as specialist literature, a computer, office supplies or a desk. Likewise costs for your own study.
- Travel expenses to the training center, for example to the university or technical college. You can find out more about this in our top topic, Student or Trainee: Deduct travel expenses properly.
- Round trip to private learning and working groups.
- Costs for accommodation at an external training location – i.e. rent, additional costs, additional expenses for meals etc. Under what conditions you can deduct the rent, our article Student can deduct rent.
- Travel, accommodation and meals costs for prescribed study trips, excursions, internships or if you are otherwise away from home due to your training. This also applies to a semester abroad.
First or second training: what’s the difference??
The financial administration understands initial training as the first apprenticeship, the first training or the first degree to learn a future profession. Since 2004: Depending on whether you earn money with this initial training or not, you can claim the training costs as advertising costs or special expenses for tax purposes.
The costs of any further training after the first completed training are treated like further or advanced training costs and can therefore be deducted as advertising costs. In order to benefit from this advantage, the following prerequisites must be met: The previous, first training lasted at least 12 months and was completed with an examination. In addition, the second training should have a demonstrable connection to the current or future profession.
Our following examples show four typical training scenarios and the associated tax regulations:
1) Initial training outside of an employment relationship: sell a maximum of 6,000 euros per year
Nico used to stutter a lot. After countless therapies, a specialized language trainer was finally able to help him and since then the young man has been thinking about becoming a speech therapist as well. But studying would also appeal to him. For tax purposes, the same conditions apply to both courses.
Nico collects all the evidence of his expenses related to his education. The total amount of his expenses could be found on the main tax return form on page 2 below "additional expenses" enter. Everyone can deduct a maximum of 6,000 euros per year in training costs from the tax.
The catch: Nico does not yet have his own income and can therefore not sell anything. And since special expenses may only be stated in the year in which they were paid, Nico cannot claim the costs later.
However, this problem only exists for initial training that does not take place in the context of an employment relationship, i.e. no money is earned from training. These include master’s, diploma and bachelor’s courses, as well as health care professions such as speech therapy, physiotherapy or paramedic training.
We, the VLH, consider the classification of the first training costs as special expenditure to be constitutionally questionable. The Bundesfinanzhof (BFH) sees the same (file number VI R 2/12, VI R 8/12). The Federal Constitutional Court now makes a final decision.
We therefore recommend that all students and other affected parties enter their training costs as advertising costs and apply for a loss assessment notice. The tax office then provides the income tax notice with a provisional note (letter from the Federal Ministry of Finance of February 20, 2015). If the Constitutional Court approves the BFH, you can also benefit from this judgment retrospectively.
Sounds complicated? Our consultants know their way around and are happy to support you. You can find a VLH counseling center near you using our consultant search.
By the way:
You can always deduct the costs of an internship within the apprenticeship, which is obligatory in many degree programs today, as advertising costs.
2) Initial training in an employment relationship: deduct unlimited costs
Linda is just starting to become a police officer. From a tax law perspective, this is a so-called apprenticeship service relationship – as is the case with an apprenticeship, a dual degree or a legal traineeship: during your apprenticeship, you will learn and work at the same time.
Therefore, she is entitled to a small training salary. Like other apprentices, Linda has to pay taxes on this salary. For this reason, according to tax jurisdiction, she is allowed to deduct the cost of her professional training from the tax indefinitely as advertising costs. To do this, she uses Appendix N of her tax return.
For Linda it is clear: With a small candidate salary of 1050 euros per month, she will use every tax advantage. That is why she collects all the bills that she has to pay in connection with her training, starting with the application for a training place, the costs for the bus and train ticket, her books and much more – she can add up all these expenses at the end of the year and in your tax return as an expense. The responsible tax office will deduct the total of the training costs from their annual income and only tax the rest.
By the way:
Those who earn little can initially only sell a little. And those who earn less than the basic allowance do not even pay any taxes. Therefore, a loss carry-forward can be offered to trainees in the employment relationship – especially if the training costs are higher than the training remuneration. You can find out exactly how this works in our tax ABC What is a loss deduction?
3) Second training: deduct unlimited costs
Philipp completed an apprenticeship as a car mechanic and started studying mechanical engineering at the beginning of the year. Since he already has a first apprenticeship in his pocket, which took longer than a year and was completed with an exam, the course is his second apprenticeship. For this reason, he may enter the costs indefinitely as advertising costs in his tax return, namely in Appendix N.
Philipp pays 6,400 euros a year for tuition fees, the trip to the university, his books and so on. The problem is that he doesn’t earn anything during that time. Therefore, he does not pay taxes and cannot deduct anything. His opportunity to save anyway: He postpones the cost of his training from year to year until he earns something. In tax law, this is called loss carryforward. This means that if Philipp completes his degree and then starts working, he can claim the loss carryforwards retrospectively.
However, this option only works for advertising costs. It is therefore a double advantage that Philipp’s studies are his second training. These include: a second apprenticeship or a second degree, a first degree after completing an apprenticeship, a university degree after completing a university of applied sciences or a doctorate.
By the way:
A master’s degree is also a second degree, because the tax authorities recognize the previous bachelor’s degree as the first completed professional training.
4) Parents support their children financially: EUR 924 training allowance per year
Andrea earns a good 750 euros a month during her apprenticeship – far too little for all everyday costs, her father thinks. That is why he wants to support her and pays the rent of her small apartment and the insurance for her car including petrol costs. But dad’s generosity hardly pays off for him in tax terms.
He is only allowed to state 924 euros per year as a training allowance in his tax return. This also applies to all other parents – under three conditions: the own child
- is of legal age and in training,
- is entitled to child benefit,
- no longer lives at home.
It does not matter how much the child earns in his education. Before 2012 the allowance for training was reduced if the child’s income and remuneration exceeded EUR 1,848 a year.
By the way:
If there is no entitlement to child benefit, parents can tax the maintenance costs for their child as extraordinary expenses – up to 9,408 euros per year from 2020. However, from this maximum maintenance amount, all income and benefits of the child that are above 624 euros are subtracted so that mostly nothing is left.
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