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What is Kindergeld?

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Child benefit payment in Germany

Kindergeld is a payment that parents can claim from the German state. This child benefit payment ensures the essential provision for your children from birth until their 18th birthday. It primarily benefits families with small and medium incomes. During a calendar year, parents first receive the child’s benefit. As part of the annual income tax assessment, the tax office checks whether the child benefit paid out or the child tax reduction is more favorable for the parents. This check is carried out automatically and does not have to be applied.

Child benefit payment in Germany
Child benefit was increased by 15 euros per child as of January 1, 2021

The essential facts in brief

  • You are generally entitled to child benefit if you live in Germany with your child.
  • For the first and second child, you will receive 219 euros per month, for the third child 225 euros, and for each additional child 250 euros.
  • If your child turns 18, you must prove they are still at school, training, or studying. Then you will continue to receive money – until your 25th birthday at the latest.

Who gets child benefits and how much?

In 2021, the state paid over 47.6 billion euros in child benefits for more than 16.7 million children. Parents with German citizenship receive child benefits for their children every month if they live in Germany. 

Even with foreign citizenship, you can get child benefits if you live in Germany and meet one of the following requirements:

  • You are an EU citizen or have the citizenship of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom.
  • You are a citizen of Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, or Turkey. Then you must also work in Germany and pay contributions to pension, health, and unemployment insurance. Even if you receive unemployment or sickness benefits, you can get child benefits for your children.
  • You have a reasonable settlement or residence permit to work in Germany.
  • You are an incontestably recognized refugee or person entitled to asylum.

To better support families, child benefit was increased by 15 euros per child as of January 1, 2021. In 2022, the child benefits will remain unchanged.

Every month, the Family Fund will pay out these amounts:

  • first child and second child 219 Euro
  • third child 225 Euro
  • each additional child 250 Euro

Child benefit is directly related to the child allowance. You cannot receive child benefits and deduct the total child allowance from your taxes. The tax office offsets the child benefit already paid against the tax advantage resulting from the child allowance—more on this below.

Child benefit is granted from the month of birth, even if the application may be filed later (up to six months). Child benefit is given for each month in which the child was entitled to child benefit for at least one day. For example, if the child is born on May 31, the parents will receive the total amount of child benefit for the entire month of May.

If the child for whom child benefit is to be claimed is already of age, the child benefit office must check whether the requirements are met, which you can read about under “Child benefit for adults.”

In principle, it is not the children entitled to child benefit but the legal guardians. In addition to the natural parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, or grandparents can also be entitled to child benefits.

The essential prerequisite is that the beneficiary has their residence or habitual abode in Germany and has taken the child for whom they claim child benefit into their household. For more information, see Entitlement to child benefit.

How do you apply for child benefits in Germany?
The family benefits office requires your tax identification number and your child’s

How do you apply for child benefits?

The best thing to do is to apply for child benefits immediately after birth at the family benefits office of the Federal Employment Agency.

It is done in three steps:

  • Please fill out the application online and send it to the family benefits office in advance in encrypted form.
  • Print out and sign the application
  • Send the application by mail
  • You do not have to submit a new application every year: The Familienkasse will continue to pay if there are no changes. But: You must inform the Family Fund if you have moved. You can also use the online form Change Notification, and here you can find the form for the child benefit application after birth.

Retroactive payment of child benefit

Please note: The family benefits office will only pay child benefits retroactively for six months – from receipt of the application (Section 70 (1) EStG).

Suppose the family benefits office has retroactively determined child benefits beyond the six months in the notice. In that case, it must also pay out the money for the entire period (BFH, ruling dated February 19, 2020, ref. III R 66/18).

Tax identification number

Since 2016, the family benefits office has required your tax identification number and your child’s for processing. If you cannot find the numbers in your documents, you can have them sent to you again. To do so, use the input form on the Internet portal of the Federal Central Tax Office.

Child benefit and child allowance

In addition to child benefit, you can claim a child allowance of up to 209 euros per month if you earn little and do not receive unemployment benefit II. It applies if your children are under 25 years old and live with you (as of April 2022). You can find more information on the calculation and how to apply for the supplement in our Finanztip guide to child supplements.

Since the beginning of 2021, the child allowance for families has been 8,388 euros (Section 32 (6) EStG). It comprises the minimum subsistence allowance of 2,730 euros and care, education, and training (BEA) allowance of 1,464 euros. In the case of spouses who are assessed jointly for income tax, the amounts are doubled. In principle, the tax office offsets the child allowance already paid against the tax advantage resulting from the child allowance. You are, therefore, only left with the difference between child benefits and tax allowances. The child allowances only lead to an additional tax advantage for about 5 percent of taxpayers. You can read more about this in our article Tax benefits for parents.

can you get german child benefit abroad
Child benefit is a tax benefit and, thus, in the end, an advance tax refund for taxpayers

Child benefits abroad

Which benefits are possible?

Germans abroad are entitled to child benefits if they continue to be subject to unlimited tax liability in Germany or are treated accordingly, and the children are resident in Germany. Within the EU, the children may also have a residence outside Germany. But even those who live abroad and are not subject to unlimited tax liability in Germany can receive child benefits as a social benefit under the Federal Child Benefit Act.

Anyone employed or self-employed is subject to the laws of the EU member state in which they work. However, a posted team member is still subject to the regulations of the sending country. Otherwise, the country’s rules in which the person or family lives apply.

A person who lives abroad and is not subject to unlimited tax liability in Germany can receive a child benefit as a social benefit if the applicant:

  • Is in a compulsory insurance relationship with the Federal Employment Agency or
  • Works as a development aid worker or missionary, or
  • Is employed or self-employed in Germany or receives a pension under German law or is a national of a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area, and lives in one of the member states

It may well be that a child is entitled to family benefits in more than one country. In this case, the responsibility order is based on employment, pension, or residence. Priority is given to the state in which work or self-employment is pursued. If a child is entitled to child benefits in more than one state, the state where the child resides is always responsible.

The responsible state pays the child benefit in full. If the child benefit in the accountable state is lower than in Germany, the German child benefit fund usually pays the difference if there is a claim. If the child benefits are higher, there is no further compensation from Germany.

Misunderstandings

It is often assumed that child benefits are paid from Germany if you are a German citizen. However, this has nothing to do with each other. Child benefit is a tax benefit and, thus, in the end, an advance tax refund for taxpayers. Therefore, you will not receive child benefits if you do not pay taxes in Germany.

From this, it is also clear that there can be no payment based on past work in Germany. No matter how long you worked in Germany in the past, you are no longer eligible for child benefits as soon as you stop paying taxes in Germany.

Important to know: Child benefits can be claimed back and will be. In the event of a change in circumstances, it is therefore highly recommended that you notify the family benefits office as soon as possible. It is the only way to avoid substantial repayments.

Child benefit is not a benefit for the children but the parents – therefore, it is also a tax benefit. Accordingly, child benefits can only be paid if the children live in the household of their parents or grandparents. Thus, if the parents live abroad and pay taxes there, but the children live in Germany, the parents will still not receive child benefits.

For the third and fourth children the child benefits in Germany increases
For the third and fourth children the child benefits increases

Application

Applications for child benefits must be submitted in writing to the responsible family benefits office. In cross-border cases, the forms “Antrag auf Kindergeld (KG 1)”, the “Anlage Kind,” and the “Anlage Ausland (KG 51)” are required. Applications for family benefits can also be submitted to the competent foreign institution at the claimant’s residence. The domestic and foreign family funds will then clarify who is responsible for priority or inferiority.

Eligibility

In principle, children up to 18 are entitled to child benefits. During vocational training, child benefits continue to be paid until 25. This period is extended by a voluntary social or ecological year, federal, or other regulated voluntary services. Disabled children may be eligible beyond age 25.

Notification of change

Anyone who applies for child benefits must notify the family benefits office if he or another beneficiary:

  • Is posted to another country by their employer,
  • Receives or ceases to receive a pension
  • Or a child changes their place of residence to a foreign or domestic country
  • Or a child leaves their previous household.

More information is available here.

How much is the child benefit?

The child benefit is 219 euros for the first and second child, 225 euros for the third child, and 250 euros for the fourth child. These amounts also determine the part of the child supplement of up to 205 euros.

How do I apply for Kindergeld?
The Entitlement to (German) child benefits expires upon emigration from Germany.

How do I apply for Kindergeld?

You must apply for child benefits at the family benefits office (Familienkasse) responsible for you. If you are employed in the public sector, please use child benefits from your employer. Child benefit is not paid automatically but only upon application. If you wish to claim child benefits, you must submit a written application to the family benefits office responsible for your place of residence.

You should expect that the application will take between 1 and 1.5 months to process, depending on the workload of the family benefits office. To not delay the payment of child benefits unnecessarily, submitting the child benefit application promptly after the child’s birth is advisable. It is mandatory to provide the applicant’s tax identification number (tax ID) and the child for whom the child benefit is claimed. In this way, the legislator wants to avoid double applications for child benefits.

Can I get Kindergeld if I move abroad?

Germans abroad are entitled to child benefits if they continue to be subject to unlimited tax liability in Germany or are treated accordingly, and the children are resident in Germany. Within the EU, the children may also have a residence outside Germany.

But even those who live abroad and are not subject to unlimited tax liability in Germany can receive child benefits as a social benefit under the Federal Child Benefit Act.

Anyone employed or self-employed is subject to the laws of the EU member state in which they work. However, a posted team member is still subject to the regulations of the sending country. Otherwise, the country’s rules in which the person or the family lives apply.

Anyone who lives abroad and is not subject to unlimited tax liability in Germany can receive child benefit as a social benefit if the applicant:

  • Is in a compulsory insurance relationship with the Federal Employment Agency or
  • Works as a development aid worker or missionary, or
  • Is employed or self-employed in Germany or receives a pension under German law, is a national of a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area, and lives in one of the member states. 

It may well be that a child is entitled to family benefits in more than one country. In this case, the responsibility order is based on employment, pension, or residence. Priority is given to the state in which work or self-employment is pursued. If a child is entitled to child benefits in more than one state, the state where the child resides is always responsible.

The responsible state pays the child benefit in full. If the child benefit in the accountable state is lower than in Germany, the German child benefit fund usually pays the difference if there is a claim. Germany pays nothing if the child benefit in the responsible country is higher.

How do I cancel Kindergeld if I move abroad?
With SympatMe you can easily cancel child benefits online

How do I cancel Kindergeld if I move abroad?

In principle, the Entitlement to (German) child benefits expires upon emigration from Germany. Before leaving the country, the beneficiary must deregister with the appropriate family benefits office. Deregistration at the registration office (Town Council) is not sufficient.

  • You are obliged to notify your circumstances have changed.
  • You have received child benefits and are still entitled to them. 

You should know that child benefits are paid via the tax authorities. If you renaturalize or deregister, you will lose your Entitlement to child benefits. In these cases, the authorities are not informed that you are no longer entitled. Therefore, you are legally obliged to notify the authorities when your circumstances change.

It is simple to cancel child benefits, and you’d best take care of the matter immediately after your deregistration or change of citizenship. Every recipient of child benefits is subject to the immediate notification obligation, which also applies to all other benefit recipients (ALG, Hartz IV, housing benefit).

Contact your relevant authorities stating that you are no longer entitled as of the appropriate date. Enclose your deregistration or proof of renaturalization with this letter.

Send this letter by registered mail with a return receipt. This way, you can ensure that the competent authority has received it.

If you still receive the child benefit after this, you have fulfilled your notification obligation and do not have to expect a penalty. You have the registered mail receipt as proof, and please keep it safe so that you can prove at any time that you have fulfilled your obligation in good time. 

What if I continue to receive Kindergeld after I move abroad?

In principle, the Entitlement to (German) child benefits expires upon emigration from Germany. Before leaving the country, the beneficiary must take the initiative and deregister with the appropriate family benefits office. Deregistration at the registration office is not sufficient.

Anyone who lives in a non-European country and knowingly continues to receive child benefits fulfills the criminal offense of tax evasion.

Suppose this comes to the attention of the family benefits office at some point (for example, by comparing data with the registration office). In that case, the family benefits office’s penalty and fine office can initiate criminal tax proceedings.

You can avoid criminal proceedings by timely reporting to the family tax office (so-called penalty-exempt voluntary disclosure). In self-disclosure, one should be careful since an incomplete or delayed self-disclosure does not have a penalty-exempt effect.

In any case, as a consequence of the voluntary declaration, the amount wrongly received (since emigration) must be paid back to the family fund. The family benefits office may also charge interest on the amount withheld at a rate of 6% p.a.

Please keep in mind that we do our best to provide credible and up-to-date information, but we are not an official advisor (in the sense of the Legal Services Act, RDG) for taxes, legal matters, and the like. Our service does not replace an individual consultation with legal assistance, and we provide digital tools and automated workflows to assist with the residence deregistration and related necessary steps.

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Anne

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