When I first moved to Berlin I was under the mistaken impression that I would be rich. The rent was so cheap, and my salary was good by a Berlin standard, such that I would have plenty of disposable income.
Sadly, this was not the case. When I received my first pay check I was shocked by what was inside. My take-home salary was almost half my actual salary! The tax was about 40%.
I spoke to HR, who informed me that despite my relatively junior salary, I was in the highest tax bracket. Why? Because I was single and didn’t have children!
Can you believe that? I had to pay more because I was not married. I was incensed. So not only did my bosses earn so much more money than me, but because they all had wives and children, then they also paid a hell of a lot less tax. Great!
What a system I thought. I am basically penalised for not having a family. What if I never wanted to get married or have children? I’d be stumped with the highest tax bracket for life.
As everything was in German bureaucratic terminology, it took a while to translate and figure out where all my money was going. The nitty gritty of all the things I pay tax for. Old age tax. Now, this is not the same as a pension, which I pay into to, but a tax to provide for being in my old age. What if I don’t plan to be here when I’m old? Doesn’t matter! There’s also unemployment tax, another tax that I will probably never use. The only tax that you can actually opt out of is the church tax, which I don’t pay, because I’m not religious.
Really, I found this all incredible. In hindsight, I was a bit naïve, as having never worked abroad before, it hadn’t occurred to me to check the tax. Luckily, I’m married now (not for the tax, though I’ve heard that many Germans do make this decision), and so I’m no longer in the highest tax bracket.