Discounts for students (ISIC etc.)
Saving during studies

Whether it's taxes, broadcasting fees, telephone providers or housing entitlement certificates: There are a lot of ways for students to save money.

Saving taxes
Saving taxes through course costs

Course costs can result in a significant tax saving upon commencement of professional life. It will particularly benefit students

  • who have completed an apprenticeship or at least a 12-month training prior to their studies
  • studying a Masters course
  • completing a second degree
  • completing an integrated degree programme
  • completing studies in tandem with their career
  • completing a doctorate.

The course costs include all costs immediately associated with the course, e.g. course/examination fees, semester fees, specialist literature, photocopies, work materials (e.g. computers, software), language classes, revision courses, private tutoring, meetings, excursions, travel expenses, accommodation expenses away from home, and interest for student loans. 

As students generally earn little or no income, course costs might put them in debt. These losses are transferred over to the following year as so-called “losses carried forward” (Verlustvortrag) and are set off against the results of the corresponding year. Thus, the losses of several years of studying can be accumulated and can possibly lead to a tax reduce after the final exam. However, if any profit (income) is realized while studying, the tax office will set off former losses immediately, so that for income below the basic exemption, but above the recognized losses, the losses carried forward are ineffective. While the deadline for a volunteer tax return ends after four years, losses carried forward can still be asserted retroactively for the last seven years.


How it works

Students submit a tax return for each year of studying; for freelance or commercial income (compulsory assessment) no later than 31.7. of the following year (extended deadlines for 2020 and 2021: by 31.10., for 2022: by 30.9., for 2023: by 31.8. of the following year). There is no limit for course costs deduction, so it is worth collecting receipts for these costs and prepare them for the audit by the tax office.

Unlike the aforementioned student groups, course costs for students completing their first degree (initial training) are only taken into account for the current calendar year, and only up to a set maximum amount of 6,000 euros per year. This only creates a tax benefit for income well above the basic exemption in the same calendar year.

Tax returns are submitted to the local finance authority (Finanzamt). Students registered in Hamburg can find their tax office here, all others here. It is recommended - and even mandatory in the case of freelance or commercial income - to submit the tax return via the "online tax office" ELSTER, which inserts all the data already available at the tax office into the tax return at the click of a mouse.

Advice on tax issues is offered in particular by income tax assistance associations (only for students without honors and commercial income), the AStA of the University of Hamburg, and tax consultants.

Prepared in cooperation with the advice on student tax issues of the AStA of the University of Hamburg. This info makes no guarantee for completeness and does not replace tax counselling in individual cases. No liability or legal guarantees can be made for any of the information.

Ed. Studierendenwerk Hamburg | Counselling Centre for Social & International Affairs – BeSI | As at 06/2022 Grindelallee 9, 20146 Hamburg | Tel. +49 / 40 / 41902 - 155 | E-Mail: besi@stwhh.de


ISIC - International student identity card
The companion through your studies

The International Student Identity Card - ISIC for short - gives access to exclusive benefits for travelling, shopping and leisure activities in over 130 countries around the globe. With the ISIC, student status is also recognised abroad.

With the free ISIC app with virtual ISIC card on your smartphone, you won't miss any of the offers nearby and the map function keeps you on track, no matter where you are. This means that your student status can now be easily verified on your smartphone.

You can apply for the ISIC online. A photo ID, a current proof of enrolment and a colour passport photo are required. The virtual ISIC costs 15.00 euros and is valid for one year from the date of issue. The ISIC plastic card is available for an additional 3 euros and will be sent to you by post after the application has been checked.


Broadcasting licence fee
Pay less or no broadcasting licence fee at all

A monthly broadcasting fee of 18,36 € is payable per flat, regardless of how many people live there and regardless of whether and how many broadcasting devices are present.

The fee is also due for rooms in student residences that lead off from a generally accessible corridor (regardless of whether they have their own bathroom or kitchen). If several rooms in the student housing complex are arranged like a flat and you live like in a shared flat, only one person per shared flat has to pay the fee. However, this only applies if the shared flat is separated from the generally accessible hallway or staircase by a flat door and only the residents of the shared flat have a key to it.

Shared flats, non-marital partnerships and families only pay one contribution. BAföG recipients who do not live with their parents can apply for exemption from the obligation to pay the broadcasting fee. Likewise, students with certain disabilities or as recipients of certain state social benefits can apply for exemption or reduction.

According to the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of 19.01.2022 - 1 BvR 1089/18, students whose income does not exceed the minimum subsistence level under social law and who cannot fall back on assets can apply for an exemption as a case of hardship by submitting their proof of income, even without a rejection notice from a social benefit agency (e.g. BAföG office, Jobcenter). Advice on this is available at BeSI.

You can find out more about this here.


Housing Authorization Certificate (§ 5-Schein)
Living in publicly financed apartments

Publicly financed apartments (social housing) offer a very favorable housing option. For renting you need a "§ 5-Schein", which you can get for a fee at the district office if your annual income is below certain income limits. Students with a residence permit according to § 16 of the Residence Act are not entitled to receive a Housing Authorization Certificate (Wohnberechtigungsschein). You can get more information at your district office.

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