Jaroslav Plotnikov

IT Freelance in Germany: Registration in ELSTER

Since the 2017 the electronic data entry became a mandatory. Here you’ll learn the very first step – to sign up

elsterFig. 1

From the 2017 fiscal year, traders, freelancers and so-called Kleinunternehmer* can submit their tax declarations and the EÜR* to the German tax offices in electronic form only (using ELSTER Online App).

Short and clear – no more paperwork – enter everything directly online through the free program Elster. Sounds good, technically. But especially for beginners or foreigners it is not a very good news, because magpies are only available in German. But the Chrome Translator (right click menu) helps you translate the Elster page into English and this article helps you to understand everything you need on the page to complete the registration. All right, let’s get started.


To register in the “electronic tax office” (Elster online application), you need a registration (Anmeldung) in Germany. If you are not in Germany or have no registration, a tax consultant or accountant can arrange a business address and official registration for you (it costs about €30-50 per year).



Step 1

Go to the Elster homepage: www.elster.de Then select Benutzerkonto erstellen (see fig. 1)


Step 2elsterFig. 2

In the step 2 (s. fig. 2)., the system notifies you that “for security reasons” you will receive your certificate file (which will be your login) only at the end of registration. Click on Weiter.


Step 3elsterFig. 3


On the next page (fig. 3) you can see how bureauc… sorry, officials made it all up:

1. Login Options You choose to login with a certificate file.

2. Registration The tax office (Finanzamt) sends you activation data by e-mail and by post.

3. Download certificate You enter your activation data and receive your certificate file as a download.

4. Login Now you can log in with your certificate file.

Click on Weiter.


Step 4elsterFig. 4

How do you want to access My ELSTER (fig. 4)? There are 4 options here. The simplest is the first one. The first option is free and requires no additional hardware. Click on Auswählen.



Step 5elsterFig. 5

Personalisierung. Here you declare that the registration is for you. (The second option would be for an organisation (employer, entrepreneur, assosiation)). Click on Weiter


Step 6elsterFig. 6


Enter your personal data. It’s a no-brainer. However, you need the identification number. There is an explanation at the top right (fig. 6). You will find your personal identification number in the header of every letter from your tax office (Finanzamt). If you have not yet received your personal identification number, you can request one from the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern). See also the article Steuer-ID or Steueridentifikationsnummer – what is that?

Username must not exceed 8 characters, so I could not use my long last name. But I could use the abbreviation of my first and second name – JP.

Security questions  (Sicherheitsabfrage). The first question was the easiest for me: what phone number do you remember from your childhood?

More questions (in the order given): What is your favourite book or film? What is your favourite animal? What was your favourite character or hero in childhood? What was your favourite holiday destination during your childhood? Who is your favourite actor / singer / artist?

Don’t forget to check the box below (rounded with the red). Then click on Prüfen.


Step 7 elsterFig.7

Now the data will be displayed again for you to review (no screenshot here). And after you have completed your registration, you will receive an automatically generated email (see fig. 7). On this email you only need to click the long link and you will be forwarded back to Elster (fig. 8).



That’s it! Now wait up to 2 weeks for the post (“normal” paper letter) with the access data. After that you can log in. If anything else is unclear, feel free to ask me by writing your question in comments below. If your question is too private, then send me an email


* – Explanations of German terms you’ll find in GLOSSARY.


© 2018 Jaroslav Plotnikov ( All articles )


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  • 1. Annie (02-11-2018)

    What if my address has change, and could not receive the post (“normal” paper letter) with the access data? Any other choices? Thanks

    • 2. JP (07-11-2018)


      Hi Annie,
      in this case you should contact (e.g. per email) your Finanzamt and tell them your new postal address. Attach the copy of your new registration (Anmeldung).

      Here what I did. I deicded to get every possible “normal” paper letters on my postbox (I have chosen the postbox service at the post office in “Rathaus Passage” near Berlin Alexanderplatz).

      Finanzamt replied that they normally send letters to the “normal” (street and house) address where I am registered.

      I kindly asked again and attached the confirmation done by the main postoffice that I have a postbox there. And… my Finanzamt suddently agreed!

      So you can try my way or you need to deliver them the copy of the registration from zour new address.