Do we need to pay taxes for our income from paid surveys?

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Letztes Update am: 28.09.2022 Most people who earn money with surveys or work as product testers do not worry about whether the income from this activity is taxable.

Many take the small additional income with them untaxed and do not get caught. But how is the legal situation really?
In general you have to pay tax on your income in Germany. A loophole in the legal text offers under certain circumstances, however, the possibility to receive the income tax-free through paid surveys.

This is also possible if the income comes from more than one source of income (e.g. through membership of several online panels).

This article reflects my personal assessment. I have researched to the best of my knowledge and conscience and have checked my statements several times with reputable sources.

In addition, my many years of experience as a self-employed entrepreneur are also included. Nevertheless, I would like to point out at this point that I am neither a tax consultant nor a lawyer and therefore this article is without guarantee. It is not to be understood as legally binding advice or similar.

For the sake of simplicity we distinguish between:
Case a) An employee or someone with an activity subject to income tax earns an additional income through online surveys or product tests


Case b) Someone without employment subject to income tax wants to earn money over a longer period of time with surveys and/or product tests


case a) - The income is earned as additional income
This is the simplest case and involves the least effort. Normally every additional income must be declared to the tax authorities. This also applies to income generated from participation in paid surveys.

However, the tax loophole in question makes it possible to keep income from sideline activities tax-free up to a certain amount. In concrete terms, this can be as much as a sideline income of 410 euros per year. This corresponds to a monthly income of 34.16 €, which you can earn tax-free, provided that you meet the requirements listed below.

Concretely, it is about the passage § 46 paragraph 2 No. 1 EStG (Income Tax Act) do not submit a tax return, so that the 410€ are tax-free.

§ 70 EStDV (Single-Company Tax Implementing Regulation)

Amounts in the cases of § 46 paragraph 2(1) to (7) of the Act, the income taxable persons Income from which tax is not deducted from wages and which has not been registered in accordance with § 32d Paragraph 6 of the Act is subject to standard income tax more than EUR 410, the amount to be deducted from income shall be the amount of ..."
Consequently, such income is exempt up to EUR 410 per calendar year. In my opinion, they also do not have to be declared in the tax return. The whole thing, however, is linked to a few conditions:

    The activity with the intention of making a profit must not be of a permanent nature

Here you have to distinguish whether a long-term intention to make a profit or not. Is the project compatible with the Surveys to earn money are only intended for a certain period of time, for example, as a bridging when changing jobs, in order to be able to parental leave to earn a little extra, I think it is safe to assume, that there is no long-term intention to make a profit.

The tax-free amount of 410 € per calendar year is sufficient for many participants in the field of online market research, so that they can keep their income tax-free. However, there is also a not negligible number of survey participants who earn more than the 410 € per year covered by the hardship allowance.

How does it look in such a case if the income from participation in surveys or product tests exceeds 410 Euros?
If you come with your additional income above 410 Euros but stay below 820 Euros per year, the amount of income minus the advertising and business expenses is deducted from the covered 820 Euros. Simplified example: If someone earns 430 Euros with surveys and has no expenses, 430 Euros are deducted from 820 Euros. The remaining 390 Euros remain tax-free. The remaining 430 Euros are then taxed at the normal tax rate.

If you exceed the 820 euros per year, the normal personal tax rate is applied to the additional income. This does not affect survey participants and product testers with low incomes. For some people who deal extensively with surveys and run the whole thing as a serious sideline, however, this point applies and the income must be declared in the tax return. ________________________________________________________________
Case b) If one does not pursue any activity subject to income tax and would like to earn money professionally with surveys, a business must be registered.

However, this sounds worse than it actually is and even offers some advantages, e.g. you can deduct purchases for your activities (new computer, office supplies and much more) from tax. Also a tax consultant is not absolutely necessary to run a business.

The registration of a trade is inexpensive and can be completed quickly. Depending on the responsible municipality, the registration of a trade can cost between 15 and 70 euros. In most municipalities, the cost of registering a trade is between 15 and 25 euros. After that, you can get started and generate additional income.

What do I have to pay attention to and what taxes do I have to pay as a tradesman?
1. income tax
As a participant in paid opinion polls, you usually do not get more than the applicable allowances. As a trader, you are subject to the current allowances. Last year, this was 9000 euros total income per year for unmarried unmarried people. On the other hand, if you are married, the basic tax-free allowance for the total income is even 18,000 euros. Income below this amount remains tax-free for income tax purposes.

Nevertheless, the income generated by the business must be entered in the income tax return for self-employed persons under Annex G. For self-employed persons, Annex S applies accordingly.

The profits are entered in this annex. These are determined with a simple income / surplus calculation. This means that the expenses that you have for your commercial activity are deducted from the income (turnover). From the profits one can deduct e.g. paper, printer ink, pens but also telephone and internet costs if these are used for the activity.

2. sales tax If the annual turnover remains below 17,500 Euro, one can fall back on the so-called small business regulation. This regulation makes the bureaucratic workload for self-employed persons much easier. As long as you are considered a small business, you can waive the requirement to charge VAT on your invoices and in return you do not have to settle them with the tax office.

3. trade tax

Trade tax is only levied once the tax-free amount of 24,500 euros per year is exceeded. As a panelist who participates in surveys on various online panels, this limit will only be reached in absolutely exceptional cases, for example if you participate in surveys full-time and actively participate in every conceivable market researcher. So for most people the point trade tax is no problem.
From a tax point of view, there is nothing to be said against registering a business and earning extra money with simple online secondary activities. Many people already do this successfully!

Questions and answers:

Case a) If you work full-time in an employment relationship subject to income tax, you are usually covered by health insurance for your main occupation. If the income from the secondary income is regarded as a secondary occupation, one remains insured through the existing health insurance.

In general, vouchers must also be booked as revenue. Contrary to the widely mistaken assumption that vouchers do not have to be taxed, shopping vouchers are considered a monetary advantage. Although it is difficult for the tax authorities to understand who receives or redeems a voucher, those who want to be on the safe side also state the vouchers as a non-cash benefit. As long as one remains under the tax-free amounts one also has no disadvantage to register here.

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