Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lost in Translation

Sometimes you think you may know everything, yet you end up in total mess you might have ever imagined. This is what has happened to us offlate. My hubby is a Consultant and he used to work for different clients in different cities. I used “used to” as now he is very choosy with his clients after we got married and started living together in Germany. Now we do live in Düsseldorf, and fortunately enough, he just works for clients in and around here, well, he does not mind traveling an hour or so thou as he is doing as of now.

So, in one of his past assignments, he had to work for a client in Oberhausen while he was living in Bremen. Therefore, he did just register himself in Oberhausen for Second – House (Zweitwohnung Haushalt) and he had a First – House (Hauptwohnung) in Bremen from May 2006 – February 2007.
The reason for keeping the house in Bremen was he used to quite often travel back to Bremen and one of his friends advised him to do so to save some bucks from tax returns. That was a good idea thou. Usually the great and the most German tax system allows you to have two houses one as your First-house and the other as second-house (the place of work, if it is not in the same city as you live). You can claim for the Daily-allowances for the first three months. You can claim for the traveling expenses to and fro from your First – House (Hauptwohnung) to Second-House (Nebenwohnung/Zweitwohnung). You can claim rent and maintenance costs of your Second-House. You can claim for the furnishing costs (Enrichtungkosten) for your Second-House. Well, not everything, yet most of it. Then why to miss it, and that’s what exactly my hubby did too. Ofcourse this all happened before our marriage.

Then in the beginning of 2007, he came to know he will have longer assignments with the same client he was working for. So then he decided to move permanently to Oberhausen and then by the end of February 2007, he gave up his apartment in Bremen and moved permanently to Oberhausen. He then went to Oberhausen Meldebehörde (House registration office) to change his registration status in Oberhausen from Second-House to the only Main-House, which he explained to the “typical Governmental Official”, who denied speaking in English, in the broken German he knew then. The Official has totally misunderstood him or did my husband, the ultimate “Lost in Translation” in making ……
He received a letter from Bremen Finance Office (Finanzamt) last year June, that he is still officially registered for second-house in Bremen. Well, that was a shock to him and then he realized the great misunderstanding and the possible “Lost in Translation”. Then he dropped them a letter that it was a mistake and actually he did not have any residence and address in Bremen during that period.

Well, we thought that was the end of it, as we have not heard anything from them until last week at our Düsseldorf address, when directly got a letter from my hubby’s bank that his account has been blocked by Finance Office, Bremen. Well, then he called his bank’s customer care only to know that Bremen’s Finance Office has suspended my accounts activity and bank has no right to free it until they get further notice from the Finance Office. He was told that only Finance Offices in Germany has the authority to suspend one’s bank accounts and block any further activity. This is called “Account Seizure” (Kontopfändung) in Financial Office. Thankfully the customer care agent was quite friendly which is very unusual thou and provided enough information about whom we should contact.
Thankfully, we have one more account, so things were not so bad thou. We have contacted the Finance Office authorities the next day and explained them the situation. Well, now my hubby manages to speak good German thou. After some 10 – 15  calls here and there to different officials in Bremen, atlast they agreed to free his account without having to pay anything.
The main reason for Account Seizure was there is something much debated “Zweitwohnsitzsteuer” or “ZWS” (Second House Tax). Well, not every City in Germany do have this kind of tax. Please find the list of cities which have ZWS at ZWS Cities. Since my hubby was unknowingly registered in Bremen as Zweitwohnsitz, he was entitled for this ZWS. So Bremen Finance Office waited for my hubby to make the ZWS declaration by himself. Since he was totally unaware that he was registered and he had the least knowledge about something called ZWS existing, he did not make any ZWS declarations. Then Finance Office, Bremen waited for a certain period, then they started sending notices to our address in Oberhausen, which we have vacated last year. But strange and unfortunately, the notices were sent from the beginning of this year. We had a mail forwarding service (Deutsche Post Nachsendeservice) till the beginning of this year. So we missed the mails. Neither the mails were sent back to Finance Office, Bremen, for unknown reasons or sheer irresponsibility of the Deutsche Post. Well, when shits has to happen, it will in all means.

Thankfully everything was sorted out without any penny being shelved out of our pockets, yet lot of stress thou. I advise all of you who are living in Germany to put a thought over this and re-check this ZWS as many of us are totally ignorant towards this.
For more details on ZWS, follow this link:
I appreciate to share your experiences if any in the comments.


  1. I think the most important thing from your condition above is the Lack of German language which cause you all this trouble....

  2. That's true, the problem started with understanding German language thou, thatswhy I titled it as "Lost in Translation". Anyhow he manages good German now :-)

  3. As usual you have again shared a vital information necessary to people living in Germany , specially in the ZWS cities.Excellent work.