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When and how must foreign students file their income tax returns in Estonia?

If in addition to your studies you have worked or earned income in some other way during 2020 you may be subject to filing a tax return and payment of taxes on your income. Or, alternatively, you may have the opportunity to get a refund of any income taxes overpaid.

Here we provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that foreign students have regarding the Estonian tax system. If you have any additional questions, please visit the website of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board or contact us at eraklient@emta.ee. The tax filing season starts in Estonia on 15 February and ends on 30 April.

When and how are income tax filings made in Estonia?

Income tax returns are filed for the year 2020 from 15 February to 30 April 2021. Tax returns can be filed electronically in the Estonian Tax and Customs Board’s online services environment e-MTA, as well as at service bureaus where pre-filled tax returns can be ordered on paper.

It is recommended to use the electronic option but this is only available to residents of Estonia and some other EU Member States and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. If you have any questions you should first visit our website that provides answers to the most commonly asked questions in Estonian, Russian and English languages. Information can also be obtained in all three languages by sending us an email to eraklient@emta.ee or calling the information hotline +372 880 0811.

If you are unable to electronically file the tax return you can request a pre-filled tax return at the service bureau and file it on paper.

You can also print out the tax return form, fill it out yourself, sign it and send it to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board.

Income tax return forms are not sent to anyone’s home address.

Proof on income or expenses does not need to be provided in advance unless specifically requested.

Is it worth showing up in person at the Estonian Tax and Customs Board service bureau at the earliest opportunity?

Definitely not! If you have questions and are unable to find answers to them on our website, please contact us at eraklient@emta.ee or call the information hotline +372 880 0811. Customer service is provided in Estonian, Russian and English.

If you nevertheless need consultation in person or would like to file your income tax return on paper, don’t do so from 15 February to early March – in that period the service bureaus have long lines and people need to wait outdoors due to preventive measures against the coronavirus, which can mean hours of waiting.

In which cases do foreign students need to file an income tax return?

An income tax return must be filed in two cases:

  1. if you have earned income and no income tax has been withheld on it – for example you have worked without an employment contract in place and received salary in cash or by bank transfer but your employer failed to register your employment and failed to pay taxes on salary. Or for example you earned income by driving for the Bolt or Uber ride hailing service or as a food courier – in these cases you also need to file an income tax return.
     
  2. if you have earned income but in withholding income tax the deductions permitted by law have not been made. In this case you are entitled to a refund of a portion of such paid income tax and you would need to file a tax return to do so. Tax-exempt income is calculated automatically in the tax return based on submitted data, there is no need to calculate this or enter into the tax return by yourself. Please note: in order to claim back overpaid income tax you must be a tax resident of Estonia or another EU Member State or Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
More information on the webpage "Submission of income tax returns for 2020"

As a foreign national do I need to apply for a taxpayer identification number from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board?

If you already have an Estonian personal ID number then you do not need to apply for a separate taxpayer identification number – in that case the Estonian Tax and Customs Board already has your data. You need to register with the Estonian Tax and Customs Board for the payment of taxes in the event that you have no Estonian personal ID number and your employer has not registered your employment with the Estonian Tax and Customs Board.

If you don’t know in which country you are a tax resident you can determine this by reading the webpage about residency or contact us at eraklient@emta.ee.

In which cases am I entitled to a refund of a portion of taxes paid?

In Estonia up to 6,000 euros per year is exempt from taxation and the final amount depends on the income for the entire year. Additional information on tax-free income

In order to reclaim overpaid income tax and make deductions you must be a tax resident of Estonia or another EU Member State or Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

A right to an income tax refund arises for example in cases where your employer has withheld more income tax from your salary (you have a part of your tax exempt allowance left unused). If, however, less income tax has been withheld, the employee must pay the difference after the income tax return is filed. This is conclusively determined after the income tax return is filed.

In addition, it is possible to reduce your income subject to taxation in Estonia in your income tax return if you are raising two or more minor children. In order to qualify for the two or more children tax incentive you will need to enter the children’s personal ID numbers in the income tax return, then the deductions are calculated automatically while the double claim of tax incentive on the same children in multiple tax returns is prevented.

It is also possible to deduct from income up to 1,200 euros worth of home loan interest, educational expenses, donations, etc. Deductions cannot exceed 50% of an individual’s income subject to taxation in Estonia for the period of taxation.

More information about tax incentives

How can I check if my employer has duly paid all taxes related to me?

If you have an Estonian personal ID number you can use the online services environment e-MTA (select "Registers and inquiries" – "My inquiries" – "My income") where you can find various information on taxes paid on your income and verify the use of the basic exemption during the year. The same place has information on how much income tax, social tax, unemployment insurance premium and contributions to funded pension have been paid on the salary.

If your employment started in September and you received your pay in October you will only see information on that month’s employment taxes after 10 November.

Where will I get the data to present in the income tax return?

Your income tax return will include pre-filled information about the pay reported to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board by all Estonian payers during the year, as well as income tax withheld thereon and even some deductions. You will only need to make corrections where necessary and add any missing income, such as foreign income, and deductions.

The amount of your income that will be tax-exempt depends on the total income amount for the year, therefore the final amount of income tax and whether you are due for a refund of a portion of income taxes or you need to pay more income tax may only be determined upon the filing of the income tax return.

If I have worked through a platform (such as driving for the Bolt, Uber or Yandex ride hailing service or as a food courier), do I then need to file an income tax return?

If you have worked through a platform and income tax has already been withheld on the pay received, this information will be pre-filled in your tax return and you don’t need to report it yourself.

If income tax has not been withheld and you have not granted consent to the platform for the forwarding of information on your income to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, you will have to report your income yourself. Do as follows:

  • if you have given only very few sporadic rides through the platform that cannot be deemed as running a business, report the earned income in the section “Other income on which income tax has not been withheld”. Be sure to report the amount received for the service from which you will be unable to deduct expenses (e.g. platform service fees, fuel, car repairs, tyres, etc.).

  • if providing the service is continuous (for example several times per week), it already constitutes running a business. Income must also be reported but as part of business income and social tax must also be paid. In order to simplify your future compliance with tax obligations we recommend that you open an Entrepreneur Account – that way you do not have to declare your income and pay taxes yourself, but the data will be pre-filled in your income tax return and the taxes paid automatically, and the platform fee will also be taken into account as a cost before taxation.

More information on the webpage "Taxation of the income of drivers providing taxi service through a ride-sharing platform"

Do I need to declare my scholarship as income?

A scholarship paid by a university to a student is exempt from taxation and is not subject to reporting.

More details on the taxation of scholarships

Are there any differences for students from European Union Member States and third countries in filing tax returns?

In order to file income tax returns online and make deductions (reclaim overpaid income tax) in Estonia you must be a tax resident of Estonia or another EU Member State or Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

If a student from a third country has not become tax resident in Estonia, the salary will be subject to taxation from the first euro and the basic exemption will not be applicable.

You can apply to register as a tax resident of Estonia for example if you spend at least 183 days during a period of 12 consecutive calendar months in Estonia and you have no spouse or minor children in a foreign country.

More details on the taxation of a non-resident’s income

 

26.08.2021