Regardless of whether it's a kindergarten or a nursery school, professional care for young children costs money. Luckily, there are several offers and options to help you financially with these expenses. Expenses for babysitters, an au pair or a childminder are also considered care costs. What financial aid you are eligible for depends on your personal situation as well as where you live.
If you want your child to be looked after in a daycare centre or kindergarten during the day, you have to pay fees in most regions of Germany. These fees are not uniformly regulated and there are sometimes large differences depending on the region and the carrier. In some states, parents have it good. There, they no longer have to pay contributions for the care of their child in the daycare centre or kindergarten. However, different rules apply in each state, including how many hours are free of charge and at what age the child is eligible for care free of charge. In Lower Saxony, for example, daycare centres are free of charge for children from the age of three until they start school. This applies for up to eight hours per day, five days a week and depends on the services offered by the respective nursery school. You will have to cover the costs for meals and drinks at the nursery school yourself. For a toddler up to the age of three, you will not only have to pay for the meals, but also for the spot itself. This also applies to day care costs.
You can deduct childcare costs from your taxes. It does not matter whether your child attends a nursery school, is looked after by a childminder in your own household or in the childminder's household. You just use the form called ‘Anlage Kind’ (in German) on your tax return. You can declare up to €6000 per child per year in childcare costs as special expenses. The tax office will deduct a maximum of two thirds of this, i.e. €4000. It is important that you can prove the costs by means of invoices and bank transfer receipts. You can't deduct the cost of meals. If you have ongoing childcare costs and can't wait for your tax refund, you can claim an allowance for childcare costs from the Taxation Authority (Finanzamt). Then your employer withholds less income tax each month and you have a higher net income available. In the following year you always have to file a tax return. If the conditions for the tax-free allowance no longer exist, you must inform the Taxation Authority.
Some companies voluntarily pay a subsidy for childcare costs. As an employee, these employer benefits are tax-free for you. Up to a maximum of €600, meal costs paid by your place of work and allowances for short-term care for children up to 14 years old (§ 3 No. 34a EStG) are also tax-free. The reason for such extra payments may be, for example, that you have to work away from home or attend a training course. You must also prove these expenses in your tax return by means of invoices and bank transfer receipts.
If you are a student and are entitled to BAföG benefits, you can apply for a childcare allowance from the organisation for student affairs (Studierendenwerk) responsible for you at your university. The condition is that you live in a household with at least one child of your own who is younger than 14. The supplement is paid monthly per child. In order to receive the child care allowance, it is not necessary that you actually have expenses for the care of your child. You don't have to pay any of it back later. If you receive other social benefits for yourself or your children, the childcare supplement must not be counted as income either. The same applies if you are in training and are entitled to a vocational training allowance (Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe). Then you can receive a monthly lump sum for each of your children who still needs supervision. All children up to the age of 14 are considered to be in need of supervision. In the case of young people between the ages of 14 and 18, the Jobcenter must decide whether supervision is still necessary. You will only receive a vocational training allowance if you actually incur costs for external childcare and can provide evidence of these costs.
If you receive basic security benefits for job seekers or social assistance (Sozialhilfe) and have your child looked after in a nursery school or day care, you can apply to the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) to have the contribution costs waived and for the Youth Welfare Office to pay them. The same applies if you receive housing benefits or a children’s allowance (Kinderzuschlag) according to the Federal Children's Benefits Act or benefits according to the Asylum Seekers Act. In addition, you can apply for what are known as ‘’ benefits in all these cases. It allows parents to be reimbursed for many costs if they are on a low income. This includes, for example, costs for nursery school or day care lunches, tutoring, costs for nursery or day care excursions, and costs for participation in games, sports and activities.