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Thinking About Retiring to Germany
Old 05-31-2010, 08:15 AM   #1
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Thinking About Retiring to Germany

Hi! My name is Shirlee. My husband & I have been retired since February 2008. We are both in our late 50s. Prior to retirement my husband worked in Germany for 6 months & we have both visited before & after that time. We love the country & have started to seriously look at the possibility of retiring there. The cost of purchasing a home & purchasing a car is not as high as we thought it might be but there are other things I know we need to consider.

I am receiving Social Security disability. My husband receives a pension from his federal job as well as 100% disability benefits from the military. We both have military base ID cards which allows us to take advantage of shopping at base BXs & commissaries. My health insurance is Medicare (primary), Mail Handlers (secondary), & CHAMPVA (third). My husband has Mail Handlers (primary) & all his medical issues are covered by the VA due to his disability status. However, we are both aware that bases overseas no longer offer treatment to disabled vets or retirees.

It is my understanding that our disability & pension benefits will not be affected if we live in Germany. However, does anyone know the tax situation ... will those benefits (our only income) continue to be taxed by the US government (IRS), switch over to being taxed by Germany, or be taxed by both?

Regarding health care, will Medicare cover me while living in Germany? I have been in touch with Mail Handlers & have been told they will provide coverage if we move there which will be handled the same as going to an out-of-plan doctor (they have no in-plan doctors in Germany) & that it is possible we would have to pay out of pocket & then request reimbursement.

My main concern is the tax issue.

If I am asking these questions in the wrong area of this forum ... of if any place on this forum is "the wrong place" ... please forgive me & direct me to "the right place" if you can.

Thank you ...

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Old 05-31-2010, 10:09 AM   #2
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PX and Commisary are also restricted from use for retired military.
You can or could some years ago get a card from the Germans to use some facilities (PX & commisary) if they have not changed in the last 10 years that require you to pay German taxes (19%) on purchases. Germany was very expensive for housing back in the early 90's and I would assume since the Euro it has become more so in recent years.
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Old 05-31-2010, 10:47 AM   #3
Confused about dryer sheets
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wcv56 ...

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my post but I'm afraid you are incorrect regarding military base privileges. My husband worked for the VA for 34 years & knows in detail the ins and outs of all VA benefit issues including benefits available to retirees & disabled vets via a military ID card, & he has kept up with benefit changes since retiring 2 years ago. Although these cards are pretty much useless for someone living or retiring in Spain (where the Spanish government is basically in control of the bases), BX & commissary privileges are available to disabled vets & retirees in all other countries. All BX & commissary purchases are tax free.

Housing prices are "in the eye of the beholder" so to speak. What is very expensive & unattainable for one person may be pocket change to another. We have been working with a real estate agent in the Kaiserslautern area who has provided us with many listings easily affordable for us. Home prices vary depending on what you want. There are very inexpensive homes (equal to $100,000 or less US) as well as very expensive ones (half a million US dollars or more). No different than shopping for a home in the US.

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Old 05-31-2010, 11:06 AM   #4
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I would suggest you post your questions here: Toytown Germany

Very knowledgeable people, many in a similar situation to yours on that Germany specific English language forum.

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Old 05-31-2010, 11:09 AM   #5
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Seems to me when considering questions of international tax law you are best served by engaging the services of a competent tax attorney. While boards like this may help you learn the right questions, I would never rely on the answers if they were critical to your decision process.

No offense to fellow posters...
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Old 05-31-2010, 11:36 AM   #6
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i lived in Germany for many years, but was not related to the US military. You will see that living "on the economy" is a whole lot less American than being able to bail to the local American enclave.

I'm curious how much of your experience is with the Germans rather than with Americans in Germany. For example, I went to German dentists and physicians while living there and not to a US military base.

I would love to live in Germany again though it was non-trivial the first time to follow all the rules. Nevertheless the folks I know who have done really well there are either (a) associated still with US-based entities (militiary, state dept) or (b) married to a German citizen.
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Old 05-31-2010, 03:32 PM   #7
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Trek ... Thank you for the site address. I will post there & see what I can find out : )

LARS ... Thank you for recommending that I see a competent tax attorney. I have no idea where to begin ... is there a particular type of tax attorney I should see, etc. I do know that I should not make such a major decision as moving to another country based upon just the advice of strangers on a forum (likewise no offense to other posters). I was just hoping that perhaps I'd find someone who did something similar & could point me in the right directions. Thank you for your advice : )

LOL! ... My husband & I have had about a year's experience (in total) dealing directly with the German people so feel very comfortable in that respect. In fact, while my husband worked there he stayed in a 2-family home owned by a German family. My husband's co-worker stayed in a 3-family home with another German family & we all socialized quite a bit. The only interaction we had with Americans was when we shopped at the BX & commissary on base & of course my husband worked on bases with Americans.

I really appreciate all the feedback. Please keep it coming : ) I have only recently started truly researching the possibility of retiring there. It was always something we talked about but assumed would be too expensive, too difficult, etc. However, it doesn't appear to be outside the realm of reality which is a nice surprise : )

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Old 06-01-2010, 10:38 AM   #8
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Edelweiss Lodge and Resort - Garmisch, Germany

Are retiree ID card holders eligible to use the AAFES exchange and post office?
Due to international agreements, the use of the Commissary, Community Bank and PX/BX are limited to personnel assigned to US Forces in Europe and NATO ID card holders who have this privilege. This includes rationed items such as gas coupons. Be aware that gas prices are considerably higher compared to US standards. Military Post Offices may be used only be retirees who reside in Germany for over 30 days and who have Box R privileges with restrictions.
It depends on the SOFA agreement. Go to Scroll down the left side and it will tell you about every country overseas. Some countries don't even allow active duty to use the facilities unless they are stationed or TDY in that country. Also remember that regulations are constantly updated and the info may be incorrect.
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Old 06-01-2010, 11:07 AM   #9
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German Custom Law Change of Retired Military Living in Germany

#2009-11-23-1 Nov. 23, 2009
Retirees living in Germany can benefit from new arrangements reached with German Federal Ministry of Finance

MANNHEIM, Germany -- Retired service members who live in Germany as ordinary residents can benefit from new arrangements reached with the German government regarding duties charged on purchases made in American military exchange and commissary facilities and packages received through U.S. forces post offices.
The arrangements, which took effect Nov. 1, put into law benefits which previously had been agreed to but for which no law existed, said Rula Strumpen with the U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal Host Nation Customs Policy Branch.
"The concession, meaning the authorization for retired military personnel to shop at U.S. forces sales facilities -- which applies also to surviving dependents, retired reservists, 100 percent disabled veterans and unaccompanied dependents whose sponsor is serving in a restricted tour area -- granted by the German Federal Ministry of Finance Customs Department during the past 50 years now has the force of law,” Strumpen said. “This is a great benefit,” she added. “The ruling applies not only to U.S. personnel, but also to the personnel of the other Sending States Forces in Germany.”
In 1964, Strumpen explained, the German FMOF Customs Department granted an exception to retired military personnel who live in Germany or who visit Germany for at least 30 days but are not covered by the Status of Forces Agreement and Supplementary Agreement for Germany. The exception allowed them and their accompanying dependents to shop in Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Defense Commissary Agency facilities. However, because of the European Community Customs Code, this ruling was always subject to revocation, she added.
The new Forces Customs Ordinance codifies that privilege and allows retirees to shop for non-rationed items in AAFES and DECA facilities in Germany, and pay German Customs a flat rate of duty of 17.5 percent for goods that cost less than the equivalent of 50 euro per item, Strumpen said. For purchases of items with a single-item sales price of the equivalent of 50 euro and more, German Customs will apply the 19 percent value-added-tax plus the customs tariff for the item. German Customs personnel will determine what the final rate will be, Strumpen explained.
Web sites are available to help retirees determine their duty rates. A list of the tariff rates used to determine duty rates for specific items in English can be found at and in German at The euro rate German Customs uses to calculate the value of items is available at German Customs will use the euro rate applicable for the month the purchases were made.
Retirees must still report purchases monthly to local German Customs offices and register annually with U.S. Forces Customs-Europe offices, stressed Bill Johnson, director of the USAREUR OPM Customs Executive Agency. They cannot shop unless they have been issued the so-called “pink card” by a German Customs office.
Another benefit for retirees is that the German FMOF Customs Department agreed they can use the U.S. forces postal system and receive packages in Germany up to a value equivalent to 22 euro without paying taxes or duties, Strumpen said. She added that efforts are currently ongoing with the FMOF Customs Department to work out procedures for declaring parcels to German Customs authorities. The 16 oz. Department of Defense-mandated weight restriction when using the U.S. forces postal system has not changed, Johnson added.
“Our job is to facilitate procedures to support U.S. personnel,” Strumpen said. The German FMOF Customs Department has been willing to come to these arrangements because they appreciate the continuing partnership with the USAREUR Provost Marshal as the Customs Executive Agent for the U.S. forces, she said, adding that this is also proven by the fact that Germany is the only European Union member state that grants any benefits to U.S. retirees.
Johnson said USAREUR customs officials take part in community retiree open houses and pre-retirement briefings to help educate U.S. personnel about customs policies and procedures. He also recommended that retirees who have questions visit their local retirement services or military customs offices.

About us: The U.S. Army in Europe, with NATO and other coalition partners from throughout its 51-country area of responsibility, trains for, conducts, and supports contingency operations. Headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, USAREUR has forces throughout Germany as well as in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Romania, and in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Visit the U.S. Army Europe home page at:
Additional U.S. Army Europe images are available online at:
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Old 06-01-2010, 11:24 AM   #10
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I was wrong a little bit.
Items over 50 euro will have to pay 17.5% plus 19% customs fee.
Remember get your pink slip from the Germans as I mentioned in first post.
No rationed items allowed cigarettes, booze (class 6) or fuel.
You will have to register your vehicle under German system (not cheap either)
fuel price not sure but think it is over $6 per gallon, vehicle insurance it's been some time but similar to U.S. back in the days. I only worked 12 years there with
ID card, 5 of it directly with Luftwaffe with fewer than 50 americans in a 50 mile area. That was no PX, Commisary or military medical facilities within 100 miles.
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