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The Federal Fiscal Court

The Federal Fiscal Court is the Court of last resort within the German jurisdiction over tax and customs matters. It is one of the five Federal Supreme Courts, established according to Article 95 of the Basic Law and has its seat in Munich. The Federal Fiscal Court predominantly adjudicates in legal remedy procedures upon the legality of assessments of taxes and duties, furthermore about child allowance, investment allowance and certain concerns regarding the professional law for tax consultants. The main task of the Federal Fiscal Court is to ensure the consistency of both, application and execution of law by the interpretation of the law. In addition to this, the case law of the Federal Fiscal Court contributes to the development of tax law in conformity with the Basic Law.

Oftentimes, the jurisdiction of the Federal Fiscal Court has considerable effects on the legal practice of the fiscal administration and, as a consequence also has extensive impact on the federal budget. The Federal Fiscal Court only adjudicates on the correct application of law in concrete individual cases. Although its decisions can only bind the respective parties, they are still authoritative for the taxation of other tax paying citizens where the same facts of case apply. This follows from the fact that the judgment’s and decision’s essence regularly flows into the treasury regulations and other administration guidelines, which are being adhered to by the legal practice and fiscal authorities.

 

The Fiscal Jurisdiction

 

The Fiscal Courts of the Länder and the Federal Fiscal Court have the jurisdiction over all matters of fiscal law, excluding administrative fines and criminal law cases. They stand independently and coequally beside the courts of law (civil and criminal matters), the administrative, the labor and the social courts. Unlike the other jurisdictions, the fiscal jurisdiction is characterized by a simple two-tier structure. Courts of first instance are the Fiscal Courts of the Länder ranking equally with the higher regional courts; the Federal Fiscal Court is the court of appeal as Federal Supreme Court in tax and customs matters. The organization and government of the Court and the legal procedure are essentially regulated by the Code of Procedure for Fiscal Courts.

The citizen can raise objections against tax returns and administrative acts. If the fiscal authority is not willing to allow the objection, it has to reject it by a written decision. After this extra judicial preliminary proceedings action can be taken before the Fiscal Court.

18 Fiscal Courts altogether generally adjudicate in a composition of three professional and two honorary judges. The honorary judges do not assist in court orders decided outside oral proceedings. Certain cases, ruled by the law, can be decided by judges sitting alone.

In about 5 % of the cases the judgments of the Fiscal Courts are appealed to the Federal Fiscal Court. Against its decisions, the constitutional complaint, which can only be based on breaches of constitutional law, can be raised before the Federal Constitutional Court.