Management of proceedings
How are proceedings handled at the Federal Fiscal Court?
When new proceedings are brought before the Federal Fiscal Court, they are first registered with the office of the competent senate. They are allocated a file reference, for example IX R 17/19. Such a file reference indicates that the proceedings are pending at the IX Senate of the Federal Fiscal Court (IX), that it is an appeal (‘Revision’ – R) and that it is registered as the 17th appeal proceedings of the IX Senate in 2019.
A capital "B" (instead of "R") in the file reference indicates that this is a complaint (‘Beschwerde’) and an "S" that this is another procedural matter (‘Antrag’ – application).
After acknowledgement of receipt and communication of the file reference to the parties, a procedural fee is imposed on the person who initiated the proceedings. It is later offset or, if the taxable person is successful in their application, reimbursed.
The office sends the parties to the proceedings the pleadings received from the other party and invites them to submit their responses. Even at this stage of the proceedings, the chairmen of the senates work to ensure that formal errors are rectified, relevant applications are made and unclear applications are explained (§ 76 of the Code of Procedure of Fiscal Courts). As soon as further comments of the parties to the proceedings are no longer to be expected, the chairman of the senate appoints a member of the senate as reporting judge (rapporteur) and another member to submit a co-report for each case in accordance with the senate's internal participation plan.
On the basis of the files, the rapporteurs prepare a report with a description of the facts, an account of the history of the proceedings and a reasoned draft decision. This provides a comprehensive review of the case, taking into consideration relevant judicial decisions and literature. The report usually exceeds the scope of the subsequent decision. The co-rapporteurs comment on this report (so-called co-report). If their opinion differs from that of the rapporteurs, the matter is again referred to the latter. At the chairman's (= presiding judge of the panel) order, the matter is placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the relevant senate. The meetings take place at regular intervals on a weekday specified for each senate.
The meeting considers the matter in the light of the report and the co-report. The chairperson chairs the discussion. In the subsequent vote, the rapporteur votes first, followed by the co-rapporteur, then the junior judges before the senior judges, and finally the chairman. Consultation and voting are not public. The results of the deliberations and the distribution of votes are confidential and may also not be disclosed at a later date.
Judges who have been outvoted must sign the decision just as those who voted for it. Unlike at the Federal Constitutional Court, there is no possibility of adding a dissenting opinion to the decision.
In principle, the Federal Fiscal Court decides in judgments (substantive decisions in appeal proceedings) on the basis of oral hearings. However, it can also decide without an oral hearing by means of a so-called court order or, with the agreement of the parties, without an oral hearing by means of a judgment.
If the parties involved do not waive their right to an oral hearings, the Federal Fiscal Court in most cases does not hold oral hearings but decides by court order. This acts as a judgment unless the parties concerned request an oral hearing within one month. If such an application is filed in due time, the court order is deemed not to have been issued. An oral hearing must then be held, on the basis of which the matter must be discussed and voted on again and, as a rule, decisions must now be taken by way of a judgment.
Overall, only a small proportion of appeal cases are decided on the basis of oral hearings, because the parties to the proceedings either waive oral hearings from the outset or do not apply for oral hearings after a court order has been issued.
In decision cases (mostly complaint proceedings or appeals, which are inadmissible), no oral hearing is required for a decision by the Federal Fiscal Court.
If all decisions of the Federal Fiscal Court (judgments, court orders and rulings) are taken together, it regularly decides only a small percentage of cases on the basis of oral hearings.
Decisions taken without an oral hearing (judgments given after the parties have waived the right to an oral hearing, court orders, rulings) are always served on the parties to the proceedings in writing. They become effective upon delivery and, in the case of a judgment or a ruling in the absence of any possibility of appeal, they become final.
If an oral hearing has taken place, the decision (usually a judgment) can be delivered at the end of the hearing or at a later so-called hearing date by reading out the operative part of the judgment. The judgment takes effect once delivered. The full judgment is then sent to the parties.
However, the senate may also decide not to announce the decision after an oral hearing but to send it to the parties in writing. Before the Federal Fiscal Court, this is the most common form of notification after oral hearings. In these cases, the operative part of the judgment must be filed with the senate's office within two weeks after the oral hearing so that the parties involved can then inquire there about the outcome of the legal dispute.