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.

 

The Organization

 

The Federal Fiscal Court has established eleven senates with a total of 60 judges. Regularly each senate is staffed with a presiding judge and four judges. In cases of adjudication, the senates decide by five judges, decisions outside the oral proceedings are being taken by the presiding judge and two other judges.

The area of jurisdiction of each senate and the judges assigned to it, are set out in a schedule of responsibilities, which is annually resolved by the Presiding Board of the Court.

At the Federal Fiscal Court a Large Senate has been established. Its members are the Court’s President and one judge of each senate not chaired by the President. The Large Senate decides in those cases in which one senate wants to deviate from the adjudication of another. Furthermore, cases of fundamental importance can be brought before the Large Senate.

 

The Proceedings

 

The Federal Fiscal Court reviews the Fiscal Courts' judgments regarding the legitimate application of federal law, in exceptional cases also of the law of the Länder. As an appellate court it exclusively decides upon points of law; the finding of the facts concerning the merits of a case has to be made by the Fiscal Courts. Generally, their findings of facts are binding upon the Federal Fiscal Court. It has to refer the case back to the Fiscal Court, if this court did not ascertain all the essential facts concerning the merits of the case.

The appeal on a point of law before the Federal Fiscal Court can only be raised by the parties, if the Fiscal Court or - following an appeal against denial of leave to appeal - the Federal Fiscal Court has granted leave to appeal.

Leave to appeal on a point of law can only be granted if

- the case is of fundamental legal significance or

- the case law or the consistency of the jurisdiction make a decision by the Federal Fiscal Court necessary or

- a procedure error has been asserted, on which the appealed judgment might be based.

Against decisions of the Fiscal Courts, which are not judgments, an objection to the Federal Fiscal Court might be admissible under certain tight legal requirements.

Before the Federal Fiscal Court representation is compulsory, e.g. the tax payer has to file and constitute remedies through a procurator, who according to the law on tax consultancy is authorized for businesslike support in tax matters.

The Federal Fiscal Court has to decide upon the appeal based on the oral proceedings; however in an overwhelming number of cases though, under the agreement of the parties, the decision is taken without oral proceedings.

 

The Publication of Decisions

 

The Federal Fiscal Court's decisions are published on a regular basis. According to their importance a distinction is being drawn between so-called P-decisions (designated to be officially published) and those decisions, designated not to be officially published (so called UP-decisions).

Leading decisions are officially published; they are all printed in the Official Collection of the Federal Fiscal Court (the "BFHE" collection) as well as in the general Federal Tax Journal Part II, edited by the Federal Minister of Finance. The P-decisions are also available on the Federal Fiscal Court's homepage. The UP-decisions are monthly published in a particular collection, edited by judges of the Federal Fiscal Court (the “BFH/NV” collection).

 

The Personnel

 

The judges at the Federal Fiscal Court are professional judges. They are being elected by an electoral committee for judges, to which 16 Ministers of the Länder (the Minister of Finance for Bavaria and the Ministers of Justice for the other Länder) as well as 16 internally appointed members of parliament belong.

The temporarily assigned learned assistants (generally about eleven) are being allotted to certain senates. They support the judges in their tasks.

The senate-offices register the incoming cases, administrate the files, handle the exchange of the written pleadings and submissions and further the procedures on behalf of the judges. They are responsible for summons, services of process and the executed copies of judgments.

The administration department of the Federal Fiscal Court is in particular responsible for the organization of the Court's operations, the budget and the handling of human resource affairs. It is being supported by the cost department, which levies the procedural costs, furthermore by the typists, the court officers and the custodians.

The personnel in the library attend to about 200,000 works and hence for the most comprehensive German collection of reference books and journals in the field of tax and customs law.

The department for documentation and information analyses the adjudication of the Federal Fiscal Court and the Fiscal Courts as well as reference literature and processes them for the juris database. It researches judicial decisions and literature for the judges.

The IT department installs and attends to the comprehensive and constantly growing data processing systems of the Federal Fiscal Court.

The press office issues press releases, allocates the Federal Fiscal Court’s judgments on the internet, compiles the annual reports of the Federal Fiscal Court and advises expert visitor groups.

 

The Building

 

The so-called "Fleischer-Schlößchen" in Munich-Bogenhausen is the official residence of the Federal Fiscal Court. The classicistic mastery edifice was conceptualized as a residential and entertainment house by the painter Ernst Philipp Fleischer, but has only ever been completed as carcass.

In 1919 the German Reich bought the park-like property with the "Bogenhausen castle-ruin" and finished and enlarged it to be the official residence of the Fiscal Court of the German Reich established the year before. The Federal Fiscal Court has taken up work there in October 1950. In order to change the appearance of the building being scheduled as an ancient monument as little as possible, every necessary enlargement has been executed in the backyard. During the years 1972/73 the single-floored library was built. Since 1995 a modern two-story addition dangles from steel beams above the library, mirroring the back side of the historic old building.

The Federal Fiscal Court is surrounded by a park, which was given back its original guise after the construction of an underground car park.