German Court Permits Use Of Stolen Tax CDs


Following months of controversy, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has finally permitted the use of tax information contained on data discs for criminal prosecutions, and has published details of its ruling accordingly.

The court ruled that information regarding alleged tax evaders, contained on discs provided by informants, may indeed be used during criminal investigations, irrespective of whether or not the original means by which the data was obtained was deemed to be lawful.

Rejecting an appeal involving a property search conducted on the basis of details contained on a tax data disc from Liechtenstein, that had been sold to the German tax authorities, the court found that the search was not unconstitutional and did not violate the fundamental right of inviolability of property.

Welcoming the ruling, Chairman of the German tax union DSTG, Dieter Ondracek, emphasized that the union had always presumed that the data supply is lawful and that there would be no ban on its use. This has now been confirmed, Ondracek added.

Several tax authorities in Germany provoked outrage this year by electing to purchase tax data discs made available to them by informants, and containing the names and details of Germans alleged to have evaded taxes in both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. According to the DSTG, there have so far been around 28,000 self-declarations in Germany as a result of the emergence of the discs, resulting in billions of euros in additional revenues for the state.

Determined to put an end to the highly divisive issue, Germany and Switzerland signed in October a revised bilateral double taxation agreement (DTA) in accordance with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standard. They also agreed to begin negotiations early in 2011 on an agreement that will allow Germany to tax assets held by its residents in Swiss accounts and to “regularize” existing assets, while retaining some degree of banking secrecy in Switzerland.

Liechtenstein and Germany also aim to conclude negotiations on a DTA by the end of the year.