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Law Books of the Year 2020

“Die Steuerumgehung” by Prof. Dr. Christine Osterloh-Konrad, a former senior research fellow at the MPI for Tax Law and Public Finance, is on this year's list of recommended legal literature.

In her post-doctoral dissertation, authored at the Institute and published by Mohr-Siebeck, Christine Osterloh-Konrad looks at how different legal systems handle the phenomenon of tax avoidance. The legal scholar defines tax avoidance as a behavior that seeks to "play off the wording of the relevant national tax law against its meaning and purpose."

She first subjects the phenomenon to a comprehensive comparative law analysis – a “pioneering achievement”, as Prof. Dr. Reinhard Zimmermann, representing the jurors of the “Law Books of the Year”, writes in the “JuristenZeitung”. In her monograph, Christine Osterloh-Konrad, now a professor at the University of Tübingen, compares the legal frameworks of two continental European and two common-law legal systems – Germany and France on the one hand, Britain and the USA on the other – , as well as their anti-avoidance instruments. On this basis, she interprets anti-avoidance mechanisms as attempts to deal with cases in which the result of applying a legal rule is at odds with the rule’s justification.

In doing so, Zimmermann attests, Christine Osterloh-Konrad overcomes the seemingly irresolvable, rigid alternatives of ‘legal certainty’ and ‘equal taxation’ around which the debate on tax avoidance revolves. On the one hand, the state must strive to deny a taxpayer the benefits of tax arrangements that, when applied literally, produce favorable tax consequences that do not correspond to the law’s meaning and purpose. On the other hand, as the state digs into its pockets without considering tax liability directly, the taxpayers have a particularly pronounced need for a clear and reliable legal position.

Christine Osterloh-Konrad conceives the law's approach to tax avoidance as a multidimensional optimization problem, in which it is important to balance the reliability of the law and equality of taxation without losing sight either of institutional competence limits or of the options for action and behavioral tendencies of the parties involved. There is no single correct answer, Zimmermann writes, and accordingly one is not propagated by Christine Osterloh-Konrad. “However, an essential insight of her work lies precisely in the elaboration of the elements of this demanding ‘legal mobile’ (...).”

On the selection of recommended works

For more than 20 years, a group of legal scholars have agreed every year on a list of books “worth reading by every lawyer” and have published their list in a legal journal. As Reinhard Zimmermann points out, he and his colleagues do not claim the role of jury in a competition for the year’s best law books, as the number of legal works published year after year in Germany is too large and unmanageable. Rather, each member of the group names two books that he or she noticed in the course of the previous year from the vast literature that was systematically combed through or read in the group’s own working context.

Die Steuerumgehung – eine rechtsvergleichende und rechtstheoretische Analyse” was published by Mohr Siebeck.  


This year’s list comprises seven books in German and recommends three books from abroad.

Best law books of 2020

Fabian Klose: „In the Case of Humanity“. Eine Geschichte der humanitären Intervention im langen 19. Jahrhundert. – Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019. (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Europäische Geschichte Mainz; Bd. 256.) 516 9.

Inga Markovits: Diener zweier Herren. DDR-Juristen zwischen Recht und Macht. – Berlin: Ch. Links, 2020. 240 p..

Philipp Sahm:Elementeder Dogmatik.– Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft, 2019. 224 p.

Fabian Michl: Unionsgrundrechte aus der Hand des Gesetzgebers. – Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018. (Verfassungsentwicklung in Europa; Bd. 13.) XVIII, 335 p.

Gregor-Julius Ostermann: Transparenz und öffentlicher Meinungsbildungsprozess. Eine verfassungsrechtliche Untersuchung. –Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019. (Studien und Beiträge zum Öffentlichen Recht; Bd. 41.) XVII, 530 p.

Christine Osterloh-Konrad: Die Steuerumgehung. Eine rechtsvergleichende und rechtstheoretische Analyse. – Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019. (Veröffentlichungen zum Steuerrecht; Bd. 7.) XXXVIII, 786 p.

Markus Abraham: Sanktion, Norm, Vertrauen. Zur Bedeutung des Strafschmerzes in der Gegenwart. – Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2018. (Strafrechtliche Abhandlungen. Neue Folge [SRA]; Bd. 283.) 290 p.

Reading recommendations from abroad

Eric D. Weitz: A World Divided. The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States. – Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019. 576 p.

Wojciech Sadurski:Poland’s Constitutional Breakdown. – Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. (Oxford Comparative Constitutional-ism Series) 304 p.

Kees Schuyt: R.P. Cleveringa: Recht, onrecht en de vlam der gerechtigheid. – Amsterdam: Boom Uitgevers, 2019. 560 p.

December, 2020