Legal Interpretation of Tax Law: Germany


Caroline Heber and Christian Sternberg

As a direct result of the globalisation of trade and business, tax departments and their external advisors are increasingly required to deal with the tax law of foreign jurisdictions. Effective consulting, regardless of whether internal or external, requires not only knowledge of the tax law per se, but also of how tax law is explained and interpreted in the courts of foreign jurisdictions. „Legal Interpretation of Tax Law“ is the first book to deal comparatively with tax law interpretation in economies engaged in cross-border investment at a global level. In chapter 6 Caroline Heber and Christian Sternberg elaborate how tax law is interpreted and applied in Germany.

After an introduction to the topic, the authors analyse the general approaches for interpreting tax laws, generally referred to as the four canons of Savigny. According to this, an interpretation shall be based on an analysis of the wording, system, and evolution of the provision, and its function in the legal framework. Statutory interpretation is complemented by the application of specific doctrines on a further development of the law, elaborated in the third section of the contribution. The fourth section highlights the impact and importance of  anti-abuse rules. The last section elaborates special rules applying to interpretation of German double tax conventions.

Published:   Heber, C. / Sternberg, C.: Chapter 6: Germany. In: van Brederode, Robert F., Krever / Rick (eds.): Legal Interpretation of Tax Law. Alphen aan den Rijn, Kluwer Law International, 2014, pp. 163-189.