Tax secrecy

How important is tax secrecy in Germany?

Tax secrecy has a high priority in Germany. Since taxpayers must fully disclose their tax details to the financial authorities within the framework of their cooperation obligations, the privacy of their information must be ensured. This is ensured by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and tax secrecy provisions (§§ 30 et seq. of the German Tax Code (AO)). The provisions of the §§ 30 et seq. AO regulate who must protect tax secrecy and under what conditions the disclosure or utilisation of data (which is subject to tax secrecy) is permitted. Tax secrecy thus serves to protect the taxpayer.

A breach of tax secrecy can only be permitted under very strict conditions. Any disclosure of information which is subject to tax secrecy is normally only permitted if expressly authorised by law, if the person concerned agrees to the disclosure, or if there is a compelling public interest in the tax data in question.

This is why the disclosure by the tax authorities of data for voluntary reporting initiatives – like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – requires the explicit consent of the companies concerned. Because reconciliation regarding tax payments within the framework of the EITI process was carried out with the tax authorities for the 1st and 2nd D-EITI reports, the permission of the taxpayer in the form of a power of attorney for the Independent Administrator was required in each case for each of the finance authorities involved to query the relevant tax data. For this year’s reporting the D-EITI is for the third time applying an alternative procedure for assuring the quality of the payments disclosed by the reporting companies (see Payment flows of the raw material sector). With this procedure it is not necessary to obtain a release from tax secrecy and thus the considerable extra work1 that this involves for companies and the tax authorities, as the data is only collected from the company and not from the tax authorities.
1 The release from tax secrecy required in the context of payment reconciliation is not an established standard procedure. Accordingly, the implementation initially involved a fundamental coordination effort between companies, authorities and the Independent Administrator in order to ensure a legally secure process. Since the legally secure process required that an individual exemption be prepared by the companies for each authority concerned in each reporting year, there was also a considerable and permanent implementation effort.


In Federal States in which legislation does not include an excavation law and the State-level Nature Conservation Law does not apply to the extraction of non-energetic, ground-based natural resources in the context of dry excavations, this type of natural resource extraction falls within the scope of the relevant state building regulations.

Legal limitations also exist: State building regulations apply to the excavation of solid rock (limestone, basalt, etc.), for example, in quarries with an area of up to 10 hectares (ha) in which no blasting is carried out. In the event that this area is exceeded, or if water bodies are formed after completion of the extraction operations, the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and/or Water Resources Act (WHG) are applicable.
In Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, the above-ground excavation of non-energetic, ground-based natural resources in the context of dry excavations is determined at state level by the existing excavation laws (AbgrG). For the excavation of solid rock (limestone, basalt, etc.) in quarries where blasting does not occur, the AbgrG applies to sites with an area of up to 10 ha. In the event that this area is exceeded, or if water bodies are formed after completion of the extraction operations, the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and/or Water Resources Act (WHG) are applicable. In the other Federal States, this type of natural resources extraction is regulated by the respective state building regulations or by the state-level nature conservation laws.

In general, the AbgrG applies to those raw materials the excavation of which is not directly subject to mining law or the mining authorities. These raw materials include (in particular) gravel, sand, clay, loam, limestone, dolomite and other rocks, bog mud and clays. However, the jurisdiction between AbgrG and mining law can vary from case to case in the case of certain raw materials, such as quartz gravels. The requested authority must always verify its own jurisdiction in each case. The AbgrG also encompasses surface area usage and the subsequent rehabilitation of the area.
The German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) is the most important and practice-relevant law in the field of environmental law. It constitutes the basis for the approval of industrial and commercial installations. In the natural resources extraction industry, quarrying companies must have approval to extract stones and earth. Every quarrying area of 10 hectares or more must undergo a full approval procedure, including public participation and UVP (environmental impact assessment). A more simplified approval procedure is used for quarrying areas of less than 10 hectares.

The sphere of responsibility for the legal immission control approval procedure is fully specified in the Immission Control Acts of the Federal States. The Federal States are tasked with the administrative enforcement of the approval procedure. Each individual state’s Environment Ministry – the highest local immission protection authority – usually bears the responsibility for this procedure. Subordinate authorities include regional councils, district authorities and lower-level administrative authorities. Administrative jurisdiction generally lies with the lower-level administrative authorities.
The GDP measures the value of goods and services produced domestically (creation of value) within a given period (quarter, year). The Federal Office of Statistics calculates the GDP as follows: production value minus intermediate consumption = the gross value added; plus taxes on products and minus subsidies = GDP
The gross value added is calculated by deducting intermediate consumption from the production values, so it only includes the value added created during the production process. The gross value added is valued at manufacturing prices, i.e. without the taxes due (product taxes), but including the product subsidies received.

During the transition from gross value added (at manufacturing prices) to GDP, the net taxes (product taxes less product subsidies) are added globally to arrive at an assessment of the GDP at market prices’. Source: Destatis
The planning approval procedure under mining law is used for the approval procedure of a general operating plan for projects which require an environmental impact assessment (§§ 52(2a), in conjunction with 57 a of the BBergG).
There are different definitions and methodological approaches at the international as well as at the national level as to what subsidies are and how they are calculated. According to the definition of the German government’s subsidy report, this report considers federal subsidies for private companies and economic sectors (ie grants as cash payments and tax breaks as special tax exemptions) which are relevant to the budget. Subsidies at the federal level can be viewed via the subsidy reports of the federal states (see Appendix 5 of the German government subsidy report).
In compliance with § 68(1), Water Resources Act (WHG), the excavation of landowners’ natural resources such as gravel, sand, marl, clay, loam, peat and stone in wet extraction operations requires a planning approval procedure. The reason for this is that groundwater is exposed in wet extraction, resulting in above-ground water. The planning approval procedure is implemented by lower-level water authorities.

The procedural steps of the planning approval procedure are governed by the general provisions of §§ 72 to 78 of the Administrative Procedures Act (VerwVfG). Within the meaning of § 68(3), nos. 1 and 2 of the WHG, the plan may only be established or approved if an impairment of the common good is not to be expected and other requirements of the WHG as well as other public-law provisions are fulfilled.