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 informa- tion must be ensured. This is ensured by the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO/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 per- mitted 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 recon- ciliation regarding tax payments within the frame- work of the EITI process was carried out with the tax authorities for the first and second D-EITI report, the permission of the taxpayer in the form of a power of attorney for the Independent Administrator was re- quired in each case for each of the finance authorities involved to query the relevant tax data. For this year’sreporting the D-EITI is for the second time applying an alternative procedure for assuring the quality of the payments disclosed by the reporting companies (see chapter 9). With this procedure it is not necessary to obtain a release from tax secrecy and thus the con- siderable extra work that this involves30 for companies and the tax authorities, as the data is only collected from the company and not from the tax authorities.