Voluntary Disclosures

The discussion revolving around the voluntary disclosure procedure (Selbstanzeige) as a means of avoiding criminal charges frequently flares up in the media, be it as a result of the fiscal authorities obtaining CD-ROMs containing data on tax evaders or as a result of criminal investigations into the tax affairs of German celebrities suspected of tax evasion.

In light of the sustained criticism of Swiss banks acting as accessories to tax evasion, the Swiss banks have begun implementing the clean-money strategy (Weißgeldstrategie) announced in 2010. However, other countries are also endeavouring to improve the transparency of taxation in cross-border situations. Austria, for example, has enacted the ADG (Amtshilfe-Durchführungsgesetz) to also establish the legal framework for batch queries by foreign tax jurisdictions.

Consequently, German taxpayers who have deposits at foreign banks that they have not declared for tax purposes run a higher risk of being discovered. However, under certain circumstances they have the opportunity to lodge a voluntary disclosure and avoid prosecution by paying the taxes they evaded. However, such a voluntary disclosure must meet stringent legal requirements before it becomes effective.

We would be happy to advise you on the legal framework and the consequences of a voluntary disclosure and offer you our support in preparing it.