Tax Code

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Basic data
Title: Tax Code
Abbreviation: AO
Type: Federal law
Scope: Federal Republic of Germany
Legal matter: Tax law , tax procedural law
References : 610-1-3
Original version from: March 16, 1976
( BGBl. I p. 613 ,
ber. 1977 I p. 269 )
Entry into force on: January 1, 1977
New announcement from: October 1, 2002
( BGBl. I p. 3866 ,
ber. 2003 I p. 61 )
Last change by: Art. 7 G of August 12, 2020
( Federal Law Gazette I p. 1879, 1886 )
Effective date of the
last change:
January 1, 2021
(Art. 8 G of August 12, 2020)
GESTA : G034
Weblink: Text of the AO
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.

The tax code ( AO ) is the elementary law of German tax law . Since it contains the basic rules on the taxation procedure that apply to all types of tax , it is also referred to as the Basic Tax Act. As so-called general tax law and tax procedural law, it regulates how the tax bases are determined, taxes are set, levied and enforced and out-of-court remedies are to be dealt with under procedural law. In addition, the tax code also contains essential substantive provisions on tax criminal and regulatory offense law, non-profit law and tax liability law.

While the individual tax laws (e.g. Income Tax Act or Sales Tax Act ) regulate the creation and calculation of the tax , the AO contains basic regulations on how the tax is to be determined and when it is to be paid.


The tax code came into force in 1977, hence the frequently used designation AO 1977 . Since December 2006 only the abbreviation AO is official. It replaced the Reich Tax Code (RAO) , which was still in force until now. Enno Becker is considered to be the author of the RAO, and thus also the “father” of today's tax code . The reason for the reform was the intention to align the provisions of the tax code with the Administrative Procedure Act , to achieve a reasonable balance between the conflicting principles of uniformity of taxation and legal certainty , and to improve the system in the law.

scope of application

The AO basically applies to all taxes and tax payments that are regulated by federal law or the law of the European Union and administered by federal or state tax authorities. It is applicable to import and export duties subject to the law of the European Communities, in particular the Customs Code. In addition, it is also applicable to the collection of numerous other taxes due to national regulations ( Section 1 AO).

In customs law , the AO only applies in a subsidiary way to the customs code , only the criminal, fines and enforcement provisions of the tax code are directly applicable.

The tax review process is mainly due to the tax courts instead. The relevant law is the Tax Court Code (FGO). In criminal tax matters, however, the regular criminal jurisdiction decides.


The AO is divided into nine parts and reflects the timing of the taxation process:

Introductory Regulations

The first part is devoted to the basic tax terms that apply to all taxes. Here, the general definition of the place control ( § 3 para. 1 AO) as a money services that are not a consideration stage for a special performance and from a public communities to earn revenue all be imposed where the facts is true, to which the law attaches the obligation to perform; generating income can be a secondary purpose. This distinguishes taxes (without consideration) from contributions (possibility of claiming) and fees (actual claiming). All three forms are collectively referred to as levies.

In addition, u. a. the terms residence , management , branch office and tax authority are explained from a tax point of view and an overview of the responsibilities is given.

The regulations on tax secrecy are of particular importance . Since the taxpayer has to fully disclose his tax situation to the tax authorities within the scope of the obligation to cooperate , the confidentiality of his information must be guaranteed. Sections 30 , 31 , 31a , and 31b AO regulate who must maintain tax secrecy and the conditions under which the disclosure or use of protected data is permissible.

Tax law

Tax law defines the essential principles in the relationship between the state and the tax debtor ; it should form the basis for a taxation procedure that is as unbureaucratic and rational as possible and should create a balance between the interests of the general public and the interests of the individual taxpayer.

The tax debtor is the person who is determined by the tax laws as such ( Section 43 AO). If there is no explicit definition in the special laws, the person liable for tax is the person who fulfills the requirements of the individual tax law. The tax debtor is usually also the taxpayer. In Section 33 (1) AO, the person of the taxpayer is defined as the person who owes a tax, is liable for a tax, has to withhold and pay a tax for the account of a third party ( taxpayer ), whoever submits a tax return , provides security, Has to keep books and records or perform any other obligation imposed by tax law.

It also regulates which claims arise from the tax liability (namely in accordance with Section 37 (1) AO: tax claim, tax rebate claim, tax refund claim, liability claim and claims to ancillary tax services), who is jointly and severally debtor , under which conditions someone is liable for the tax liability of another and which purposes are tax-privileged under charitable or charitable aspects.

General rules of procedure

The third part is devoted to the general procedural principles in particular to the principle of uniformity and legality of taxation . This regulates the cooperation obligations ( obligation to provide information , obligation to submit documents ) of those involved, but also under which conditions people are entitled to refuse to provide information and in which cases the tax authorities should advise taxpayers and provide them with information. Of importance are the regulations for calculating tax periods, extending the period and restoring the previous status. In the second section, the term administrative act is explained and statements are made on disclosure, effectiveness and nullity .

Implementation of taxation

The core of the AO are the regulations on the implementation of the taxation procedure. In the interests of legal certainty , they contain a precise description of the respective rights and obligations of the tax authorities and taxpayers.

In particular, the special cooperation obligations of taxpayers are regulated, because the tax authorities are dependent on the cooperation of those concerned when determining the tax bases . That is why this part contains regulations on tax declaration and accounting obligations .

It is also specified in what form, under what conditions and in what period a tax can be assessed. For example, Section 155 (1) AO stipulates that taxes are generally to be determined by means of a tax assessment . This tax assessment specifies the tax or tax credit that has arisen in each individual case and is the formal basis for realizing this claim.

Section 169 AO regulates the assessment period: Tax assessment and its cancellation, amendment or correction are no longer permissible after the assessment period has expired. This fixing period isone yearfor excise taxes and their remuneration. For all other taxes and tax rebates (in particular for income tax , sales tax and corporation tax )the assessment period is four years. However, it is ten years if a tax has been evaded and five years if it has been frivolously reduced .

The regulations on the validity of tax assessments are also important . In the interests of legal peace and legal certainty , tax assessments can only be canceled, changed or corrected insofar as this is permitted by law. It is irrelevant whether the error works in favor of or against the taxpayer.

If the tax assessment is subject to review in accordance with Section 164 AO, it can be changed at any time within the assessment period, as long as this reservation has not been lifted.

Other important amendment regulations are § 172 (see also simple amendment ) and § 173 AO, whereby the latter provides for a correction option if facts or evidence subsequently become known that lead to a higher or lower tax. A correction in favor of the taxpayer is only possible if the taxpayer is not grossly to blame for the fact that the facts or evidence only became known later. On the other hand, the current principle of good faith prohibits the tax office from changing a tax assessment based on the subsequent disclosure of tax-increasing facts or evidence, if the facts would not have remained hidden from the tax office if the tax office had properly fulfilled its obligation to investigate, provided that the taxpayer fully complied with his duty to cooperate was enough.

According to § 175 AO, a tax assessment must be issued or corrected if a basic assessment binding for the tax assessment has been issued or corrected.

Of particular importance are the regulations for external tax audits , which allow the tax authorities to check the details of taxpayers not only at the official office, but to a certain extent also on the spot. The field audit procedure requires a high degree of cooperation from the taxpayer, but also ensures a wide range of legal hearing and legal remedies . Further regulations aimed at the administration for carrying out a tax audit as well as for internal administrative procedures are set out in a nationwide administrative instruction, the tax audit regulations .

Survey procedure

The subsequent regulations on the collection procedure regulate when a tax is due and how and when the claim expires. In addition, defines the conditions under which a tax deferred or on grounds of equity adopted can be. It also regulates the statute of limitations on tax claims , the interest on claims arising from the tax liability relationship and the levying of late payment surcharges in the event of late tax payment.


If due taxes are not paid, they can be compulsorily collected by the tax authorities in accordance with the provisions applicable to foreclosure . In contrast to civil law and other areas of public law , enforcement by the tax authorities is also possible without a judicial enforcement order . In these cases, enforcement is based on an administrative act, e.g. B. a tax assessment. This section creates the necessary legal requirements u. a. by regulating the enforcement of immovable and movable property.

Out-of-court redress procedure

The following are the provisions on out-of-court redress procedures , in which the objection procedure is arranged as legal protection for taxpayers. This enables the tax authorities to review their decisions without initiating tax court proceedings. The objection procedure is free of charge. The (unsuccessful) implementation of the objection procedure is a regular requirement for a lawsuit before the tax court .

Penalty and fine regulations / criminal and fine proceedings

Finally, the AO contains the substantive provisions on tax offenses ( tax evasion ) and tax offenses ( tax evasion ) and specific provisions regarding the regarding fiscal and administrative penalties. The fine is levied in accordance with the Law on Administrative Offenses. The tax authority can determine itself and thereby avail itself of the tax investigation or customs investigation.

Sections 398 and 398a AO contain supplementary provisions on the termination of criminal proceedings for tax evasion.

Final provisions

The final provisions contain - as a legal reservation - the restriction of the basic rights to physical integrity and freedom of the person ( Article 2, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law ), the confidentiality of correspondence as well as the confidentiality of mail and telecommunications ( Article 10 of the Basic Law) and the inviolability of the Apartment ( Art. 13 GG) in accordance with the AO.

Ancillary laws and ancillary ordinances

An introductory law (EGAO) with numerous transitional and temporal application regulations has been passed for the tax code . In addition, with the application decree for the tax code (AEAO), there is an extensive tax guideline that is intended to ensure uniform application of the law by the tax authorities.

On the basis of the tax code, the notification ordinance was issued, which obliges authorities and public broadcasters to notify the tax authorities of certain tax-relevant facts without the need for a prior request from the tax authorities.

Tax code in the GDR

The tax code of the GDR was also developed on the basis of the Reich Tax Code (RAO) from 1919, but was rewritten in a version dated September 18, 1970.

The tax code contained:

  • Rights and obligations of those involved in the tax relationship (taxpayers and tax authorities)
  • the responsibilities in tax procedural law
  • the appeal procedure (review procedure) in tax matters
  • the substantive criminal tax law, unless there was a new regulation in the GDR Criminal Code

The tax code contained, in particular, provisions on tax claims , the duties of taxpayers and the tax assessment .

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sandra Duda: Tax law in the state budget system of the GDR. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-61305-4 , pp. 101-106 Limited preview at, accessed on August 26, 2018.