Steuererklarung is a special uniform nationwide state examination (Statsexamen) that is normally the condition for being appointed as a German certified tax advisor (Steuerberater). It is one of the toughest and most prestigious professional exams in Germany, often compared to full university law studies.
The exam includes a written part (three exams of 6 hours each) and an oral examination. It is held once a year at the beginning of October and is usually taken by examinees alongside their regular occupation, e.g. in the evenings or on weekends.
In addition to the requirement to pass the exam, candidates must also have considerable professional experience and technical knowledge (2-4 years depending on educational background-see below). For example, they may be dual qualified as a Rechtsanwalte and a Steuerberater or be a certified public accountant.
A tax advisor is a professional who advises individuals on their taxes, especially in relation to income tax and capital gains tax. This is regulated by law and therefore only permissible for those with the appropriate qualifications, e.g. the licensed lawyer (Rechtsanwalt) and the licensed tax advisor (Steuerberater).
Unlike other professions, the provision of this service is subject to specific legal regulations. The rules for the tax advisory service in relation to income tax are mainly those of section 16 of the Federal Income Tax Act (AGG).
According to this law, a person must be registered as a Steuerberater before he can offer tax advice to clients, and must also have an appointment as a certified tax advisor in order to do so. Those who do not meet this legal requirement may still provide the services of a tax advisor, but only if they can prove that their business is legitimate and that they are authorised by the competent authorities to perform such activities.
There are certain exceptions to this rule, namely:
A tax adviser is not obliged to carry out any activity that has the objective of generating revenue for the government or which is of general interest to the public. He can, however, do so only in the context of a commercial activity that is not a tax avoidance activity.
An entrepreneur who has the intention of generating income is required to carry out the following activities:
He must, for example, conduct a feasibility study before the decision to start a business is made. He must also draw up a business plan, which shows the economic structure and the financial and operating strategies of his company.
The business plans that are drawn up must be detailed enough to allow a reasonable assessment of the possible risks and potential benefits. These should not only include the risk of the business being shut down, but also the possible repercussions of any future changes in the law or market conditions.
A tax adviser must also be able to provide the client with information and documents that are necessary for assessing his individual situation. These include information about his income, assets and expenditures as well as information about his tax liability and any upcoming changes in tax laws.