New German Inheritance Tax Law
by Dr. Peter K.-D. Barandt, Attorney at Law (New York),
Attorney at Law (Rechtsanwalt) (Frankfurt),
Bar-Approved Specialist in Tax Law (Frankfurt),
M.B.A. (U. of Cologne), LL.M. (SMU, Dallas, Texas)
In late 2008 Germany has enacted a new Inheritance Tax (Estate Tax) Law and a subsequent amendment thereto in late 2009.
Its provisions will mandatorily apply to any death occurring on or after January 1, 2009, but each Heir/Beneficiary (“Erbe”, “Vermächtnisnehmer”) has a right to opt for the retroactive application of the new rules for any death occurred in 2007 and 2008, i.e. in the two year time frame from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2008 immediately preceding January 1, 2009.
The new rules favor a Decedent’s (“Erblasser”) surviving spouse, registered same-sex life partner (“Eingetragener Lebenspartner”), and lineal descendant, such as a surviving child, stepchild and grandchild, as well as a surviving lineal ancestor (limited to parents and grandparents), whereas all other recipients, including but not limited to siblings, nieces, nephews, divorced spouses, step parents, parents-in-law and children-in-law, will be taxed at a considerably higher inheritance tax rate of up to 43 percent with lower personal exemption amounts (“Persönliche Freibeträge”).
Class One (“Steuerklasse I”) recipients, i.e. surviving spouses, registered same-sex life partners (“Eingetragene Lebenspartner”), surviving children, stepchildren and grandchildren, surviving parents and grandparents, will benefit from a general increase of personal exemption amounts (“Persönliche Freibeträge”) up from previously Euros 307,000.00 to now Euros 500,000.00 in the case of a surviving spouse or a registered same-sex life partner, from previously Euros 205,000.00 to now 400,000.00 in the case a surviving child, a stepchild or a grandchild (parents predeceased), from previously Euros 51,200.00 to now Euros 200,000.00 in the case of a surviving grandchild (parents surviving), and from previously Euros 51,200.00 to now Euros 100,000.00 in the case of parents and grandparents.
Class Two (“Steuerklasse II”) recipients, i.e. siblings, nieces, nephews, divorced spouses, step parents, parents-in-law and children-in-law, will generally benefit also from a general increase of the personal exemption amount (“Persönlicher Freibetrag”) up from previously Euros 10,300.00 to now Euros 20,000.00.
Class Three (“Steuerklasse III”) is the “catch-all” class of inheritance (estate) taxpayers covering all other recipients at a personal exemption amount (“Persönlicher Freibetrag”) up from previously Euros 5,200.00 to now Euros 20,000.00 and at inheritance tax rates up ranging from previously 17 through 50 percent to now 30 through 50 percent.
The application of the aforementioned personal exemption amounts (“Persönliche Freibeträge”) is dependent on that either the decedent or the beneficiary has had a residence in Germany at the time of decedent’s death.
Otherwise, only a rather nominal personal exemption amount (“Persönlicher Freibetrag”) of previously Euros 1,200.00 and of now Euros 2,000.00 will be granted.
In the latter case, however, of both the decedent and the beneficiary being non-residents in Germany, German inheritance tax will be imposed only on certain qualified assets located in Germany.
For better optical reference, all foregoing remarks will be summarized in a synopsis and diagram format below: