Germany: Restrictive application of the German trust model
International Tax Review is part of the Delinian Group, Delinian Limited, 4 Bouverie Street, London, EC4Y 8AX, Registered in England & Wales, Company number 00954730
Copyright © Delinian Limited and its affiliated companies 2024

Accessibility | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Modern Slavery Statement

Germany: Restrictive application of the German trust model



Arne Schnitger

Martin Weiss

Over the past few years, partnerships have grown in popularity as investment vehicles into Germany. Profit shares are repatriated free of withholding tax as partnerships are treated as transparent for income (corporation) tax purposes, that is the income is taxed at the level of its partners. However, German trade tax levied on business income is owed by the partnership itself, that is the partnership is not transparent for trade tax. Consequently, trade tax losses can only be carried forward by the partnership and cannot be offset against income from other German operations of associated enterprises. To enable offset of the trade tax losses of the German partnership against other trade tax income of the partner, the trust model is frequently used by German and foreign investors. The second partner holds a minor limited partnership share as the nominee of the general partner. In consequence, the partnership ceases to exist for tax purposes (that is, the general partner is subject to tax on the trade tax income) while continuing to exist under corporate law. Accordingly, the partnership's results are mingled with those of the general partner for both trade and income (corporation) tax.

Such partnerships being set up according to the trust model trigger various questions, for example regarding their entitlement to a tax-free reorganisation under German tax law. A provincial tax directorate has issued a new directive according to which a merger of a company into a partnership deemed as being held by a single partner cannot be conducted tax-free for failure to meet the condition in the Reconstructions Tax Act that the merged assets be taken up by the surviving entity. Even though this interpretation of the law is questionable, it may make a trust partnership somewhat inflexible as a vehicle for further operations.

Arne Schnitger (

Tel: +49 30 2636-5466

Martin Weiss (

Tel: +49 30 2636-2588



more across site & bottom lb ros

More from across our site

Barbara Voskamp is bullish on hiring local talent to boost DLA Piper’s Singapore practice, and argues that ‘big four’ accountants suffer from a stifled creativity
Chris Jordan also said that nations have a duty to scrutinise the partnership structures of major firms, while, in other news, a number of tax teams expanded their benches
KPMG has exclusive access to the tool for three years in the UK, giving it an edge over ‘big four’ rivals
But the US tax agency’s advice is consistent with OECD guidance and shouldn’t surprise anyone, other experts tell ITR
A survey of more than 25,000 in-house counsel reveals that diversity initiatives are a high priority when choosing external counsel
The report is aimed at helping 'low-capacity countries', the OECD has claimed
The UK tax agency appears to be going after easier, lower value targets, one lawyer has claimed
Criminal experts have told ITR that the case of Ulf Johannemann emphasises the fine line between tax avoidance and tax evasion
The ATO workers were among nearly 57,000 people who were duped into claiming fake GST refunds, while Kuwait signed a double taxation treaty with the UAE
However, ICAP may not provide the legal certainty of an APA and tax authorities will have limited capacity, experts argue
Gift this article