Germany high court strikes down inheritance tax discrepancy for same-sex partners

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled [press release, in German] Tuesday that a portion of the tax code requiring same-sex partners in a civil union [JURIST news archive] to pay a larger inheritance tax than partners in opposite-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Under Germany's current tax code, citizens in homosexual civil unions are required to pay between 17 and 50 percent for an inheritance tax upon the death of a partner, while heterosexual married partners are required to pay between 7 and 30 percent for the tax. Germany has recognized same-sex civil unions since 2001, but the legal status falls short of the status given to heterosexual marriage. The German government attempted to remedy the tax discrepancy in 2008, but, because registered partners are legally viewed as distant relatives, inconsistencies in the tax rates remain. The court stated that the discrepancy was not justified by the fact that heterosexual marriages could produce children and that equality in taxation will not undermine the government's efforts to promote marriage. The court gave the German government until the end of the year to compensate citizens who were taxed at the higher rate.

In June, a German court ruled that a same-sex marriage performed abroad must be recognized as a registered partnership [JURIST report] in Germany. In the ruling, an administrative court in Berlin held that the marriage must be treated legally as a registered partnership [AFP report], after finding that authorities could not recognize the relationship as a marriage due to the requirement of different sexes for marriage under German law. In March, the Berlin government, sought to introduce legislation [DK report, in German] in the Bundesrat [official website, in German] that would legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. In October, the Constitutional Court ruled that surviving partners in a registered civil partnership have a right to collect [JURIST report] under the occupational pension scheme for civil service employees.

 

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