General terms and conditions for German tax advisors (Steuerberater, Steuerbevollmächtigte) and firms of taxadvisors (Steuerberatungsgesellschaften)
as of July 2018
These “general terms and conditions” shall govern contracts between German qualified tax advisors(Steuerberater, Steuerbevollmächtigte) as well as firms of tax advisors (Steuerberatungsgesellschaften)(hereinafter collectively referred to as the ‘Tax Advisors’, and each of them a ‘Tax Advisor’) and their clients(Auftraggeber), unless otherwise expressly agreed in text form (Textform) or prescribed by law.
1. Scope and execution of the engagement
(1) The scope of the services to be rendered by the Tax Advisor shall be governed by the specific engagement.The engagement shall be executed in accordance with the principles of proper professional practice and incompliance with the relevant rules of professional conduct and professional obligations (cf. German ActRegulating the Profession of Tax Advisors [Steuerberatungsgesetz – StBerG] [hereinafter “StBerG”], GermanProfessional Code of Conduct for Tax Advisors [Berufsordnung der Steuerberater – BOStB] ).
(2) Foreign law shall only be taken into account if this has been expressly agreed in text form.
(3) In the event that the legal position changes after a matter has been conclusively completed, the Tax Advisorshall not be under any obligation to alert the client to such change or the resulting implications.
(4) The review of the documents and figures provided to the Tax Advisor, in particular the accounts and balancesheet, with regard to accuracy, completeness and conformity with applicable rules shall not form part of theengagement unless otherwise expressly agreed in text form. The Tax Advisor will assume that the informationprovided by the client, in particular the figures, is correct and will use it as a basis for his/her work. To the extentthat he/she detects any evident inaccuracies, the Tax Advisor shall be obliged to point them out.
(5) The engagement shall not be deemed to constitute an authorization to represent the client before publicauthorities, courts and other bodies. Such authorization would need to be granted separately. Where, owing tothe client’s absence, it proves impossible to coordinate with him/her as to the filing of legal remedies, the TaxAdvisor shall be deemed, in case of doubt, to be both authorized and obliged to take action with a view tomeeting a deadline.
2. Duty of confidentiality
(1) In accordance with the law, the Tax Advisor shall be under a duty to maintain confidentiality with regard to allfacts that have come to his/her attention in connection with the execution of the engagement unless the clientreleases him/her from this duty. The duty of confidentiality shall continue even beyond a termination of thecontractual relationship. The duty of confidentiality shall apply, to the same extent, to the Tax Advisor’s staff.
(2) The duty of confidentiality shall not apply to the extent that a disclosure is necessary in order to protect theTax Advisor’s legitimate interests. Furthermore, the Tax Advisor is hereby released from the duty ofconfidentiality to the extent that, under the terms and conditions of his/her professional liability insurance, he/she has a duty to provide information and cooperate.
(3) The foregoing shall not affect any statutory rights to refuse to provide information or to refuse to testify undersect. 102 German General Tax Code (Abgabenordnung – AO), sect. 53 German Code of Criminal Procedure(Strafprozessordnung – StPO) and sect. 383 German Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung – ZPO).
(4) The Tax Advisor is hereby released from the duty of confidentiality to the extent that (i) this is necessary forpurposes of carrying out a certification audit in the Tax Advisor’s firm and (ii) the individuals who are acting inthis regard, for their part, have been instructed as to their duty of confidentiality. The client hereby agrees that the person carrying out the certification/audit may inspect the client file which was created and is beingmaintained by the Tax Advisor.
3. Involvement of third parties
The Tax Advisor shall be entitled to involve staff and, subject to the prerequisites of sect. 62a StBerG, alsoexternal service providers (in particular data-processing companies) for purposes of carrying out theengagement. The bringing-in of third-party experts (e.g. other Tax Advisors, auditors, German qualifiedattorneys [ Rechtsanwälte]) shall require consent and instruction on the part of the client. Without having beeninstructed by the client, the Tax Advisor shall be neither entitled nor obliged to bring in such third parties.
3. a Electronic communication, data protection1)
(1) In the context of the engagements, the Tax Advisor shall be entitled to electronically collect personal data ofthe client and to process such data in an automated file or to transmit such data to a service computer centerfor further processing of the data related to the engagement.
(2) In order to satisfy his/her obligations under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (hereinafter “GDPR”)and the German Federal Data Protection Act (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz – BDSG), the Tax Advisor shall beentitled to appoint a data-protection officer. Unless this data-protection officer is already subject to a duty ofconfidentiality under clause 2(1) sent. 3 above, the Tax Advisor shall ensure that the data-protection officer,upon taking up his/her activity, shall undertake to maintain data secrecy.
(3) To the extent that the client wants to communicate with the Tax Advisor via a fax line or an e‑mail address,the client must share in the costs for setting up and maintaining the use of signature procedures and encryptionprocedures of the Tax Advisor (e.g. for acquiring and setting up any necessary software and/or hardware).
4. Remedying of deficiencies
(1) The client shall have a right to demand that any deficiencies be remedied. The Tax Advisor must be affordedan opportunity to take remedial action. If and to the extent that the engagement constitutes a contract forservices (Dienstvertrag) within the meaning of sects. 611, 675 German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch –BGB) (hereinafter “BGB”), the client may refuse any remedial action by the Tax Advisor if the engagement isterminated by the client and the deficiency is detected only after the engagement has been validly terminated.
(2) Should the Tax Advisor fail to remedy the asserted deficiencies within a reasonable period or refuse toremedy the deficiencies, then the client may, at the Tax Advisor’s expense, have the deficiencies remedied byanother Tax Advisor and/or — at the client’s choice — demand a reduction of the fees or rescission of thecontract.
(3) The Tax Advisor may at any time, also vis-à-vis third parties, correct obvious inaccuracies (e.g. clericalerrors, or errors in calculation). Other deficiencies may be corrected by the Tax Advisor vis-à-vis third partiessubject to the client’s consent. Such consent shall not be required where the Tax Advisor’s legitimate intereststake precedence over the client’s interests.
(1) The liability of the Tax Advisor and his/her ‘persons employed in performing a contractual obligation forwhom the Tax Advisor is vicariously liable’ [Erfüllungsgehilfen] [hereinafter the ‘Vicarious Agents’] for anyloss/damage resulting from one breach of duty or — in the context of a uniform injurious effect (einheitlicheSchadensfolge) — from several breaches of duty on the occasion of executing an engagement shall be cappedat EUR 1.000.000,00 (in words: on million euros). The limitation of liability shall apply in relation to negligenceonly; liability for intent shall not be subject to such limitation. Liability claims in relation to any loss/damagearising from injuries to life, body or health shall be excluded from this limitation of liability. The limitation ofliability shall apply to the Tax Advisor’s entire activity for the client, i.e. also, in particular, to an extension to thescope of the engagement; in this regard, there shall be no need for agreeing the limitation of liability again. Thelimitation of liability shall also apply in the case of the establishment of a joint practice (Sozietät) / partnershipcompany (Partnerschaft) and assumption of the engagement by the joint practice / partnership company as wellas for partners who join the joint practice / partnership company. Furthermore, the limitation of liability shall alsoapply vis-à-vis third parties to the extent that these fall within the scope of protection of the engagement; in thisregard, sect. 334 BGB is expressly not waived. Any agreements, contained in individual contracts, providing fora limitation of liability shall take precedence over this provision but — unless otherwise expressly stipulated —shall not affect the validity of this provision.
(2) Provided there was a sufficiently high insurance cover in place, the limitation of liability shall applyretroactively from the beginning of the engagement or, as the case may be, from the point of taking out higherinsurance cover. If the scope of the engagement is subsequently modified or expanded, then the limitation ofliability shall also extend to these cases.
6. Duties on the part of the client; client’s failure to cooperate and client’s default of acceptance
(1) The client shall be obliged to cooperate to the extent that this is necessary in order for the engagement to beduly executed. In particular, he/she shall submit to the Tax Advisor, unprompted, a complete set of alldocuments necessary in order to execute the engagement; such submission shall occur in such a timelymanner as to afford the Tax Advisor a reasonable processing time. The same shall apply with regard tobriefings about all events and circumstances which may be of importance for purposes of executing theengagement. The client shall be obliged to take note of all written and oral communications issued by the TaxAdvisor and to consult him/her when in doubt.
(2) The client shall refrain from anything that may prejudice the independence of the Tax Advisor or the TaxAdvisor’s Vicarious Agents.
(3) The client hereby undertakes to pass on the results of the Tax Advisor’s work only with the Tax Advisor’sconsent unless the consent to such results being passed on to a specific third party already flows from thecontent of the engagement.
(4) Should the Tax Advisor employ data-processing programs at the client’s premises, then the client shall beobliged to comply with the instructions by the Tax Advisor with regard to installation and application of suchprograms. In addition, the client shall be obliged to only use the programs within the scope prescribed by theTax Advisor, which shall also be the scope of use to which the client is entitled. The client must not disseminatethe programs. The Tax Advisor shall remain the owner of the rights of use. The client shall refrain from anythingwhich constitutes an obstacle to the exercise by the Tax Advisor of the rights of use with regard to theprograms.
(5) Should the client fail to comply with a duty to cooperate incumbent on him/her under clause 6(1) – (4) or asprovided for elsewhere or be in default of acceptance in relation to the services tendered by the Tax Advisor,then the Tax Advisor shall have the right to terminate the contract without notice (cf. clause 9(3)). This shall notaffect the Tax Advisor’s claim to be compensated for the additional expenses incurred by him/her owing to theclient’s default or failure to cooperate as well as for any loss/damage caused, even in the event that the TaxAdvisor opts not to exercise his/her right of termination.
7. Copyright protection
The services rendered by the Tax Advisor constitute his/her intellectual property. They are protected by copyright. Beyond their intended use, work results may be passed on only upon prior written consent by the TaxAdvisor.
8. Fees, advance payment and offsetting
(1) The Tax Advisor’s fees (professional fees and reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses) for his/herprofessional activity in accordance with sect. 33 StBerG shall be determined pursuant to the GermanRegulation on Tax Advisors’ Fees (Steuerberatervergütungsverordnung – StBVV) (hereinafter “StBVV”). Feesabove or below the statutory fees may be agreed in text form. Agreeing fees below the statutory fees ispermissible in out-of-court matters only. Such lower fees must bear an adequate relation to the services,responsibility and liability risk of the Tax Advisor (sect. 4(3) StBVV).
(2) For activities not dealt with in the Regulation on Fees (e.g. sect. 57(3) nos. 2 and 3 StBerG), the applicablefees shall be those agreed; otherwise, the fees determined by statute for such activity; or else the customaryfees (sects. 612(2) and 632(2) BGB).
(3) Only claims that are undisputed or have been determined with final and absolute effect (rechtskräftig) maybe set off against a fee claim of the Tax Advisor.
(4) The Tax Advisor shall be entitled to request an advance payment for professional fees and out-of-pocketexpenses already incurred or expected to be incurred. In the event that the requested advance payment is notmade, the Tax Advisor may, upon prior notice, cease working for the client until the advance payment isreceived. Where a cessation of work may adversely affect the client, the Tax Advisor shall be obliged to notifythe client, in a timely manner, of the Tax Advisor’s intention to cease working.
9. Termination of the contract
(1) The contract shall terminate upon completion of the services, upon expiry of the agreed term, or by givingnotice. The contract shall not terminate upon the client’s death or upon the client becoming legally incapacitatedor, in the case of a company, upon the company’s dissolution.
(2) If and to the extent that the contract constitutes a contract for services within the meaning of sects. 611, 675BGB, either party may terminate the contract for cause (außerordentlich) except in the case of a servicerelationship with fixed earnings (Dienstverhältnis mit festen Bezügen), sect. 627(1) BGB; notice must be givenin text form. Any deviation from the foregoing in individual cases shall require an agreement to be negotiatedbetween the Tax Advisor and the client.
(3) In order to prevent legal disadvantages for the client, upon termination of the contract by the Tax Advisor theTax Advisor must, in any event, still take those actions which may reasonably be expected of him/her and whichought not to be postponed (e.g. application for the extension of a deadline which is about to expire).
(4) The Tax Advisor shall be obliged to hand over to the client anything the Tax Advisor receives or has receivedfor purposes of executing the engagement and anything the Tax Advisor obtains in the context of themanagement of the affairs of another (Geschäftsbesorgung). In addition, the Tax Advisor shall be obliged, uponrequest, to provide the client with a progress report and to render account for the Tax Advisor’s activities.
(5) Upon termination of the contract, the client must promptly hand over to the Tax Advisor the data-processingprograms employed at the client’s office for purposes of executing the engagement, including any copiescreated, as well as any other program documents, and/or delete them from the hard drive.
(6) Upon termination of the engagement, the documents must be collected from the Tax Advisor.
(7) In the event that the engagement terminates before it has been completed, the Tax Advisor’s fee claim shallbe governed by statute. Any deviation from the foregoing in individual cases shall require a separate agreementin text form.
10. Storage, delivery and right of retention with regard to work results and documents
(1) The Tax Advisor must store the client files for a period of ten years after the engagement has terminated.However, this obligation shall expire before the above period has elapsed if the Tax Advisor has asked the clientto take receipt of the client files and the client has failed to comply with such request within six months of havingreceived it.
(2) ‘Client files’ within the meaning of para. 1 shall only include such documents as have been obtained by theTax Advisor, on the occasion of his/her professional activity, from or for the client; by contrast, they shall notinclude the correspondence between the Tax Advisor and his/her client and the documents which the client hasalready received in the original or as a copy as well as the working papers produced for internal purposes (sect.66(3) StBerG).
(3) At the request of the client, but no later than after termination of the engagement, the Tax Advisor shall handover the client files to the client within a reasonable period. The Tax Advisor may create and retain copies orphotocopies of documents which he/she returns to the client.
(4) The Tax Advisor may refuse to hand over the client files until his/her fees and out-of-pocket expenses havebeen settled. This shall not apply to the extent that withholding the client files and the individual documentswould be unreasonable under the circumstances (sect. 66(2) sent. 2 StBerG).
The engagement, its execution and the claims resulting therefrom shall be exclusively governed by Germanlaw. The place of performance shall be the client’s place of residence unless he/she is a merchant (Kaufmann),legal person under public law, or special fund (Sondervermögen) under public law; otherwise, the place ofperformance shall be the professional establishment of the Tax Advisor. The Tax Advisor is — not — preparedto participate in dispute-resolution proceedings before a consumer conciliation body (sects. 36, 37 German Acton Alternative Dispute Resolution in Consumer Matters [Gesetz über die alternative Streitbeilegung inVerbrauchersachen – VSBG] ).2)
12. Validity in the event of partial nullity
Should individual provisions of these terms and conditions of engagement be or become invalid, then this shallnot affect the validity of the remaining provisions.
1)Moreover, for purposes of the processing of personal data, a legal basis under art. 6 EU General DataProtection Regulation (“GDPR”) must be applicable. That norm merely lists the legal bases for a lawfulprocessing of personal data. In addition, the Tax Advisor must fulfill the duty to provide certain information,under sects. 13 or 14 GDPR, by way of furnishing additional information. In this regard please note thecomments and explanations contained in the instruction leaflet regarding forms no. 1005 “data-protectioninformation for clients” and no. 1006 “data-protection information regarding the processing of staff data”.
2)Where it is desired for dispute-resolution proceedings to be carried out before the consumer conciliation body,delete the word ‘not’. In this case, the relevant consumer conciliation body, along with its physical address andwebsite, needs to be specified.
© 07/2018 DWS-Verlag • Verlag des wissenschaftlichen Instituts der Steuerberater GmbH
Ordering service: P.O. Box 023553 • 10127 Berlin • Phone +49 (0) 30/2 88 85 66 • Fax +49 (0) 30/28 88 56 70
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • Internet: www.dws-verlag.de
All rights reserved. It is not permitted to reprint the products in whole or in part and/or to reproduce them byphotomechanical means.
While utmost care has been applied in creating this product, no responsibility can be accepted for its content.