Amended tax return in the event of tax evasion: Tax liability must be discharged quickly If someone has evaded taxes and would like to submit an amended tax return leading to immunity from punishment, they should have sufficient liquidity. The tax liability must be discharged within a short timescale.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: With a timely and complete amended tax return, tax evaders can wipe the slate clean and emerge unpunished. However, they should make sure that they have sufficient financial resources available in order to immediately settle the tax liability. Generally, tax authorities only set short timeframes for paying evaded taxes.

For this reason alone, it is important to get an idea of the extent to which taxes have actually been evaded. This can only be achieved if the necessary documents are collected and the extent of the evaded taxes can be determined from these. This is hardly possible for a layman, which is why he should turn to lawyers and tax advisors competent in the field of tax law. They can analyse the documents and calculate the tax liability. They can, of course, also be of assistance in drawing up the amended tax return, as this is also something that should not be prepared without expert advice or with the help of standard forms. The risk in that case of the information being incomplete or incorrect is very high. Each case is different and the pitfalls often lie in the details. An amended tax return can only lead to immunity if the information is complete and correct – and if the tax liability is settled immediately. Obviously, it must also be submitted before the tax evasion is discovered by the authorities.

While the hurdles for an amended tax return leading to immunity are already high, they will be even higher from 2015. The tax affairs from the past ten years rather than merely five years will then have to be disclosed. It may prove difficult to furnish the documents for this long period of time. Moreover, the penalties will also be considerably increased. Large amounts can then quickly accrue in conjunction with the evaded taxes.

Regulating software usage rights in detail Computers have become indispensable in private households and even more so in companies. When using software, licensing agreements, in particular, must be observed.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: Anyone who regularly works with a computer also uses appropriate software. This applies both to private use and the commercial sector. Several programmes are already pre-installed; others can be downloaded, purchased or developed specifically for the needs of a business. In order to be able to use the software legally, corresponding usage rights need to be agreed to. This frequently happens without any great effort by clicking on a confirmation button.

However, particularly in the case of companies that require special software, there is considerably more variation in this regard. First of all, one must distinguish between non-exclusive and exclusive licences. While a non-exclusive licence grants the licensee a right of use, the licensor – generally the business which develops the software – can also grant the same rights to other users and continue to market the software.

An exclusive licence, on the other hand, grants the customer an exclusive right of use. In this case, the licensor is normally not allowed to issue further licences. For the business that has acquired an exclusive licence, the software can provide a competitive advantage vis-à-vis the other market participants or more effectively structure workflows. It is therefore enormously important for both sides to precisely define the usage rights so that there are no subsequent misunderstandings or legal disputes. Points such as the scope of the usage rights, duration of exclusive use, issuing of sub-licences to third parties and, of course, the licensing fees need to be clearly regulated in the licensing agreement. In order for the drafting of the agreement to be as detailed and clear as possible, a lawyer versed in software law ought to be consulted. He will also know which other fields of law need to be taken into account accordingly. Copyrights, trademark rights or patent rights, for example, need to be taken into consideration. Should legal disputes nevertheless emerge at a later stage, the lawyer will assume the role of representing your interests and enforce claims and rights against third parties.

Tax evasion: Remain unpunished by submitting an amended tax return Tax evasion is a criminal offence which not only entails heavy financial penalties, but also custodial sentences. By submitting an amended tax return, you can obtain an exemption from punishment.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: The days of tax evasion being viewed in large parts of society as a trivial offence are over. Cases involving prominent tax evaders have contributed to the change in public awareness. The call for more severe punishments has become louder. However, the possibility of wiping the slate clean again, as it were, with respect to a tax offence by means of an amended tax return still exists and will continue to present a path for returning to a legal state of tax affairs.

This has been agreed by the finance ministers at federal and state level. Nonetheless, they have also agreed that it will become significantly more difficult and expensive from 2015; going forward, the tax offences from the past ten years rather than merely five years as before must be disclosed. Furthermore, the penalties will be considerably higher.

Anyone who wishes to clear the air and make a fresh start with an amended tax return should therefore do this before the beginning of next year. Unfortunately, the hurdles for an amended tax return leading to immunity are already high. It only leads to immunity if it is timely and complete. If one of these conditions isn’t satisfied, the amended tax return can no longer lead to immunity. An amended tax return should therefore not be prepared on one’s own or with the help standard forms. The risk of the amended tax return being unsuccessful is high, as in any case there are particular circumstances to take into account. For this reason, it is advisable to turn to lawyers and tax advisors competent in the field of tax law. They can make sure that the amended tax return includes all the necessary information and documents and is submitted to the competent tax office on time. Only then can it lead to immunity. If necessary, the amount of evaded taxes can initially be estimated. However, this estimate should be as accurate as possible and certainly not too low. If the evaded taxes are only acknowledged bit by bit, the amended tax return will backfire.

Trademark law: Trademarks represent considerable value A trademark can be of considerable value to a business. It is therefore crucial to have the trademark protected. An infringement of a trademark can give rise to claims for damages.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: The more well-known a trademark becomes, the greater its value to the business – whether international or national. In order to prevent third parties unintentionally profiting from a good brand name, it is important to protect and register the trademark. In doing so, it is a good idea to determine the territorial sphere of activity. In principle, the trademark is initially considered to be protected within the borders of the country in which it was entered into a trademark register. However, it may be necessary to expand the scope of protection beyond these borders.

A trademark allows a business to differentiate itself from the goods and services of competitors. The trademark becomes protected by being entered into the trademark register, i.e. others are not allowed to use this trademark for their own purposes. If the trademark right is infringed, claims for damages or injunctive relief can be asserted. As a matter of principle, any symbol can be registered as a trademark which is suitable for distinguishing one’s own goods or services from those of competitors. This includes word marks, figurative marks, three-dimensional marks, sound marks and tracer marks. By registering the trademark, the owner of the trademark acquires the exclusive right of use. Having said this, third parties can also be granted a right of use (trademark license).

Care must obviously be taken when registering the trademark that no third-party rights are infringed. One should therefore rely on the assistance of lawyers competent in the field of trademark law in the process of registering a trademark. They can also examine whether a trademark right has been infringed – including in view of the continuously changing and, to some extent, contradictory case law. In doing so, it is important to observe the case law of international courts. The financial damage in the event of an infringement of a trademark right can be enormous. For this reason, you should draw on the support of competent lawyers at an early stage.

International law increasingly important Globalisation continues to advance. Trade has long since ceased to stop at national borders. This also has implications for jurisdiction.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: Distances no longer pose a problem, many borders are open and a lot of firms operate internationally. Increasing globalisation has opened up new sales markets and possibilities. At the same time, the legal situation for international business relationships has become far more unclear, as national law is frequently not applicable in cases where foreign elements are involved.

In this instance, international law, or more specifically private international law (PIL), supersedes the national legal order. PIL decides which law is to be applied and the jurisdiction of courts in cases involving cross-border legal disputes. Thus, it becomes important if different national legal systems collide with one another in a dispute and different country-specific systems of private law come into consideration for assessing the circumstances. That is why it is also referred to as the conflict of laws. In international conflict cases, PIL determines which law is applicable.

Yet private international law is part of national law. Each country separately regulates private international law. This can in turn lead to varying or controversial legal opinions in international disputes.

It is therefore virtually essential for internationally operating businesses to obtain competent legal advice from lawyers who are qualified and experienced in the field of international law, as the fact that national disputes are difficult to resolve and controversial legal opinions collide with one another is all the more true for international relations.

Legal certainty is important to companies when concluding transactions at home and abroad. Extreme care should therefore be exercised as early as the stage of drafting agreements with (international) business partners so as to be immune to unpleasant and, as the case may be, costly surprises. Lawyers competent in the field of international law can review and draft the agreements and provide legal security for transactions. They will, of course, also represent your interests in the event of a dispute with international business partners and assert cross-border claims.

IT law gaining in importance on many issues There is scarcely another field of law that has grown so much in importance over recent years as IT law. People come into contact with this field both from professional and private perspectives on an almost daily basis.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: Due to enormous technical developments over the past few years, IT law or information technology law has gained hugely in importance. There is an internet connection in almost every household and, of course, at most workplaces. As much as technology can be a boon for many businesses and private users, it has equally raised many new legal questions. IT law comes into contact with a series of other legal fields, in particular data protection law, trademark law, copyright law and competition law.

Thanks to modern technology, many transactions can be completed quickly and easily. However, society and businesses have also become vulnerable, for example, to hacker attacks. It is particularly in the field of data protection that the damage can be enormous. It is all the more important for businesses to contractually regulate their relationships with clients, distribution and business partners or licensees, and cover their backs. Since many legal fields have to be addressed and taken into account, this ought to happen in conjunction with legal consultation. Lawyers competent in the field of IT law who have extensive know-how in the adjacent fields of law can ensure agreements are watertight and safeguard your interests in the event of legal disputes.

They can start with the business’s website, which, first and foremost, must satisfy the requirements of the German Telemedia Act. It is especially with regard to e-commerce that cancellation policies and general terms and conditions (GTC) have to be legally secure; otherwise, one will end up being faced with a warning letter sooner than expected, as competitors are just waiting for this kind of mistake to be made. If, for instance, the website has to be removed even temporarily from the internet as a consequence of a warning letter, the damage can be enormous.

Rules and regulations concerning the internet or the use of new media are currently still undergoing constant change, which can also lead to changes in legal consequences. This makes regular consultation with competent lawyers all the more important.

Cancelling life insurance policies: Instruction on cancellation is decisive Whether a life insurance policy can still be cancelled years later depends to a large extent on whether the policyholder’s possibilities of cancellation were properly explained to him.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London – conclude: Within the space of a few weeks, the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) twice had to rule on the right of withdrawal with respect to life insurance policies. A consequence of the BGH’s case law is that properly informing the policyholder is decisive in determining whether the insurance policy can still be rescinded after the actual cancellation period has expired.

Both cases in Karlsruhe dealt with life insurance policies that had been concluded between 1994 and 2007 in accordance with the so-called “policies model” (Policenmodell). The essence of this model was that the right of withdrawal expires no later than one year following payment of the first premium – even if the policyholder’s possibilities of withdrawal had not been properly explained to him. However, the BGH put an end to this arrangement with its judgment of May 7, 2014 (IV ZR 76/11), declaring the clause to be null and void on the basis that it also did not comply with European law. According to the case law of the BGH, the policyholder retains his right of withdrawal if his possibilities of cancellation have not been properly explained to him. In these cases, withdrawal is still possible if the policy has already been terminated.

In another case dated July 16, the BGH ruled in favour of the insurers. This time a policyholder wanted to withdraw from his life insurance policy, concluded in 1998 in accordance with the “policies model”, which had since been terminated. Pursuant to the “policies model”, it was typical for the entire documentation to be sent only after the contract had been concluded. The plaintiff took the view that the contract was null and void due to the delay in the provision of information and had to be rescinded. This view was not shared by the Karlsruhe judges. If the policyholder had been belatedly yet properly informed about his possibilities of cancellation, the policy could not be retrospectively cancelled. After the certificate of insurance was dispatched, the contract could have been cancelled within a period of 14 days. Furthermore, the BGH did not consider European law to have been breached.

If policyholders have not been properly informed about their possibilities of cancellation, they are still able to cancel their life insurance policies. A lawyer versed in the field of insurance law can examine whether cancellation is possible in individual cases.


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