Banks can see your other bank accounts

Does the tax office have insight into my bank accounts?

The fairy tale of banking secrecy is increasingly giving way to the fears of the transparent bank customer. The fact is that credit institutions in Germany undertake under civil law not to disclose customer-related data to third parties. Regardless of this, in some cases banks have to provide the investigating authorities with account details of their customers.

If a bank customer is an accused in criminal tax proceedings, the investigating authority may request information about customer-related account information from the credit institution. The bank cannot refuse to hand over customer data. She is obliged to provide information.

If a bank customer dies, the bank must notify the tax office of any account or deposit holdings with a total value of over 5,000.00 euros. The same applies to a safe deposit box maintained at the bank. The notification must be made within one month of the death becoming known.

Even if there is no suspicion of a criminal offense, tax authorities are entitled to automatically retrieve account information, for example to determine income from capital assets and private sales transactions.

The name of the account holder, the account number and the details of account opening and closing are disclosed, but not account balances or movements.

Not only the tax authorities are authorized to receive information, but under certain conditions also the employment agency, social welfare offices or city administrations.

The automated retrieval does not take place at the bank itself, but at the Federal Central Tax Office, where the account data is stored. The bank is not informed of the automated retrieval, but the person concerned will be informed of this with the next tax assessment.

In the last few years the possibilities to what extent German tax investigators have been discussed with particular attentionforeign bank accounts Have access.

Particularly at Swiss banks, there is a fear that so-called group inquiries could arise. The form in which data will be exchanged with Switzerland in the future is still disputed in detail. What is certain is that there will be expanded communication and an opening of the flow of information. The same applies within the EU, in particular for Luxembourg and Austria. From 2015, an automatic exchange of information on interest income with German authorities can be expected in these countries.

Many foreign - especially Swiss - banks urge their customers to provide evidence of the taxation of the capital income and deposit profits they have earned. In other words: German customers are in fact forced to submit voluntary self-disclosures that are exempt from punishment. Otherwise there is a risk of terminating customer relationships. In some cases, checks are offered or the option is given to temporarily "park" the money in a current account that does not generate any income - and therefore does not incur any tax liability.

When a consultant or a bank claims that they can foresee the future, it is usually about as serious as fortune tellers who read crystal balls. Reports about future developments should therefore usually be treated with caution. In 2013, for example, there was still heated discussion about the tax agreement between Germany and Switzerland, which ultimately did not materialize.

To what extent the fears of many customers that their accounts could be discovered abroad are justified can usually only be said on a case-by-case basis. In addition to the risk of discovery, it is important to keep an eye on the individual's personal life situation. In many cases, a voluntary tax declaration is the right approach. However, because of the many formal hurdles that arise, it is not always the only means of eliminating tax sins from the past.