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Extension of German Taxation on Foreign Companies Holding German Real Estate

Extension of German Taxation on Foreign Companies Holding German Real Estate

In August, the German Federal government proposed draft legislation that will expand the scope of German taxation to cover the sale of shares in “real estate rich companies” by nonresident taxpayers. The draft legislation proposes that capital gains from shares in non-German companies will be subject to German taxation if more than 50% of the share value is attributable to German real estate. The legislative proposal has wide application, reaching a shareholding that exceeds a 1% threshold at any time in the five years preceding the sale. Dr. Petra Eckl, a partner at GSK Stockmann + Kollegen in Frankfurt, explains the proposal and the practical exposure that arises from its overly broad language.

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Inbound Investment in German Real Estate

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Investments in German real estate are attractive to international investors. Low interest rates and positive economic conditions exist in Germany. The demand for commercial and residential rental properties has increased in urban centers such as Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, and Stuttgart. In these circumstances, it is expected that Germany will remain an attractive market for real estate investments.

Germany provides reliable political conditions, which are advantageous for a successful investment. However, there is an increasing complexity to the general legal conditions, and the success of a real estate investment strongly depends on proper structuring of the investment in a tax-efficient way.

This article provides an overview of the tax consequences of inbound investments in German real estate.

Different investment structures are compared:

  • Holding the property directly,
  • Holding shares in a property company, and
  • Holding interests in a property partnership.

In addition to income tax, German real estate transfer tax aspects are discussed, and planning opportunities to reduce or eliminate German trade tax are explored.