Torsten Hildebrandt, Lawyer
Tax and Customs Criminal Law
Berlin and Hamburg, Germany
As a criminal defense lawyer, I am specialized in German tax criminal law. I defend individuals and businesses throughout Germany in proceedings concerning tax evasion, customs fraud and other crimes and offences pursuant Sec. 369 Fiscal Code of Germany (Abgabenordnung).
Due to my particular theoretical knowledge and practical experience, I was bestowed the titles of Bar-Certified Specialist for Criminal Law (Fachanwalt für Strafrecht), Bar-Certified Specialist for Tax Law (Fachanwalt für Steuerrecht) and certified consultant for tax criminal law (Zertifizierter Berater für Steuerstrafrecht [DAA]).
Because of the my advanced specialization I am often recommended by as well as cooperate with other German firms and foreign law firms.
I represent my clients before all investigating authorities, in particular
- the Criminal Investigation Division of the tax authorities and the Criminal Tax Counsel (Steuerfahndung, Bußgeld- und Strafsachenstelle)
- the Customs Investigation Offices and the Main Customs Offices (Zollfahndung, Hauptzollamt)
- the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Staatsanwaltschaft) and in all kinds of German courts (Amtsgericht, Landgericht, Oberlandesgericht, Bundesgerichtshof, Finanzgericht, Bundesfinanzhof).
My professional specialization includes every aspect of the law concerning fiscal offenses, especially
- defending in cases of tax evasion, illegal import, export, or transit of goods, smuggling (customs fraud), tax-related administrative offences,
- supporting taxpayers who are audited by the tax authority,
- representing taxpayers in proceedings for legal remedy, out-of-court as well as in court (objections pursuant Sec. 347 Fiscal Code and Fiscal Court proceedings, including the Federal Fiscal Court of Germany),
- and the preparation of voluntary disclosures of tax evasion to avoid punishment pursuant Sec. 371 Fiscal Code.
I am particularly specialized on German customs criminal law and excise criminal law. This includes defending against charges of
- Customs fraud by false statements concerning dutiable value, origin or classification of goods,
- Cash declaration violations,
- Smuggling by tourists,
- Violation of bans and restrictions,
- Irregularities concerning excisable goods and
- Offences under the Foreign Trade and Payments Act.
Contact us without obligation - by phone or by e-mail.
Do you have documents relating to the case (e.g., reply form, search warrant, sequestration protocol, duty assessment notice)? Then it makes sense to send me scans/copies so that I can make an initial assessment if necessary.
The next step of the defense is usually the inspection of the case file. After that we will agree on the best strategy for your case.
At your side
The initiation of criminal proceedings poses a special challenge to every person concerned. Usually, the accused come into this situation completely unprepared and, for the first time in their lives, find themselves virtually at the mercy of the seemingly all-powerful state. Balancing this power imbalance is only possible with a competent criminal defense lawyer as a partner at your side and an optimally coordinated defense strategy. I will be at your side from the very beginning, defending you in a committed, adept and discreet manner at all stages of the proceedings, ensuring the best possible defense from day one. In criminal tax law, this comprehensive support can in many cases result in a dismissal of the case already during the preliminary proceedings.
Tax Criminal Law an Tax Law
I practice exclusively in criminal tax law and tax law (including customs law and excise law). Due to special theoretical knowledge as well as special practical experience in tax law and criminal law, I have been awarded the titles of Bar-Certified Specialist for Tax Law and Bar-Certified Specialist for Criminal Law by the Bar Association. In addition, I am a Certified Advisor for Tax Criminal Law (DAA) and a graduate of the Specialized Advisor Course for Customs and Excise of the German Federal Chamber of Tax Advisors. Since beginning my practice as an attorney in 2010, I have continuously educated myself in the areas of criminal law, tax law and criminal tax law in order to represent my clients' interests to the best of my ability throughout my practice.
"The lawyer shall be bound to secrecy. This duty relates to everything that has become known to him in the exercise of his profession." (Sec. 43a Par. 1 S. 1 and 2 of the Federal Lawyers' Act). This duty also extends to my employees. Violations of the duty of confidentiality have consequences under criminal and professional law. Communication between the client and his (future) defense counsel is also subject to special protection. Any investigative findings in this regard are generally unusable in criminal proceedings. The protection of the client's privacy also includes the monitoring of the maintenance of tax secrecy by the tax authorities and the judiciary as well as, if necessary, the exclusion of the public in the main hearing.
Focus topics in tax and customs criminal law
Criminal tax law / Audit and criminal tax proceedings
Cash accounting, summary risk assessment, IDEA, time series comparison, reference rates, (in)security surcharges - audits by the tax authorities harbor potential for conflict. The feared consequences are the estimation of the basis for taxation and the initiation of criminal tax proceedings. The announcement of the audit order or the appearance of the auditor are also grounds for blocking a voluntary declaration that exempts the taxpayer from prosecution.
Criminal tax law / search / seizure in criminal tax proceedings
The tax criminal investigation department often uses the surprise situation of the search for interrogation attempts that should be resisted: "Confession is good for your soul, but bad for your case." Not only defendants have the right to the presence of their criminal defense attorney, witnesses may also call in a witness counsel at any time. As a matter of principle, no statements should be made without the presence of a lawyer.
Criminal tax law / Estimation in taxation and criminal tax proceedings
If the taxpayer's records are not to be used as a basis for taxation or if they are not (or no longer) available, the tax office may estimate the basis for taxation. The court can also make an estimate in criminal proceedings. Experience has shown that circumstances are often not taken into account, which can have a significant effect in favor of the taxpayer or the defendant.
Criminal tax law / Asset forfeiture in criminal tax law
Tax evasion should not pay. For this reason, evaded taxes are not only collected by the tax offices, but are also confiscated by the criminal justice system. In order to secure this confiscation, a property arrest is often already issued during the preliminary proceedings. The arrest is enforced by seizing the defendant's accounts, and any cash found during the search is seized.
Customs criminal law / anti-dumping duties
Due to the amount of the anti-dumping duties and typically repeated import transactions, import duties to be collected quickly reach considerable amounts. In case of evasion of anti-dumping duties, severe fines or even imprisonment may be imposed. The non-preferential origin, the customs value and the correct classification of the goods in the Combined Nomenclature are often disputed.
Customs criminal law / legal protection against duty notices in customs matters
Any person has the right to appeal against a decision taken by the customs authorities in connection with the application of customs legislation which concerns him directly and personally (Article 44 (1) sentence 1 Union Customs Code). In Germany, an appeal is permitted under the German Fiscal Code (Abgabenordnung). According to Art. 116 et seq. of the Union Customs Code, a refund or remission of import duties may also be considered.
Customs criminal law / Smuggling
There is no specific provision for smuggling in German criminal law; it is punishable as tax evasion (the second alternative of Section 373 (1) sentence 1 AO is no longer relevant in practice following the abolition of the spirits monopoly). To mitigate the effects in travel, the legislator created the so-called smuggling privilege - evasion of up to 250 euros is not to be prosecuted as a criminal offense. Instead, a customs surcharge is levied.
Customs criminal law / Cash declaration violations
Surveillance of cross-border traffic in cash and equivalent means of payment by customs is intended to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and organized crime. However, the detection of tax crimes is likely to be at least a secondary purpose. The Customs Administration Act allows customs to intervene extensively and threatens substantial fines for numerous offenses.
Customs Criminal Law / Foreign trade criminal law
Violations of foreign trade criminal law can have serious legal and economic consequences. Typical violations include exporting embargoed goods, selling goods or services to sanctioned countries or persons, or exporting dual-use items. Consequences of violations of the German Foreign Trade and Payments Act include seizure of goods, confiscation of proceeds of crime and imprisonment up to 15 years.
My Berlin location is at Meinekestraße 4, 10719 Berlin:
Clicking on the map opens Google Maps including route planner.
Parking is available in Meinekestraße and in the public parking garage, the entrance to which is located at Meinekestraße 22. The exit of the parking garage is directly across the street from the office entrance. The subway stations Kurfürstendamm and Uhlandstraße are about 250 meters away from the office.
My Hamburg location is at Friesenweg 38, 22764 Hamburg:
Clicking on the map opens Google Maps including route planner.
The office is located in house 25 of the office complex "Alte Marzipanfabrik". A parking lot is available next to the entrance of the house (the entrance of the house 25 is located at the what3words position "///piles.cotton.insurers").
Decisions of the criminal and fiscal courts, literature references, case reports