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Germany constitutional court grants equal tax benefits to same-sex couples

The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany [official website, in German] on Wednesday ruled that homosexual couples in a civil union [JURIST news archive] should receive the same tax benefits as heterosexual married couples. The court held [Deutsche Welle report] that with regard to land transfer tax, gay couples should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples and further noted that the decision should apply retroactively, meaning that those couples who did not receive any benefits in the past would be compensated. The judge for the court ruled that the unequal treatment of gay and heterosexual couples before 2010 is unconstitutional without legal justification. In 2010, the law related to land transfer tax was amended to allow the same benefits for gay couples in case of a divorce as heterosexual couples. On Monday, thirteen politicians, members of the country's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) [party website, in German] party, had called [Spiegel report] for the joint-filing tax benefits, which allows married couples to pool their tax rebates and pay less tax, to also to apply to gay couples. Germany has recognized same-sex civil unions since 2001 but there are still areas of rights that they do not enjoy as heterosexual couples.

In 2010, the Federal Constitutional Court had ruled [JURIST report] that a portion of the tax code requiring gay couples to pay a larger inheritance tax than partners in heterosexual marriages is unconstitutional. Before the ruling the German tax code required gay couples to pay between 17 and 50 percent for an inheritance tax upon the death of a partner, while heterosexual married partners are required to pay between 7 and 30 percent for the tax. In June of the same year, an administrative court in Berlin held [JURIST report] that a same-sex marriage performed abroad must be recognized in a registered partnership in Germany. A year earlier the country's constitutional court ruled [JURIST report] that surviving partners in a registered civil partnership have a right to collect under the occupational pension scheme for civil service employees

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