Antarctica Legal Status Case

Date14 Junio 1991
CourtFederal Fiscal Court (Germany)
Federal Republic of Germany, Federal Fiscal Court (BFH).
Antarctica Legal Status Case

Territory Definition of State territory Antarctica Whether constituting State territory The law of the Federal Republic of Germany

Summary: The facts:The plaintiff, a German national, was a cartographer who participated in a scientific expedition to Antarctica in 19845 for the purpose of creating a geological survey map. In his tax declaration, he requested the tax authorities to treat the income relating to his work in Antarctica as foreign income exempt from German taxation. Both the Tax Office and the Fiscal Court rejected his request. He appealed.

Held:The appeal was dismissed.

In order to qualify for exemption from income tax, pursuant to the Foreign Activities Decree, the foreign activity had to be pursued in a State with which there was no treaty for the avoidance of double taxation. Antarctica was not part of the sovereign territory of any State and therefore constituted a no-man's-land from the taxation standpoint. Since no foreign taxation was levied on income earned in Antarctica, the question of preventing double taxation did not arise and the provisions at issue were accordingly inapplicable.

The following is the text of the relevant part of the judgment of the Court:

The facts

In the year in question the plaintiff was employed as a cartographer. Between November 1984 and February 1985 he worked for his employer on a scientific expedition in the Antarctic. The purpose of the expedition was to create a geological map of a surveyed area. In his 1984 income tax declaration the plaintiff requested that, in accordance with the Foreign Activities Decree (Auslandsttigkeitserla) of 31 October 1983 (BStBl. I 1983, p. 470, RIW 1983, p. 880), his pay arising out of his employment in the Antarctic in 1984 be exempted from taxation. The defendant Tax Office declined to do so, arguing that the rules of the Foreign Activities Decree did not apply in his case. After the plaintiff had lodged an objection without success, the Regional Finance Court held that the Foreign Activities Decree was not applicable, but that the plaintiff had a claim to an abatement on grounds of fairness. The plaintiff's appeal was unsuccessful, whereas that of the Tax Office led to the dismissal of the action.


Contrary to the view of the Regional Finance Court, the contested administrative decisions do not infringe Section 34c(5) of the Income Tax Law (EStG). Under that provision the highest...

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