Article title Avoidance of the Law in German Legal Theory and Practice
Name of magazine Legal journal «Law of Ukraine» (Ukrainian version)
Issue 2/2018
Сторінки [199-216]

Within the last two decades, the European legislators (especially the German one) have identified problem regarding to avoiding of legislation and have expended their anti-avoidance legislation in many legal areas, especially in the areas of labour, inheritance, corporate, competition, tax, corporate and banking law. Nevertheless, the problem has not been solved in most of the South and Eastern European countries, so further research and development of this legal approach is highly recommended. This is an example when an individual conduct of contracting parties is viewed as a legal (lawful), but illegitimate (unjustified, unduly) dodging (i.e. avoidance) of provisions of the law in the previous mentioned laws. Consequently, the fight against illicit practices is not carried out through the provisions of the Criminal Code (since it is not case of an illegal act), but through anti-avoidance (anti-abuse) provisions that have the impact on preventing the legal effects of so-called avoidance transactions (Umgehungsgeschäfte). Avoidance (abuse) of the law (fraus legis) is defined as behaviour that is not directed against the strict sense (i.e. a letter) of the law, but violates its meaning. Fraus legis embodies in reality implemented transaction, but in a manner, which is contrary to the spirit of the law. In practice, an increasing number of cases in which persons, crossing (otherwise blurred) boundaries of lawful conduct, are using the (modified and misleading shapes of) transactions in order to achieve the economic benefits for one or both the parties in the transaction and on the other hand deceiving (and causing harm) to the counterparty or a third party. Defining the problem of the avoidance (and also sham) transaction is not a peripheral area of civil (and tax) law, but its very heart, which is reflected in destroying the essence of the transaction (i.e. the errors of the will) and unauthorized circumvention of the principle of party autonomy and the mandatory legal norms. The purpose of the research is reviewing and streamlining of the definition of avoidance of the law (fraus legis), especially in relation to the simulation, in order to develop a holistic view of how to understand this notion and its classification, as well as presenting its own vision of an optimal methodological basis for defining the civil concept of the avoidance of the law. This theoretical starting point is followed by the use of a practical demonstration of the avoidance of the law in various legal disciplines. The author aims at raising the awareness about the existing problem of abuse of law against which the responsible state authorities (state administration, inspections and police) and the judiciary (prosecutors and judges) are obliged to act in the event of violations of individual legal areas. It often happens that the competent institutions refer to a flat interpretation that they have not acted because there is no any explicitly prescribed measure or sanction in the law. It has to be stressed that there is no need to follow a strict formalism and to interpret the law literally (i.e. only by the letter of the law) but to follow the basic content of individual law and the intention of the legislature when writing this exact law. Although the legislator may have expressed itself linguistic incompletely when writing an individual law, that does not mean that there is a green light for contracting parties to exploit that defective expression of the legislator and to avoid the ban that the legislator wanted to impose. And awareness of this problem is already part of its solution. Fraus legis is a Roman legal concept that was shaped through centuries. In early middle ages the institut od avoidance of the law lost its momentum. Only in recent 100-150 years, fraus legis was introduced again first in civil law codifications and later in specific legal areas. It just shows how history comes around when searching for solutions that had already been solved. An optimal methodological basis for defining the concept of avoidance of the law will be its integrative legal model based on the protection of the rights and interests of the state (as a legislator) when the contracting parties show a different state of affairs, as is the case (which is especially the case in the fields of tax, labor and competition law). Avoidance of the law as a civil law concept points out that the contracting parties are breaking the spirit of material and procedural law, although it seems (at least the contracting parties claim so) that the law has not been violated in its text. The material and procedural aspects of the individual law have to take into account when judging whether the contracting parties bypassed (avoided) the content of the law (sententia) and the legislature will (voluntas). It is needed to stress that not only further development of legislation is needed but also open-minded way of thinking when tackling the problem of avoidance of the law, especially so-called professional courage of authorized personel of state administration and the judiciary.


Keywords fraus legis; agere in fraudem legis; avoidance of the law; abuse of the law; avoidance transaction; chain labour contracts; tax avoidance


Authored books

1. Benecke Martina, Gesetzesumgehung im Zivilrecht: Lehre und praktischer Fall im allgemeinen und Internationalen Privatrecht (Mohr Siebeck 2004) (in German).

2. Birk Dieter, Steuerrecht (12th edn, C F Müller Verlag 2009) (in German).

3. Boemke Burkhard and Ulrici Bernhard, BGB Allgemeiner Teil (Springer 2009) (in German). 4. Böing Christian, Steuerlicher Gestaltungsmissbrauch in Europa (Dr Kovač 2006) (in German). 5. Bork Reinhard, Allgemeiner Teil des bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs (2nd edn, Mohr Siebeck 2006) (in German).

6. Flume Werner, Allgemeiner Teil des bürgerlichen Rechts: das Rechtsgeschäft, vol 2 (4th edn, Springer 1992) (in German).

7. Honsell Heinrich and Mayer-Maly Theo and Selb Walter, Römisches Recht – Enzyklopädie der Rechtsund Staatswissenschaft, Abteilung Rechtswissenschaft (4th edn, Springer-Verlag, 1987) (in German).

8. Honsell Heinrich, Römisches Recht (7th edn, Springer 2010) (in German).

9. Jhering Rudolf (von), Geist des römischen Rechts auf den verschiedenen Stufen siner Entwicklung, Teil 3, Bd 1 (Breitkopf і Härtel 1865) (in German).

10. Larenz Karl and Wolf Manfred, Allgemeiner Teil des Bürgerlichen Rechts (9th edn, C H Beck 2004) (in German).

11. Linn Alexander, Missbrauchvermeidungsnormern und Standortwahl (Deutscher Universitäts 2007) (in German).

12. Medicus Dieter, Allgemeiner Teil des BGB (9th edn, C F Müller Verlagsgruppe 2006) (in German).

13. Römer Gustav, Gesetzesumgehung im deutschen Internationalen Privatrecht (Walter de Gruyter 1955) (in German).

14. Rüßmann Helmut, Bürgerliches Vermögensrecht (Universität des Saarlandes 2006) (in German).

15. Rüthers Bernd and Stadler Astrid, Allgemeiner Teil des BGB (15th edn, C H Beck 2007) (in German).

16. Savigny Fridrich Carl (von), System des heutigen Römischen Rechts (Veit 1840) (in German).

17. Schellhammer Kurt, Schuldrecht nach Anspruchsgrundlagen – samt BGB Allgemeiner Teil (7th edn, C F Müller Verlagsgruppe 2008) (in German).

18. Sieker Susanne, Umgehungsgeschäfte, typische Strukturen und Mechanismen ihrer Bekämpfung (Mohr Siebeck 2001) (in German).

19. Weber-Grellet Heinrich, Steuern im modernen Verfassungsstaat, Funktionen, Prinzipien und Strukturen des Steuerstaats und des Steuerrechts (Dr Otto Schmidt 2001) (in German).

20. Zimmermann Reinhard, The Law of Obligations Roman Foundations of the Civilian Tradition (Oxford University Press 1996) (in English).


Edited books

21. Armbrüster Christian, ‘§ 134 Gesetzliches Verbot’ in Säcker Franz Jürgen (ed), Münchener Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch, (5th edn, C H Beck 2006) (in German).

22. Crezelius Georg, ‘Scheingeschäfte und Strohmannsgeschäfte, insbesondere im Steuer recht’ in Baumann Wolfgang, Dickhuth-Harrach Hans-Jürgen von, Marotzke Wolfgang (eds), Gesetz – Recht – Rechtsgeschäfte (Selliers European Law Publishers 2005) (in German).

23. Dorn Franz, ‘§§ 134–137 Nichtichkeit I’ in Schmoeckel Mathias and others (eds), Historisch-kritischer Kommentar zum BGB, Allgemeiner Teil und §§ 1–240 (Mohr Siebeck 2003) (in German).

24. Heinrichs Helmut, ‘Willenserklärung’ in Bassenge Peter and others (eds), Palandt, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, vol 7 (60th edn, C H Beck 2001) (in German).

25. Kramer Ernst A, ‘§ 117 Scheingeschäft’ in Säcker Franz Jürgen (ed), Münchener Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch (5th edn, C H Beck 2006) (in German).

26. Ratschow Eckart, ‘Missbrauch von rechtlichen Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten’ in Klein Franz and others (eds), Abgabenordnung Kommentar (10th edn, C H Beck 2009) (in German).

27. Schurig Klaus, ‘Die Gesetzesumgehung im Privatrecht’ in Heldrich Andreas and Jürgen Hans Sonnenberg (eds), Festschrift für Murad Ferid zum 80 Geburtstag am 11 April 1988 (Verlag für Standesamtswesen 1988) (in German).


Journal articles

28. Fischer Peter, ‘Die Umgehung des Steuergesetzes – Zu den Bedindungen einer gewährung der Steuerrechtsordnung “aus eigener Kraft”’ (1996) 13 Der Betrieb 644 (in German).


Thesis abstracts

29. Baeck Ulrich, ‘Das Scheingeschäft, ein fehlerhaftes Rechtsgeschäft’ (DPhil thesis, Universität Würzburg 1988) (in German).

30. Engert Wolfgang, ‘Umgehungsgeschäfte im Grundstückverkehrsrecht’ (DPhil thesis, Hohe Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät der Universität zu Köln 1966) (in German).

31. Kramer Rainer, ‘Der Verstoß gegen ein gesetzliches Verbot und die Nichtichkeit von Rechtsgeschäften (§ 134 BGB)’ (DPhil thesis, Rechtsund Wissenschaftliche Fakultät der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz 1976) (in German).

32. Oguz Arzu, ‘Probleme der Simulation in rechtshistorischer und rechtsvergleichender Sicht’ (DPhil thesis, Hohe Juristische Fakultät der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München 1996) (in German).

33. Trüter Sabine, ‘Steuerlich motivierte Scheingeschäfte, Ihre Behandlung in Zivilrecht’ (DPhil thesis, Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät der Universität Hamburg 1987) (in German).