FG München - 15 K 194/20

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FG München - 15 K 194/20
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Court: FG München (Germany)
Jurisdiction: Germany
Relevant Law: Article 2(1) GDPR
Article 4(1) GDPR
Article 15(1) GDPR
§ 3(1) BDSG prior Version
Decided: 05.05.2022
National Case Number/Name: 15 K 194/20
European Case Law Identifier:
Appeal from:
Appeal to: Unknown
Original Language(s): German
Original Source: Bayerische Staatskanzlei (in German)
Initial Contributor: lacrosse

The Financial Court of Munich held that documents in tax dossiers were not personal data. Consequently, Article 15(1) GDPR was not applicable.

English Summary


The controller was a regional tax authority in Bavaria, the Bayerisches Landesamt für Steuern (BayLfSt). The BayLfSt held tax dossiers concerning the tax case of the data subject. These dossiers contained internal correspondence, third party statements, notes, and handwritten comments from itself and other Bavarian tax authorities, namely the lower regional tax authority Finanzamt Neu-Ulm and the higher regional tax authority Bayerisches Staatsministerium der Finanzen für Landesentwicklung und Heimat (BayStMFLH). These dossiers also included a complaint via email by the data subject against the BayStMFLH from 2016 and complaints, a challenge on grounds of bias and a demand for a penalty against employees of the Finanzamt Neu-Ulm from 2019.

The data subject requested access to dossiers from the Finanzamt Neu-Ulm on 28.10.2019. The BayLfSt received a request to access under Article 15(1) GDPR on 07.11.2019. The data subject wanted to access information on which department processed the dossiers. The data subject specifically requested a colour copy with the aim to differentiate between notes of responsible employees.

On 17.12.2019, the data subject received a reply from BayLfSt. The BayLfSt confirmed that it held information about the complaints, the correspondence between the data subject and the authorities, and the correspondence between both authorities. The BayLfSt also confirmed the existence of internal notes and internal correspondence between the two authorities (Finanzamt Neu-Ulm and BayLfSt) concerning the data subject's access request in the dossiers. No further information was disclosed. The reply included instruction on the right to appeal.

On 13.01.2022, the data subject filed a lawsuit against the Finanzamt Neu-Ulm and the BayStMFLH in regard to the notice of rejection from 17.12.2019. The court registered the lawsuits separately. The case under consideration is the law suit against the BayLfSt. The data subject based his demands on the suspicion that the tax dossiers were manipulated. The data subject claimed that an auditor of his tax case made a false statement. Further false statements had led to a criminal investigation against the data subject. There were also alleged false statements in the reply to his complaints.

The data subject explained further that he wanted to know who led the investigation in the BayLfSt, who falsified the facts and held back the correct dossiers. He expressed his suspicion that there was still falsified information in the dossiers. Consequently, the data subject requested a colour copy of all dossiers.

The controller requested to dismiss the request and stated that the data subject's right to access was properly facilitated. It claimed that there was no obligation for a copy.


The Financial Court Munich (FG München) dismissed the case. The BayLfSt already facilitated the data subject's right to access under Article 15(1) GDPR with its reply from December 2019.

The Court first held that the BayLfSt was a controller within the meaning of Article 4(7) GDPR.

Next, the Financial Court differentiated between personal data as information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person under Article 4(1) GDPR, and dossiers. The Court pointed out that the prior version of the German Data Protection Law defined personal data as individual data (§ 3(1) BDSG prior version) and not dossiers or sets of dossiers (see Recital 15 GDPR).

The data in the controller's database were structured into different categories. In those categories, data entries that referred to the data subject (such as tax number, date of birth or name) could be differentiated from data entries that did not refer to the data subject. The Financial Court pointed out that it was much more difficult to determine if a piece of text or whole documents were personal data. Although a document or a file could relate to a data subject, human interpretation was necessary to link it to a data subject in an electronic file system or paper records. This act of human interpretation is defined as “extracting” data. Only after data is extracted, is the content of a dossier considered personal data. Before the extraction, there is no intention to store the data in a specific data field with a personal data “designator”, i.e. a filing system. The Court also held that a specific “designator” was necessary to fulfill the criteria “processing by automated means”.

Hence, the Court held that documents, notes and correspondence between public authorities in tax dossiers did not constitute personal data so long as they were not selected for specific processing. In addition, even if they did, the Court held that they would not satisfy the material scope under Article 2(1) GDPR as they were not processed by wholly or partly automated means and did not form or were not intended to form part of a filing system. Consequently, Article 15 GDPR did not grant the data subject the right to access to such information.


The Court seemed to adopt a restrictive interpretation of the meaning of "personal data wholly or partly by automated means and other than by automated means which form part of a filing system or are intended to form part of a filing system."

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English Machine Translation of the Decision

The decision below is a machine translation of the German original. Please refer to the German original for more details.

FG Munich, judgment of 05/05/2022 – 15K 194/20
Scope of the right to information according to Art. 15 GDPR
chains of standards:
GDPR Art. 15, Art. 30, Art. 4 No. 1
FGO § 73 para. 1 sentence 2, § 86 para. 3 sentence 1
Personal data are individual details (so expressly § 3 Abs. 1 BDSG old version), so not
such as files or collections of files (see recital 15 to the GDPR). Personal data can be
Correspondence to the ECJ also be factual information about the person concerned contained in full texts (detailed
presented in the judgment of the FG Munich, judgment of November 4th, 2021 - 15 K 118/20 -, EFG 2022, 299, on the
avoiding repetition). (Rn. 48) (editorial guiding principle)
Right to information according to Art. 15 GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation
Further information:
Revision approved
StEd 2022, 461
StEd 2022, 461
BeckRS 2022, 16182
LSK 2022, 16182
1. The lawsuit is dismissed.
2. The plaintiff bears the costs of the proceedings.
3. The revision is allowed.
Reasons for decision
The extent of the plaintiff's right to information from Art. 15 (data protection
Basic Regulation (DSGVO) and whether it has been fulfilled.
1. The plaintiff applied in a letter dated November 7th, 2019 to the State Office for Taxes (BayLfSt,
State Office, the defendant authority, the defendant) "Inspection of files pursuant to § 15 Paragraph 1 2nd half sentence, Paragraph 2
DSGVO" and the provision of the information as a copy. He asks for that too
Provision of any reference and ancillary files that may be available. He asked for information on how
and by which agency the files or data were processed; in these areas be one
to create a color copy so that the processing notes of the responsible processor according to the above
basis could be distinguished; here he refers to Art. 30 GDPR.
2. The defendant provided the plaintiff with information in a letter dated December 17, 2019, according to which
Complaint by the plaintiff dated January 7th, 2016 and his emails dated November 24th, 2016 and December 14th, 2016 to the
former Bavarian State Ministry of Finance, Regional Development and Homeland (BayStMFLH, im
following also Ministry) exist, as well as the relevant between the plaintiff and the Ministry
further correspondence. There is internal correspondence between the
ministry, the state office and the tax office in Neu-Ulm. In addition, the state office would also be responsible
comments from another taxpayer on the complaints relevant here.
The state office had the plaintiff's e-mail from February 1st, 2019 regarding the
Supervision complaints, the application for bias and the criminal complaint against employees of the
Tax office Neu-Ulm, as well as the related further correspondence between the plaintiff and the
state office. There is also internal correspondence with the tax office regarding this process
Neu-Ulm and memos and notes from the BayLfSt. Finally, the State Office has the dated
Plaintiff submitted applications for inspection of files to the tax office in Neu-Ulm dated October 28, 2019 and to the
State Office from 07.11.2019. There was also internal correspondence between the
Tax office Neu-Ulm and the state office. No further information will be given. That
The letter of information was provided with instructions on legal remedies. Because of the details and the
For reasons, reference is made to the letter mentioned.
3. By letter dated January 13, 2020, the plaintiff filed lawsuits against the Neu-Ulm tax office
and the ministry also filed a lawsuit against the rejection notice of December 17, 2019. The court recognized the
complaints separately. The subject of this procedure and this decision is solely the lawsuit against the
state office.
In his statement of claim, the plaintiff requests inspection of the processed personal data
in the broader sense and also the related files and documents related to
personal information, in particular file inspection of notes, file entries and communication with
Relation to the personal data of the plaintiff. In his further statement of claim he submits in
Essentially, the tax files were subsequently manipulated. For example, an application according to §
202 Fiscal Code (AO) was removed and later claimed that such was not provided
been. The tax auditor later made incorrect statements about what was agreed in the final meeting
statements made. Ultimately, further false claims would have to initiate a
Criminal investigation proceedings against the plaintiff. Even when answering the
Service supervision complaints were again given false information. In particular, be it for the
It is of interest to the plaintiff who actually conducted the investigations in the state office, who
actually suppressed files and covered up facts or false facts in the
wrote an investigation report. There is a suspicion that incorrect facts are still being disclosed in the
files stand.
Accordingly, the plaintiff requests
to oblige the defendant to provide him with information by providing (color) copies of all in his files
to issue the letter contained therein.
The defendant requests
reject the complaint.
The defendant replies to the lawsuit that the plaintiff's right to information under Art. 15 of the GDPR
according to the notification of December 17, 2019. Nothing follows from this provision
right to inspect files. In the information, it was explained to the plaintiff which letters the defendant received in
Individuals still exist that are already known to the plaintiff. An obligation to send a
A copy did not exist and does not exist if the data subject already has the data.
By leaving the path to the "General information letter from the tax authorities" are dem
The plaintiff was also informed of the metadata from Art. 15 Para. 1 a) - h) GDPR. No information can dem
Plaintiffs are issued via internal opinions and endorsements. These included business and
Processing notes and legal statements. The former would undoubtedly have no relation to that
Person of the plaintiff and therefore did not provide any personal data i.S. of Art. 4 No. 1 GDPR.
The legal analyzes are also not personal data. Rather pointed
this first of all no personal reference to the plaintiff. Only when the result is determined
the legal assessment in relation to the plaintiff, the personal reference will be in a second step
manufactured. However, the plaintiff was informed of this result of the supervisory examination by the
Decision of the supervisory complaints have been notified, which is why another
information. Furthermore, the tax office would still have statements from other people outside of the
financial management. In this respect, their rights and tax secrecy would conflict. Also from the
aspect of a right to a decision on a request for information free of discretionary errors
not to grant the plaintiff access to the files. In the considerations should be set that at a
Supervision complaint of the petitioner only a right to receipt, their factual examination
and have their modesty. There is no entitlement to a settlement in the sense of the petitioner. further
A complainant cannot claim legal protection for himself. Let it be made clear that dem
Plaintiffs are not denied access to the files with the intention of taking any administrative action
disguise. Rather, granting access to the files is simply not appropriate. against one
such would speak to the protection interests of third parties and the plaintiff's lack of a need for protection of the knowledge
internal administrative processes.
For the details, reference is made to the written submission.
For the reasoning below, reference is made to the written submissions of the parties involved.
4. The defendant initially refused to send the files to the court. At the request of
The court has referred the matter to the BGH for a decision in accordance with Section 86 (3) sentence 2
Fiscal Court Code (FGO) submitted and the procedure in agreement with the parties to
brought to rest. The BFH rejected the application as inadmissible under Section 86 (3) sentence 1 FGO. This
presuppose that first the tax court decides which files it actually for
consider relevant to the decision and have ordered their submission, which is lacking in the dispute.
5. After the commencement of proceedings, the court asked the defendant to bring the lawsuit
submit the relevant files, i.e. the plaintiff’s request for information, the information provided, and
any correspondence exchanged on this matter. This request is the defendant
complied. The plaintiff was offered access to the files.
6. With the decision of August 3rd, 2021, the court ordered the separate hearing in accordance with Section 73 (1) sentence 2 FGO
and decision of the three originally summarized by the plaintiff in the Complaint and by the
Office of the court already registered under separate file numbers against the
Tax Office, the Bavarian State Office for Taxes, and the Bavarian State Ministry of Finance
and decided for home.
The lawsuit against the tax office was already decided on November 4th, 2021 under Az. 15 K 118/20
been. An appeal against this judgment is pending.
7. At the request of the court dated November 29, 2021, the defendant by letter dated December 16, 2021
Added information to the plaintiff. It explained in detail the structure of the e-file system and
a copy of the subject of the existing documents - also for submission to the plaintiff - submitted.
8. In the present proceedings against the state office, the court issued a court order on March 14, 2022
enacted, in which it dismissed the action with the approval of the revision. By letter dated March 22, 2022
the plaintiff has applied for an oral hearing and for the proceedings to be suspended until the decision of the
BFH about the said revision. A date for the hearing was then set
determined on April 21, 2022. The court has until
deferred to a counter-statement by the defendant.