Preparing for German High School as Vocational Education

Can Department for Child and Family Services deny child benefits for a student of a private school or one not enrolled in any school (so called "Nichtschüler") because the preparation for German high school graduation (Abitur) does not qualify as a vocational training. The judgment of the Bundesfinanzhof of March 18, 2009 (re III R 26/06) will tell us if this opinion has any merits.


Sandra was received child benefits for her 20 year-old daughter Tamara. During the last school year Tamara prematurely left high school in order to study French literature and French culture in France. After returning back after one year, she registered at the city administration of Düsseldorf to take high school graduation. She did not enroll in any school again. After first flunking, she did pass the exam. Family services did not grant Sandra any child benefits because Tammy was not in vocational training pursuant to §32 IV 1 no. 2 lit. a EStG. After filing an objection at this department without success, they had to seek legal recourse in court.

Family services argued that the passive wording of the statute "being educated for a profession (für einen Beruf ausgebildet wird)" hints of some kind of membership in a school in order to ensure a meaningful and goal-oriented training with proof of efforts and advances in school. Otherwise receiving child benefits until the age limit was reached would be at the discretion of the child and its parents.

The court upheld Sandra's application for child benefits. The court held that the preparation of a high school graduation for "Nichtschüler" is to be considered as vocational training even when the minimum of membership in a school is missing. School education is also vocational training. It is required to attain one's professional goals but is seriously preparing to reach such goals. Relevant are all measures that relate to gaining knowledge, abilities, and experience. It is not necessary that they are codified in any kind of regulations or programs. In order to successfully register, it is not formally required that your child be in a school but you do have to show that your child is preparing for this goal through either self-study or (distant courses. When a child seriously prepares itself for graduation, it is unreasonable to demand that it is a member of a school. Therefore, a child is considered as in vocational training when preparing for graduation - at the very latest when registered for graduation.


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