Establish a family foundation: Legally reduce taxes to 15%! Foundation, advantages, interview

Establish a family foundation in Germany – Attention entrepreneurs! Are you an entrepreneur or already a medium-sized business owner and would like to build up your assets in a structured and secure way? Then you should consider setting up a family foundation – an often underestimated instrument that offers you numerous advantages. With a family foundation, you can legally reduce your tax burden to 15% and at the same time reliably hedge entrepreneurial and private risks. But how does a family foundation work exactly and what concrete advantages does it offer you and your family? In an exclusive interview, you’ll learn everything you need to know about setting up a family foundation. Read on to learn how you can secure your assets for the long term and preserve your legacy.

Interview: This is what it’s all about

As an entrepreneur, it is important to think from the outset about how one’s own assets and business can be secured and maintained in the long term. A family foundation can be an interesting option here, as it not only offers asset protection and inheritance planning, but can also have potential tax advantages. By establishing a family foundation, for example, entrepreneurs can reduce their tax burden and thus achieve tax savings.

We talk in the interview about:

  1. What is a family foundation, why and when do you “need” it
  2. What are the 3 central advantages of a foundation
  3. What about taxes? Corporation, donation, inheritance & Co.

We conduct the interview with (in conversation “IE”).

What is a family foundation?

FIV: Let’s start with an overview:

Fragrance Tip! by FIV

IE: To ensure that family assets are preserved in the long term, it is important to protect them from various risks such as inheritance disputes, creditors and the tax office. One possible option here is to set up a family foundation, which can provide the founder and his family with economic security over generations and protect the assets from being broken up. This is a legally independent foundation that manages real estate, company shares and other assets.

So in a nutshell:

  • Protection of family assets over generations
  • Avoidance of inheritance disputes and break-up of assets
  • Possibility to manage assets such as real estate and company shares in the foundation
  • Tax advantages due to the taxation of the foundation with corporate income tax
  • Possibility to avoid the right to a compulsory portion of family members

Well-known family foundations in Germany

FIV: Strong, because we have many articles on the subject of first capital investment buy & Co. So that it does not become too abstract for our readers, what are the most well-known family foundations in Germany? Who do you know? Can you tell us 3 examples?

IE: Yes, of course, there is the Bertelsmann Foundation, for example, founded by Reinhard Mohn, is one of the largest foundations in Germany and is involved in the areas of education, society and culture.

There is also the Robert Bosch Stiftung, founded by Robert Bosch, promotes projects in the fields of health, science and technology, and international relations. Another flagship would be the Krupp Foundation, founded by the Krupp family, is involved in the areas of culture, education and science as well as in the promotion of social projects.

Then there is:

  • Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd Stiftung Stiftungs GmbH
  • Otto Group Foundation
  • BMW Foundation of Herbert Quandt
  • And many more!

When does a family foundation make sense?

IE: Roughly speaking, very roughly speaking:

It only really makes sense to set up a family foundation with a capitalization of around 1 million euros.

Protection of family assets and businesses

FIV: Now let’s get to the core of the interview, the why and wherefore! What does protecting assets mean, from whom and why should I protect my assets – once I am a millionaire?

IE: Even though the family foundation is not tax-exempt, several factors can make it worthwhile to establish:

Raising a family is often a long and arduous process of hard work and hardship. It is therefore understandable that entrepreneurs are concerned that their legacy will not be carried on in their spirit after their passing.

One way to alleviate these concerns is to establish a family foundation.

Divorce, inheritance, family dispute – examples

Establishing a family foundation ensures that the entrepreneur’s assets remain in the family and are not fragmented by divorce or inheritance.

A foundation can also help avoid the breakup of the company, as foundations do not issue shares that can be bought out. This provides effective asset protection, as the foundation retains control over the assets and manages them in accordance with the wishes of the entrepreneur and his family.

In addition, family foundations can also help preserve family peace by providing a clear structure for the management and distribution of assets.

However, the foundation can also play an important role in supporting charities and non-profit projects, which can be of great importance for entrepreneurs who want to engage in social responsibility, of course also in the point of self-PR.

Inheritance: taxes and protection

FIV: According to the Hans Böckler Foundation, the annual inheritance volume in Germany, including gifts, will amount to up to 400 billion euros in the period up to 2027 – per year. Inheritance is an important topic. Therefore the question, what can a family foundation do in terms of inheritance?

To illustrate this, here are the figures for the number of taxable inheritances and gifts in Germany from 2008 to 2021.

400 billion per year

180,000 inheritances per year

Statistik: Anzahl der steuerpflichtigen Erbschaften und Schenkungen in Deutschland von 2008 bis 2021 | Statista

You can find more statistics at Statista

IE: By establishing a family foundation, family members can be provided with binding security during the founder’s lifetime. The clear structure of the foundation can help to defuse potential inheritance disputes in advance. This can be of great advantage, especially in the case of large estates or complex family structures.

Inheritance and mandatory shares

Another advantage of setting up a family foundation is that the founder can avoid the claim of children or parents to his inheritance (so-called claim to a compulsory portion) if he transfers the assets to the foundation ten years before his death. This can be particularly important if the founder intends to concentrate his assets on certain family members or if he wishes to support a charity, for example.

In addition, the establishment of a family foundation can also help to protect the assets from creditors. As long as the assets remain within the foundation, they cannot be seized by the founder’s creditors. This can be important for entrepreneurs who have a high personal liability risk or who operate in a particularly high-risk business field.

Tax advantages: Only 15% tax

FIV: Now to question that everyone is most interested in, what is it about “saving taxes” when you set up a family foundation?

IE: In Germany, the establishment of a family foundation can bring tax advantages. The foundation is subject to corporate income tax, which can lead to a lower tax burden compared to other types of companies such as a GmbH, which have to pay trade tax. In addition, donations to the foundation may be tax-deductible under certain conditions.

FIV: Can you explain that in more detail?

IE: Simply put:

You can legally lower your tax burden to 15% with a family trust.

FIV: With a family foundation you can legally reduce your tax burden in Germany to 15%, ok. How does that work and what does a “normal” GmbH pay?

IE: The establishment of a family foundation can indeed help to reduce the tax burden in Germany to 15%.

This is the corporate income tax levied on the income of the foundation.

In contrast, a “normal” GmbH must pay trade tax, which can vary depending on the municipality. In addition, there is corporate income tax, which is levied on the income of the GmbH and is usually higher than for a family foundation.

However, the 15% corporate income tax for family foundations only applies up to a certain exemption amount and depends on various factors such as the size of the assets and the structure of the foundation. But it pays off, especially over the years.

But we don’t want to go into too much detail!

Inheritance tax and gift tax

FIV: As far as I know, you also have advantages in terms of inheritance tax and gift tax, especially through the allowances, which are taxed more favorably and can thus be paid in year after year. Can you tell us something more about this?

IE: Unlike charitable foundations, the family foundation does not enjoy any automatic tax benefits – that’s just in advance. Nevertheless, it can offer great potential for tax optimization compared to other corporate forms.

Transfer of assets to the foundation

When assets are transferred to the foundation – in particular when they are established – gift or inheritance taxes are incurred. In the case of a “normal” private foundation, the unfavorable inheritance tax class 3 is generally applied. In the case of a family foundation, on the other hand, the relationship between the founder and the entitled family members (beneficiaries) is decisive. If only the spouse and the descendants (children, grandchildren) are beneficiaries, the favorable tax class 1 applies.

Here’s a tip on the side, we also have a handy gift tax calculator. Here you can calculate what typically has to be taxed.

However, in the case of family foundations, a fictitious inheritance is assumed every 30 years, on which inheritance taxes are incurred. Here, an allowance of 800,000 euros applies, the so-called double child allowance. Otherwise, the general regulations for inheritance and gift taxes apply. However, if there are favored business assets, the corresponding exemption discount can lead to significant tax savings.

If you would like to learn more about this, please visit our blog. I can recommend, among others, the articles Asset Protection and Vermögensschutz durch Familienstiftungen by our foundation expert.

FIV: Thank you for the insight into family foundations!

Summary: 10 Learnings on the Family Foundation

Let’s briefly summarize the most important facts for you.

Learning foundation
1 A family foundation provides asset protection and estate planning for family assets and businesses.
2 A family foundation can protect assets from divorce, inheritance and break-up, thus avoiding inheritance disputes.
3 A family foundation provides a clear structure for managing and distributing assets and can preserve family peace.
4 By establishing a family foundation, family members can be provided with binding security during the founder’s lifetime.
5 A family foundation can circumvent the claim of children or parents to the inheritance (claim to a compulsory portion).
6 A family foundation can protect assets from creditors.
7 A family foundation can be used as an instrument of social responsibility.
8 A family foundation is subject to corporate income tax and can thus reduce the tax burden to 15%.
9 A family foundation offers great potential for tax optimization compared to other corporate forms.
10 In the case of a family foundation, the relationship between the founder and the beneficiary family members is decisive for the tax classes for gift or inheritance taxes.