Calls grow to lift burden of Germany's solidarity tax - Europe - World - The Independent

Calls grow to lift burden of Germany's solidarity tax

It is as hated as the Berlin Wall, the Stasi secret police and the decade-long waiting list for a new Trabant. But, unlike those symbols of the former East Germany, the "solidarity tax", introduced after reunification of the country, is still causing pain and anguish.

Levied on all Germans, it was meant to restore a decrepit state to the levels of the prosperous West. For those saddled with paying up, it often seemed the equivalent of throwing money at an alcoholic to keep the bar open.

While providing perfect autobahns, restored railway stations with lovely flower-beds, subsidised housing and ammunition for neo-Nazis, the billions in "soli tax" money has failed significantly to lift the former Communist state out of its economic and social torpor.

The former chancellor Helmut Kohl promised it would be around for a year or two. But, 16 years later, Germans are still forking out the 5.5 per cent surcharge on their incomes to pay for the reconstruction of a blighted zone.

The government insists the tax must stay because the region still needs help against high unemployment, falling investment and an exodus of the young. It is, consequently, enshrined in law until 2019 at least.

The unpopularity of the tax looks set, however, to force a review. Volker Kauder, an MP in the Christian Democratic party (CDU) of the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, bowed to growing media pressure and confirmed that the government would re-examine the issue when parliament reconvenes after the summer recess.

A leader in the rival Social Democratic Party (SPD), which shares power with Ms Merkel in her coalition government, also offered his support for a review of the tax - especially as the moribund German economy has turned the corner and tax revenues are rising at rates not seen for more than 15 years.

"We will closely examine the income from the solidarity tax," Mr Kauder, a parliamentary floor leader of the CDU, told theBild newspaper. Bild has led a campaign to eliminate - or at least cut - the tax, which raises €11bn (£7.4bn) a year. An opinion poll by the Forsa institute found that 67 per cent of taxpayers want the solidarity tax abolished.

"Before we cut taxes in general, we should sharply reduce or eliminate the soli," said Joachim Poss, the deputy leader of the SPD. "The year 2012 could be the right moment for that."

The proposals to reduce or eliminate the tax met with immediate protest from the five eastern states, which say a lot still needs to be done to rebuild the former Communist East and acheive parity with the West. "As long as the federal government keeps having to borrow money, I don't see any sensible reason why any tax cuts at all should be contemplated," said Wolfgang Böhmer, the state premier of Saxony-Anhalt.

History is probably on the side of those wishing to keep it, simply because reform of the system rarely seems to happen.

Ten per cent of the world's taxation literature refers to the German tax system. There are 118 laws, 185 forms, 418 exceptions and 96,000 regulations, with one single legal comment on taxation alone covering 2,671 pages.

The administration of the German tax laws runs to a spine-numbing 28,000 pages and administrating it costs €23.7bn a year - approximately 2.5 per cent of the total amount of income tax yielded annually.

With such a magnificent and costly bureaucracy to maintain, the opponents of the soli tax fear it will be around to haunt their children and grandchildren as much as it does them.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Officer (HMP Brixton Mentoring Project)

£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...

Looking for work in Secondary Schools?

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Are you looking for work in Ed...

Year 5 Teacher

£3000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wor...

Open Day for work in Education

£83 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Are you looking for work in Ed...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week