68 Cents Per Euro

That, according to Holger Steltzner writing in the Wednesday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), is the amount of a “normal earner’s” income that flows to the German state in the form of direct or indirect taxes. This helps to explain the widespread practice of tax evasion in Germany, which has recently attracted international attention through the sting operations against Deutsche Post chief Klaus Zumwinkel and other German residents accused of hiding their wealth in Lichtenstein. “Moreover,” Steltzner adds,

hardly anyone understands German tax law and knows the many exceptions involved. As consequence, practically every taxpayer has they feeling that the others are getting off more lightly. This has to change if trust in the justness of the tax system is to grow. If the German state would then in addition control its expenditures, people would stop wondering why taxes are so much lower in Austria or Switzerland whereas the schools and hospitals and roads are just as good as in Germany.

The charges in the German cases are reportedly based on confidential account data that was stolen from the Lichtenstein-based LTG bank by a former employee and sold to the German Foreign Intelligence service, the BND, for some €4.2 million. The German finance minister, the Social Democrat Peer Steinbrück, has offered to share the data with other countries. As likewise reported in the Wednesday edition of the FAZ, however, Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen has already declined the offer:

“We have no intention of using stolen data. And we do not pay for stolen data,” he told the [Danish] Børsen newspaper. It is “morally problematic to reward a criminal for information that he has stolen.” “This sort of upscale fencing activity has no appeal for me,” he added.

Additional reporting by Peter Carstens in the FAZ suggests, moreover, that more than one informant may in fact have been involved in the BND operation and that the BND may even have used blackmail to obtain information. The BND has denied such reports.

More World Politics Review