How much does Germany pay Bundestag deputies?
Being a parliamentarian is not a job like any other. Having a seat in the lower house of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, is considered a high public office — restricted, of course, by the four-year legislative period.
The Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that deputies may continue to work on the side during their time as members of parliament, but they are not meant to have much time for it.
German law states that the Bundestag mandate must be their main job. It is, of course, a lot easier for MPs who are self-employed lawyers, business consultants or tax advisers to continue to work on the side. But, for those who might be salaried police officers, teachers or administrative employees, it is basically impossible.
Article 48 of the German Basic Law stipulates that members of parliament are entitled to appropriate compensation that safeguards their independence. This means that parliamentarians must be paid enough to ensure that they do not need any other income. The salary of an ordinary judge in a federal supreme court is taken as the reference figure.
The so-called "parliamentary compensation" is redefined every year on July 1, and, currently, it is set at €10,012.89 ($11,840) per month, slightly less than in 2020. This income is, of course, subject to tax.
The expense allowance
Each MP also receives a tax-free lump-sum expense allowance, which is intended to cover all expenses incurred in carrying out the Bundestag mandate, including rent on their office space and staff.
An MP usually has two places of work: their Bundestag office in Berlin and their home constituency office, which both come with associated staff, who must also be paid. This allowance is adjusted every year to reflect the rising cost of living, and is currently €4,560.59 per month.
Throughout the year, there are at least 20 weeks when the Bundestag is in session and its members are required to be present. They are entitled to a furnished office, currently 54 square meters (580 square meters) in size, for themselves and their staff, including communication equipment. The MPs can use official vehicles to travel in the urban area of Berlin. In addition, they have a free yearly rail ticket and are reimbursed for domestic air travel costs, insofar as these are incurred when exercising their mandate.
In addition, members of parliament can spend a maximum of €12,000 per year on office supplies. This is not paid out up front, but can be used to order equipment such as laptops and cellphones, as well as writing utensils and IT equipment for the constituency office.
In 2009, the so-called Montblanc affair made headlines when more than 100 deputies ordered luxurious fountain and ballpoint pens to the tune of €68,000. As a consequence, the Bundestag president felt compelled to have the list of office supplies revised in 2010. Since then, luxury goods are no longer allowed.
In recent years, there has been much discussion about some parliamentarians' additional income, which must be declared to the Bundestag administration. In the last legislative period, a third of the members had to report extra earnings.
The Otto Brenner Foundation, part of the trade union IG Metall, found in a study that, in the most recent legislative period, it was mainly members of the FDP (62%) and the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) (43%) who were working on the side. Four members of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group and one member of the FDP parliamentary group reported additional incomes of over €1 million.
Reform of transparency rules
Numerous scandals involving parliamentarians' supplementary incomes led to a revision of the legal requirements in 2021. In future, MPs will have to declare every cent of their additional incomes if it is more than €1,000 a month or €3,000 a year. Company shareholdings must be reported starting at 5%.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the so-called mask affair triggered outrage when it emerged that members of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group had received commissions worth millions for arranging supplies of medical masks to federal and state ministries. As a consequence, MPs are no longer allowed to act as paid lobbyists in deals with the federal government or the Bundestag. Bundestag membership may also not be used for business purposes.
Are members of parliament allowed to accept gifts?
Until the tightening of transparency rules, members of parliament were allowed to accept gifts without any restriction. However, this was subject to the proviso that gifts were not made in return for any "favor." Bribery and corruption have always been punishable.
What is new is that MPs are no longer allowed to accept monetary donations or to collect fees for speeches related to their work as MPs. Members of parliament are often on the road. If they receive gifts from guests, they may only keep them if they are worth no more than €200. More expensive gifts must either be handed over to the Bundestag president or may be kept in exchange for payment of the equivalent value to the federal treasury.
This article has been translated from German.
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