Rich Germans call for higher taxes for the wealthy | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.10.2009

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Rich Germans call for higher taxes for the wealthy

A group of rich Germans have launched a petition to reintroduce a wealth tax to help the country rebound from the ongoing economic crisis.

Euro notes

Make us pay higher taxes, a group of wealthy Germans says

The plan by the initiative “Vermoegende für eine Vermoegensabgabe” (Wealthy people in favor of a wealth tax) suggests a five percent tax for two years followed by a reduction to one percent for those who have personal fortunes of more than 500,000 euros ($750,000). They estimate such a move would generate 100 billion euros ($150 billion).

The group says it does not want to see those gains swallowed by the general budget, but earmarked for specific projects in the areas of environmental protection, education and social services like health care and social welfare.

"The gap between the poor and the rich in Germany has widened during the last 15 years," said Dieter Lehmkuhl, a retired doctor and one of the group's founding members. One of the reasons for this, he added, were past governments' tax reduction policies that favored businesses and the rich, he added.

Unfair distribution of wealth in Europe's biggest economy

"Hardly anywhere else in the world has the number of millionaires increased as much as in this country," Lehmkuhl pointed out, while the incomes of most Germans had stagnated or even decreased.

Germany will soon be "among the most in-equal countries of the industrialized western world if unfair taxation policies continue," Lehmkuhl warned and urged the government to reinstate the property tax that had been abolished 12 years ago.

The 21 signatories started the campaign for fairer taxation earlier this year, prompted by their growing unease with the government's handling of the global financial crisis, including shelling out billions of euros to save banks. “We don't think the general public can be made to shoulder the burden when these people have not caused the crisis, and haven't profited from the boom that preceded the it."

Dieter Lehmkuhl

Dieter Lehmkuhl, one of Germany's rich urging a wealth tax

It is time the wealthy came to the aid of their country

Lehmkuhl said that now, "Vermoegende für eine Vermoegensabgabe" had 44 supporters who were trying to convince the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to raise taxes. But the retired doctor does not really expect a response from Berlin to his initiative's appeal. "Our aim is to send a political signal to the public and to raise consciousness for this issue in the long run," he said.

Since her September 27 election victory, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats have been locked in talks working out a coalition program with their new partners, the Free Democrats.

The initiative has meanwhile forged contacts with a network for fair taxation, a social business group, and entrepreneurs in green economy, with the aim to push their agenda on a bigger scale because, Dieter Lehmkuhl concluded, "we have to meet the challenges that are ahead of us and we don't have much time."

Author: Dagmar Breitenbach
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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