Total coverage principle

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The total coverage principle (also: the principle of total coverage or non-affectation principle ) is a budget principle with the content that all revenues of a public budget serve to cover all expenses , i.e. are not earmarked. The principle applies to both cameralistics and double-entry , both in the preparation of federal and state budgets and in the budgets of the regional and public corporations (such as broadcasters ).


Through the cameralistic comparison of income and expenditure in a public budget, it makes sense to assign specific expenditure to specific income and to establish causalities between the two. It was and is also politically motivated to collect certain tax revenues only for specific spending purposes. In the federal budget in 1959, for example, the mineral oil tax was almost completely allocated to road construction expenditure, despite the general coverage principle. In 2005, tax revenues of € 48 billion were offset by expenses for road construction of just € 17.5 billion, whereby these sums do not take into account the costs of parking spaces, street lighting and cleaning, or the external costs of road traffic (e.g. road traffic). E.g. accidents, noise, air pollution) as well as the external benefits.

Function and reason

The principle of total coverage should allow the legislature (or constitutional giver) to freely dispose of the income without being tied to the expenditure. The aim is to prevent individual sources of income from being tied up for specific special purposes. Ultimately, the principle of total coverage is an expression of the principle of democracy, because the freely elected legislature is autonomous in the use of funds every year and cannot be restricted in its current decision by previous majorities.

Consequences of total coverage

The principle of total coverage, which has been in force in Germany since January 1974, allows maximum flexibility in spending planning, as no expenditure may be made dependent on the actual revenue of any tax ( Section 7 of the Budgetary Principles Act (HGrG); principle of total coverage ). The same word was also adopted in Section 8 of the Federal Budget Code (BHO). Although the principle of total coverage removes the link between individual income and specific expenditure, it does not prohibit the allocation of certain income to specific expenditure groups. A earmarking of individual income for certain expenses is generally excluded. In fact, earmarking can reduce the efficiency of budget planning if it prevents spending from being directed towards higher priority purposes. Total coverage is in contrast to the earlier principle of individual coverage (earmarking), according to which a certain expenditure had to be covered by a certain tax or subsidy income. If the collection of new taxes or the increase of existing types of tax is linked to politically specific purposes, this has only external effect, but is a budgetary violation of the principle of total coverage.

Except for individual coverage

This earmarking is now provided as an exception. A deviation from the total coverage principle is possible under the strict requirements of § 17 GemHVO, whereby the one or mutual cover capacity must be established by means of a purpose limitation note (designated cover capacity ). Earmarkings are only permitted if they are prescribed by law or result from the origin or the nature of the income (Section 17 (1) GemHVO). The earmarked income is removed from the overall coverage and is no longer available to finance all expenses, but only as cover funds for certain expenses. This possibility does not exist at the municipal level. However, certain fee budgets may be excluded from the overall coverage principle. As a result, the corresponding fee income is earmarked for the respective tasks and does not fall into the freely available mass of the household. This is particularly the case with independent municipal authorities (municipal waste disposal or water management), whose fee income must be used specifically for the tasks assigned to them. Such earmarking increased transparency for citizens because it enabled them to track the exact use of certain revenues. This transparency is lacking in the overall coverage principle, because the citizen can determine a certain expenditure (booked in the budget under a precise "title"), but not the revenue that covers it. The individual coverage principle continues to shape US households.

Political debate

In the political debate, new taxes or tax increases with new expenditure or expenditure increases in a package are often decided. Well-known examples are

Due to the overall coverage principle, these relationships do not legally exist. Abolishing the solidarity surcharge would therefore have just as little effect on transfer payments to the new federal states as a reduction in tobacco tax would result in pension cuts. These relationships are only part of the political representation, combining unpopular tax increases with popular benefit improvements.

Another aspect of the political debate is the desire of minorities to refuse to pay taxes on unwanted expenses. The Peace Tax Network, for example, calls for the possibility of refusing the taxes that are imputed to armaments. This contradicts the principle of total coverage and is unconstitutional in Germany (see tax refusal ).

Individual evidence

  1. BUDGET: Taxes and roads . In: Der Spiegel . No. 51 , 1958 ( online ).
  2. Dieter Brümmerhoff, Finanzwissenschaft , 2007, p. 152
  3. BVerwG, judgment of February 23, 2000 , Az. 11 C 3. 99, full text.
  4. Erwin Jüngel, The Control and Information Potential of the Municipal Budget , 1995, p. 77