from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A tax (formerly also taxe ) is a monetary payment without a claim to individual consideration that a public-law community imposes on all taxable persons - including both natural and legal persons - in order to generate income . This means that taxes are public-law levies that must be paid by everyone who fulfills the condition of tax liability in order to cover general financial needs, whereby the generation of income should at least be a secondary purpose. Fees and Contributions on the other hand, are used task-related and earmarked.

The taxes originally levied as contributions in kind in the form of goods or services ( compulsory services ) have now become pure cash payments.

Taxes are usually the main source of income of a modern state and the most important instrument for financing its territorially delimited state and other ( supranational ) tasks. Through the financial impact on all citizens and the complex tax law taxes and other charges are gebung an ongoing political and social strife point.

According to a study published by the United Nations , Germany is one of the countries most willing to finance public goods through taxes .

Taxes as duties

The main distinguishing feature from other public charges is that the payment of taxes does not in principle give rise to any claim to consideration. So while the contribution is levied for the mere possibility of using a service and a fee or toll is charged for the actual use of the service, the principle of non-affection applies to the tax . Accordingly, taxes do not “buy” a claim to a specific state consideration. For example, the energy tax is not a fee for road use and the dog tax is not a fee for cleaning up dog poop.

The government spending in principle by the sum of all funded tax revenue. So it is not the case that a certain tax can only be used to finance a certain government task. The use of energy tax revenue may z. B. not be limited to transport or energy projects or the transport budget.

From the definition of the tax as a charge that is "imposed" on the taxpayer, two further characteristics can be derived:


There are various theories about the origin of the term "tax":

A connection can be assumed with the Germanic word sceutan ("to shoot"), which in turn formed the basis of the Lower and Central German term of the lap , a kind of property tax, used in urban law at the end of the High Middle Ages .

According to another theory, the term can be derived from the Old High German stiura , which here comes close to the meaning of support and, in the sense of support, help or assistance.

Historical development

The tax museum in the German city of Brühl (Rhineland) , which is called the "Financial History Collection of the Federal Finance Academy", provides information on the historical development of taxation from antiquity to modern times .


Taxes have been around since ancient times and they were led under a wide variety of names, e.g. B. Tribute , Customs, or Tithe . Although their justification has traditionally been seen in the need to meet community needs, some of the rationale for introducing new taxes shows remarkable government creativity.

The first evidence of state taxes is in the 3rd millennium BC. From Egypt . Schreiber managed the harvest control and raised a Nilzoll. Tax collection is also historically guaranteed from the urban high cultures in Mesopotamia . Here, the temple administration led book and taxed livestock and fishing .

Assyria and Persia

Both the Assyrian and Persian empires were able to forego taxation of their own citizens during their heyday. The financial needs were covered by tributes imposed on the peoples conquered and subjugated in wars.


The Athens Polis , the “cradle of democracy”, financed the state through indirect taxes (including customs duties), the labor and services of the citizens of Athens and the comprehensive taxation of all non-Athenians. The Parthenon on the Acropolis served at times as a treasury for the safekeeping of tax revenues.


The financial management of the Roman royal era (around 6th century BC) was similar, because the state tasks were mostly done by the citizens themselves and only in exceptional situations (usually on the occasion of a war ) was a tax on assets ( tributum ) due. For the assessment , the census , two high officials ( censores ) were elected, who checked the tax returns (professiones) of the citizens and collected the taxes.

During the time of the Roman Republic , the empire expanded from the 3rd century BC. Enormously and more and more provinces and tributary empires contributed to the coverage of the state financial needs, so that in the year 167 BC. BC the Roman citizens were exempt from direct taxes.

In the provinces of direct taxation (were basic and poll tax ) by procurators managed, but for convenience, the collection of indirect taxes (customs duties, tolls and user fees) was leased and the system of tax farmers ( publicani ) led to mismanagement and injustice. It was not until Emperor Augustus put the entire tax collection back into the hands of state officials ( quaestors ). One mistake became famous: The Gallic slave Licinius, released by Caesar, was appointed by Augustus as administrator in Lugdunum (today's Lyon ), where Licinius then extended the year by two months. This construction earned him two more monthly taxes a year in Lugdunum, until Augustus - after complaints from Gaul - stopped this type of tax collection after about two years.


In Palestine , which has existed since 63 BC When the Roman Empire was liable to tax, a tax assessment (census) with a record of the population and their assets ( census ) was carried out at the time of Jesus' birth . In addition to the Roman taxes, considerable religious levies were also due: the tithe , which was a compulsory levy on the part of the priests and Levites , as well as the temple tax to cover the costs of public worship.


The Teutons , who in pre-Roman times only knew the voluntary honorary donation to the prince instead of taxation , is said to have given rise to the attempt to raise taxes by the Romans for the battle in the Teutoburg Forest . West of the Rhine, however, the Roman financial administration prevailed and was headed by the provincial procurator based in Augusta Treverorum ( Trier ) .

Pecunia non olet

With the decline of the Roman Empire, with increasing government spending, the tax revenue decreased and the state treasure ( aerarium ), which was previously kept in the Temple of Saturn and monitored by the Senate , was dissolved in favor of the imperial special fund ( Fiscus ). Necessary not only to cover the costs of the Roman budget , but also to generate the greatest possible increase in private wealth, the first - historically guaranteed - curiosities appear in tax legislation: " Pecunia non olet " (money does not stink) - this well-known expression was used by Emperor Vespasian to justify a tax on public lavatories.

For the first time historically guaranteed, there was also a discussion of the steering effect of a tax, since the tax evasion in this case took the form of the deinstallation of lavatories, which had to encourage the spread of epidemics.

Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

As a source of income for kings and princes, the tax only played a subordinate role in the early Middle Ages . On the one hand, none of the Frankish princes was politically able to enforce general taxation of the population. On the other hand, the necessary administrative means to apply a tax were missing, because the records of citizens and property were out of date or simply not available.

Rather, the expenditures were made up of “private” income from the sale of rights ( market and city ​​rights ), from monopolies (wool and spice monopoly) and from the domains , i.e. H. mainly from the agricultural and forestry state enterprises and regalia such as the hunting, fishing and salt right denied.

However, the situation was different for the church and its institutions and persons: until the 19th century, a church tax was levied in the form of tithing. This tax could not only be derived from Christian traditions, but could also be relatively easily monitored and collected by the local church institutions.

Two tax collectors , work by Marinus van Reymerswaele , 1540s, National Museum in Warsaw

In the course of time, the secular rulers also needed higher income, for example to finance a war or to establish a state community.

In theory, the ruler's right to collect taxes was legitimized by Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) in the Middle Ages . The principal financing of the public tasks should come from the goods and the income of the ruler. In his opinion, an extension of the tasks and thus of additional taxes of the subjects is only justified if it serves to protect the taxpayers from an external threat.

In the High Middle Ages , the tax levied by sovereigns was primarily a property tax that included land, but also other assets (cattle, supplies, etc.). The oldest written evidence is the Domesday Book , which recorded the property situation in England in the 11th century for taxation by the king. So that the vast majority of the population, which consisted of landless or poor serfs and tenants, could also be taxed, the poll tax was applied, which demanded the same amount from all those affected, regardless of ownership and ownership. The taxation of income by the central government offices turned out to be difficult, because monitoring the tax collection was impossible due to the administrative shortcomings in the Middle Ages. For this reason, repartition taxes were often levied, in which a region or municipality was imposed a lump sum tax that it apportioned to its residents at its own discretion.

In the following early states , direct taxes were only levied in exceptional cases and had to be approved by the estates . Classic occasions were a war, the wedding of a daughter of the prince, the Rome procession for the imperial coronation , a ransom demand or 'general need'. Since taxes were levied only at greater intervals and irregularly, the tax rates could also be relatively high (e.g. usually 5% of total assets). In the sixteenth century, taxes were levied in ever greater succession and for ever longer periods of time so that they were very close to annual taxes. The absolutism in France also knew again the system of tax farming with all its lights and shadows (financial rise of the tax collector as a new group in the state, over-exploitation of the taxpaying population).

Since the late Middle Ages , indirect taxes have enjoyed increasing popularity among the rulers, and so excise duties were introduced on drinks such as beer and wine, on salt, on lotteries, etc. Here, too, the focus was on the simplified tax collection, because mostly only a few breweries and wine or salt traders had to be monitored for their tax compliance. In addition, the tariffs were a very simple way of generating income for the princes. They founded cities, laid out traffic routes, monitored them and were thus able to raise bridge tariffs, road tariffs and gate tariffs at the appropriate places .

Throughout history, two problems have emerged that have not yet been resolved: on the one hand, the tax legislature often leads to double taxation , and on the other hand, there is always the difficulty of differentiating tax collection from other collections on the part of the rulers. It is not uncommon for four institutions to demand a tax from the population: the crown (emperor or king), the sovereign, the community or city and, last but not least, the church. Accordingly, taxes are divided into imperial taxes (e.g. common penny ), taxes of the sovereigns, communal taxes and the church tithe. In addition, contributions in general for a state power due (Nutzgelder), taxes such as the always Feudalabgabe or heriot collected and services rendered ( forced labor , manual and team services ), which states a landlord in return for the protection he the hearing had to offer.

Previous tax types

Workplace of a tax collector in the museum of Stolpen Castle

The designations for taxes in the Middle Ages and the early modern period differ on the one hand regionally: Bede , Estimation , Contribution . On the other hand, the reason for the tax can often be derived from the name: the Turkish penny was raised as military money during the Turkish wars and the Roman month to finance the emperor's trips to Rome. In addition to these taxes, which are relevant for historical reasons, there are the paper tax (in England from 1697 to 1861), the window tax (also in England from 1695 to 1851), the sparrow tax (18th century in Germany) and the bicycle tax (until the invention of the Automobiles) worth mentioning because of their curiosity.

The complete list of types of taxes no longer levied provides a detailed overview of all taxes that have since been abolished.

Modern times

It was not until 1776 that Adam Smith established the following four principles according to which taxes should be levied:

  • Uniformity of taxation: Citizens should pay taxes in proportion to skills and especially to income
  • Determination of the tax laws: the date, type and amount of payment should be clear to everyone
  • Convenience of Taxation: The tax should be collected at the time and in the manner that is most convenient for the citizen
  • Cheap tax collection: The cost of tax collection should be as low as possible

During the French Revolution , the principle of universality and equality of taxation was proclaimed as a human right , and England was the first state to introduce income tax at the end of the 18th century to tax the increase in wealth .

In the 19th century, the tax laws in the sovereign German individual states initially developed differently, although they were increasingly accompanied by demands from the economy to build and expand the infrastructure. In general, however, according to Ullmann, two basic developments can be distinguished. On the one hand, the form of property taxation (property, building and trade tax) which is dominant in southern Germany, and on the other hand, the personnel tax that is more dominant in central and northern Germany . During this time of classical liberalism , the modern tax state emerged, although it is subject to constant changes and national peculiarities in the various tax systems .

The principles of taxation

The classic tax maxims established by Adam Smith in 1776 continue to apply in a slightly modified form in modern tax systems. The following 4 basic requirements are placed on the structuring of taxes: fairness , productivity, imperceptibility and practicality.

Justice of taxation

The intervention of the state in the property and assets of its citizens presupposes on the one hand the equality of taxation of the persons concerned and on the other hand the legal reservation. The requirement of fair taxation presupposes that taxation is based on economic efficiency. This principle was confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court.

The principle of uniformity

The principle of uniformity of taxation is the result of the general principle of equality , which also results from the fundamental rights . If a cash benefit is not imposed on everyone in which the offense applies, it is not a tax. A very special example of this was the speculation tax in Germany, which was declared unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court for 1997 and 1998 because a structural deficit in enforcement did not guarantee the uniform application of the applicable law to all tax-relevant matters.

The prohibition of arbitrariness

The principle of equality also forces the legislature to observe the prohibition of arbitrariness , according to which the same may not be arbitrarily treated differently. The rule here is that arbitrariness is to be understood as the lack of sufficient appropriate reasons for the unequal treatment.

Ultimately, however, the legislature cannot and does not have to differentiate in such a way that each individual case is dealt with individually. Rather, it is dependent on a general version of the tax laws ( typification) . If the general version leads to particular hardship in individual cases, measures of equity are available, which the tax authorities must apply without discretion , as otherwise there is a violation of the prohibition of arbitrariness that is legally repealed.

The uniformity of application

The uniformity of taxation not only includes substantive and formal tax law that complies with this principle, but also and above all the uniform and arbitrary application of this law by the administration and the courts. In particular, there must be no enforcement deficit.

However, it should be noted that not every different interpretation of a provision by the authorities or courts leads to illegality and thus to a violation of the principle of uniformity. However, guidelines must be drawn up to ensure uniform application of the law, and the tax authorities are bound to apply them.

The non-retroactivity

Tax laws, like all laws, may not be put into effect retrospectively . With regard to the trust of the citizen in an existing legal situation and the planning made with it, retrospective onerous tax laws are fundamentally inadmissible if the rule of law is observed.

A distinction must be made between the " real retroactive effect " and the " false retroactive effect ": In the real retroactive effect, a tax law retroactively intervenes in the facts in the past or is to be applied for a period of time that begins before it comes into force. There is a false retroactive effect if the law affects current, not yet finalized facts on the future and subsequently devalues ​​pending legal positions.

Productivity of Taxation

Tax collection is primarily used to generate income and should therefore be effective and productive. The administrative effort must not be too high. Not least because they did not meet this requirement, a large number of so-called trivial taxes (e.g. ignition goods tax , lamp tax ) have been abolished in Germany. Ideally, the tax is created in such a way that it reacts flexibly to changes in the economy. The best example of this is income taxes , as increasing income is automatically generated as income increases due to the economic situation. A counter-example are real taxes , which are tied to the asset portfolio and are therefore levied independently of the economic cycle.

Imperceptibility of the tax

To simplify the tax payment, the citizen should, if possible, neither notice the tax burden per se nor the tax collection. Indirect taxes, which are included in the final price and are thus passed on from the tax debtor to the taxpayer, are considered "imperceptible" . This is a "convenient" tax for taxpayers who are burdened, as there are no problems with the collection and administration and the tax can be partially avoided through a qualified waiver of consumption.

Tax practicability

The practicability of taxation is measured by the transparency, clarity and simplicity of tax laws . This means that, even in a technically complex area such as tax law, the regulations should not be unnecessarily complicated and claused. Legislation that is not transparent even for experts disrupts the tax population's sense of justice and equality, because only those who are “well-informed” and “well-advised” can exhaust all design options.

Tax types and groups

None of the individual types of tax can optimally meet the four basic requirements (fairness, productivity, imperceptibility and practicability); For this reason, the tax system of most nations is a multi- tax system , within which the advantages and disadvantages of the differently structured taxes are to be balanced. Within this multi-tax system, the taxes are grouped together for a variety of reasons. A distinction is made according to the economic classification, the type of tax, the tax object and the administrative and revenue sovereignty.

Tax groups according to economic classification

Exchange tax as a traffic tax, until 1991

The economic assessment bases can be divided into the dynamic variables income (growth in wealth) and consumption ( consumption of goods) as well as the static inventory variable wealth (capital). Accordingly, taxes are also divided into

There are special features regarding

In any economy, the main types of taxes are income tax, sales tax, and import sales tax and customs duties .

Taxes in Germany according to tax groups and beneficiary administrative level
Beneficiary administrative level Property taxes Traffic taxes Excise duties
Federation , states and municipalities Income
tax, wage tax,
supervisory board
tax, trade tax
value added tax -
Federal and State Capital Gains
Tax Corporate Income Tax
- -
Federation - Insurance tax
Motor vehicle tax Aviation tax
tax Coffee tax
Energy tax
Sparkling wine
tax Tobacco tax
States and municipalities - Real estate transfer tax -
countries Inheritance tax,
tax, wealth tax
tax Racing betting tax Fire protection tax
Beer tax
Communities Property
tax dog tax
Amusement tax Beverage tax

Tax groups by tax type

For administrative, statistical and economic reasons, taxes are divided into the following tax groups: With regard to the economic burden, a distinction is made between direct and indirect taxes . While the tax payer and the taxpayer are identical in the case of direct taxes , the economic tax burden is passed on from the taxpayer to the taxpayer in the case of indirect taxes. With regard to the taxable object, a distinction is made between personal taxes and real taxes . As subject taxes, the former are tied to the personal circumstances of the taxpayer and the latter, as taxes on substance, are independent of the personal circumstances of the taxpayer. A distinction is made between withholding taxes and assessment taxes in the form of collection . Withholding taxes are skimmed off directly at the source of income and assessment taxes are set for a certain period with a tax assessment, usually after a previous tax return . Finally, there are the groups of flat taxes and individual taxes.

Tax groups according to tax object

In addition, taxes are divided into the following groups according to the subject of taxation:

Tax groups according to administrative and income jurisdiction

Basically, the delimitation takes place with regard to the administrative sovereignty, i.e. the right or the duty to collect taxes and the revenue sovereignty, i.e. the right to use taxes.

In Germany, taxes are either administered, i.e. set and levied, by federal authorities , state authorities or municipal authorities. The administration of federal taxes ( spirits tax , motor vehicle tax , coffee tax , energy tax , sparkling wine tax and tobacco tax ) as well as customs duties is the responsibility of the main customs offices . The federal government is exclusively entitled to the income from these taxes. The community taxes (income tax, corporation tax , sales tax ) are administered on behalf of the federal government by the tax offices and the income from these taxes is shared between the federal and state governments. In contrast, the income from pure state taxes ( inheritance tax , real estate transfer tax and racing betting and lottery tax ) is exclusively due to the countries that also administer these taxes. The foundations for setting the municipal taxes ( trade tax and property tax ) are laid by the tax offices with a tax assessment notice, while the municipalities set the tax using the assessment rate and collect it for their own use.


A tax arises in all cases in which the taxable event occurs. This occurrence is attributed to the taxable person and is composed of countless justifying, increasing and reducing factors. All tax laws offer - according to a comprehensive description of the facts (example: " Natural persons who have a domicile or their habitual abode in Germany are subject to unlimited income tax. " - Section 1, Paragraph 1, Sentence 1 of the Income Tax Act ) - a large number of exceptions, tax exemptions and exemption limits before finally applying the tax rate to the tax base.

The taxable person

The taxpayer is the person who realizes a taxable event and therefore owes the tax . In the general language, this is the taxpayer or tax resident. From a legal perspective - and depending on the applicable tax law - it is the natural person , the partnership or the legal person .

The tax object

The subject of a tax is the “ taxable asset ”, which is standardized by the legislature as being taxable. The definition of the taxable fact must be differentiated between the "simply standardized" law (example KfzStG : "Keeping a motor vehicle is taxable") and the "complicated standardized" law (example Income Tax Act (Germany): Income tax is subject to: ... seven types of income ) .

The attribution

The allocation determines which taxable person the taxable object is to be allocated to. A distinction is made between economic, temporal and local delimitation. The question of the economic allocation of a tax object is one of the main problems in tax law. In addition, the attribution takes place in terms of time (limited to certain tax periods) or geographical (within defined limits).

The tax base

The tax base is the relevant value expressed in a number that is used to quantify the tax using the tax rate. A distinction must be made between assessment bases that are linked to the value of a taxable event (for sales tax : net remuneration , for income tax: the taxable income ) and those that are based on numerical values (spirits tax: hectoliters of alcohol ; dog tax: number of dogs kept). The tax base for most types of tax is the result of a complicated calculation that includes a large number of different factors, including a. the components to determine the personal performance ( operating expenses , advertising costs , additional expenses and personal allowances ) flows.

The tax rate

The tax rate is the calculation variable which - applied to the tax base - results in the amount of the tax to be assessed. While the tax rate is defined as a fixed amount for taxes with a numerical basis, a percentage value applies to most types of tax. This value is also tax rate called and can proportional (z. B. VAT , unit control ), progressive (z. B. German income tax), regressive , or in a stepped tariff (z. B. inheritance) be designed.

Tax privileges

Tax privileges are tax concessions which, with their exceptional character, reduce the tax to be assessed as a tax advantage. Although colloquially used as a collective term for all regulations that bring about a tax reduction, only the real "tax gift" that a certain group of people (e.g. farmers through the lump-sum determination of profits according to § 13a EStG) or behavior ( e.g. the support of non-profit organizations through donations ) tax-privileged.

Implementation of taxation

Tax registration machine used in Hamburg until 1972.

If the tax has arisen legally, the further administrative measures to implement the taxation are regulated in the fourth to sixth parts of the tax code. These official tasks, which (with a few exceptions) are carried out by tax offices, can be divided into three phases:

  1. Determination of the tax base,
  2. Setting the tax and
  3. Collection procedure, possibly with the help of the enforcement procedure .

Origin of the tax

The legal origin of the tax is a prerequisite for initiating taxation proceedings. This is regulated in the individual tax laws (e.g. income tax arises at the end of the assessment year, Section 36 (1) EStG).

Preliminary investigation

The first section of the administrative procedure serves to clarify the facts and to determine whether and to what extent a tax occurrence event has been realized. In doing so, the taxpayer is subject to special duties to cooperate (e.g. tax declaration ) and the tax authorities are granted special rights (e.g. field audits and tax investigations ). The aim of this procedure is to provide a picture of the actual conditions that is as accurate as possible, which can also be determined by estimation if necessary .

Assessment procedure

After the tax bases have been determined, the tax is determined in the tax assessment . Equivalent to this procedure is the issuance of basic notices , which, in the case of several parties involved, serve the separate and uniform determination of tax bases as well as the determination and decomposition of tax base amounts . Tax returns by the taxpayer (e.g. advance VAT returns, income tax and capital gains tax returns) are equivalent to a tax assessment (subject to review).

Survey procedure

The established claims are realized in the survey process. As a rule, this is done through payment (e.g. tax prepayment or wage tax deduction ), through offsetting with reimbursement claims. In this context, regulations on waiver, statute of limitations as well as interest and late payment surcharge must be observed.


If payment is not made on time, the administration can use enforcement proceedings to enforce the claims arising from the tax liability relationship.

The purpose of tax collection

Taxes with a fiscal purpose

The first and main purpose of tax collection is (almost) always the generation of income that is used to cover the state budget . In the original form of the tax, the increase in state income was the only reason, but in a modern state this purpose can be suppressed and thus become a side effect. With the taxes the communitized tasks are fulfilled and u. a. realizes self-imposed goals and finances government spending . According to the tax state principle , the income generated through taxes is available, for example, to finance the following costs:

Taxes with steering purpose

Steering taxes are intended to influence behavior that is not socially desirable. For example, a high tobacco tax is trying to curb smoking, the alcopop tax is supposed to increase the price of alcopops so that abuse by young people is prevented, and the ecological tax is also supposed to encourage people to reduce energy consumption and thus pollutant emissions. On the other hand, certain - socio-politically wanted - behavior can also be promoted with tax breaks . The steering purpose is in conflict with the fiscal purpose. If the desired behavior is fully implemented, it would no longer be possible to generate tax revenue. Therefore, a steering tax does not aim at the maximum but at the optimal fulfillment of the purpose. For example, the point of an eco-tax is not to reduce environmental pollution to zero, but to achieve the level considered to be optimal.

Taxes with redistributive purposes

Taxes can be used to achieve a politically desirable redistribution in the area of income distribution or wealth distribution .

With regard to the solidarity principle , which is often demanded by socio-political demands , many countries have structured their income tax with a progression , which leads to a rising tax rate depending on the taxable income and thus increasing tax burden with increasing income.

The solidarity surcharge in Germany is also a typical example of a tax with redistributive purposes. The focus here is on general financial support for the five new federal states and thus a regional redistribution from west to east.


Due to the negative financial effects on the citizen and the limited possibilities to influence the loss of wealth, taxes and tax legislation are a constant political point of contention and frequent criticism. This criticism is essentially aimed at the points of equity and appropriateness , effectiveness (for taxes with a steering function - e.g. the ecological tax), enforceability and the general economic consequences. Different political directions lead against certain taxes - and some groups even against the tax itself - arguments, some of which are scientifically controversial. But there are also more fundamental criticisms that do not necessarily question state revenue per se, its distribution or amount, but rather the tax dominance within the tax structure, i.e. the fact that other types of public revenue (e.g. fees, donations, contributions) and civic services to the community play a subordinate role from a fiscal point of view or receive little consideration in the public discussion about public finance, despite the sometimes immense importance. What theorists of the tax state principle understand as its economic advantages (e.g. the freedom in return, the coercive nature and the normative freedom of values) can be argued as political disadvantages from the point of view of democratic fiscal theories, approaches critical of capitalism or civic public interest, taking into account that the The term "tax" (in the sense of all kinds of taxes), which is often generalized in public parlance, invites misunderstandings and public debates about possible reforms of public finances are repeatedly distorted by a multitude of unfiscal motives and arguments. The often fierce criticism leads to a lack of social acceptance of taxation and as a result can trigger an attitude of tax refusal . Possible ways to circumvent the control are the tax evasion , wherein the revenue in a low-tax country ( tax haven be moved) or as offense the tax evasion .

General criticisms

Because taxes are a state enforced levy, direct resistance to payment is only possible to a limited extent or not at all. The taxpayer's use of the funds after they have been given up can only be influenced indirectly (in the case of political elections). The tax revenue can also be used for purposes that not every individual taxpayer agrees to. For exceptions to this, see the tax law of Switzerland, which grants the electorate considerably more rights to shape and participate - in terms of the collection and use of funds - due to a different understanding of democracy.

In addition, the problem of fair taxation is repeatedly questioned critically. Not only is the social aspect of the tax burden in line with the financial or income situation disputed, but also the complexity of tax law and its multitude of exceptional circumstances, which not every citizen can exploit. Since 1995, the principle of half-division has been recognized by the highest court . According to this judgment, co-authored by Paul Kirchhof , every tax citizen was to leave at least half of his income as reasonable net earnings (after taxes). This case law was abandoned in March 2006 by the Federal Constitutional Court, which considered a tax rate of 59.9% to be still constitutional.

Economic criticisms

Depending on the political and social position, there are different approaches to economic criticism of the tax as such or of certain types of tax. It is often argued that taxes generally lead to a net welfare loss and that tax increases destroy possible economic growth (see Laffer curve ).

An economic point of criticism is the (co-) financing of inefficient state activities in addition to the necessary and appropriate state tasks.

A frequently encountered point of criticism is the potential cause of unemployment : a possible economic activity is hindered or even prevented by the tax burden because the price of the product or service becomes too high for potential buyers through taxes .

In the case of minor taxes, it should be noted that the mostly low income for the state is offset by the considerable costs of tax collection and enforcement. (See Federal Minister of Finance for 2004: 79.5% of the tax is paid by three types of tax).

Taxes are generally not neutral in terms of decisions . In Anglo-Saxon literature in particular, it is therefore often pointed out that taxes should be levied on those markets whose demand reacts inelastically to prices (see also price elasticity ). However, this principle is in contradiction to the fairness of taxation, because inelastic demanded goods are typically those that satisfy basic needs. A tax on inelastic demanded goods would therefore particularly burden the poorer sections of the population.

Another question deals with the tax incidence . When the tax is introduced, it should be clarified who bears the actual burden of the tax. The tax debtor pays the levy in accordance with the statutory guideline (payment burden ). The tax carrier bears the burden of the delivery (payload). However, the tax payer is not to be equated with the tax payer, since the tax payer can pass the tax burden on to the tax payer when the tax is passed on. Whether this is successful depends on the type of market , the type of tax ( quantity tax , value tax ) and the price elasticity of supply and demand.

Ecological criticisms

In this criticism category, there are often arguments for higher taxation. In particular, the taxation of the consumption of energy and energy sources is insufficient. The basis of this criticism is the polluter pays principle: Whoever pollutes a shared environment, the community has to compensate for this pollution.

If taxation is too high, the economy suffers. If it is too low, then the economy takes credit for subsequent generations who are unable to consent. Price formation in a “market” is made more difficult by the fact that tomorrow's market participants are not involved in today's price formation. This also applies to other markets, but the market for entropy production is fundamentally characterized by irreversibility in an environment that is thermodynamically only limitedly open . Therefore, subsequent generations have no possibility of quick correction .

Due to the nature of a shared global environment, the situation is made even more complicated by the fact that certain tax areas (especially highly industrialized countries) also pollute the environment that is far beyond their borders. The differences between states in the taxation of environmental pollution enable companies to avail themselves of the community environment by relocating or outsourcing without paying for it.

The direct coupling of taxation to the consumption of energy sources enables, in principle, a very high level of tax equity. That is why critics of taxation on the environment that are too low are also calling for consistent taxation of fuel for aircraft. The counter-argument is that, for example, a kerosene tax would harm the economy, especially in global competition. However, since energy prices are market prices, low or no taxation of energy consumption does not protect the consumer from high energy costs.

The ecological perspective also makes it clear that, on the one hand, taxpayers are against a distribution of part of their income to the community, but on the other hand they consider it justified to claim the resources of the community without directly measurable consideration. Ecological approaches are fundamentally system-analytical: A strictly ecological system approach helps to develop an understanding of tax payments and to quantitatively determine the relationship between resource use and compensation. Whoever claims the resources of the community has to compensate the community for them.

Criticism of the "income tax state"

Capital is far more mobile than income taxpayers. As a result, in many countries taxation is based primarily on income payers and their incomes, usually as withholding tax . Critics see this as a triumph of the feasibility principle over the principle of justice. The organized community in the state would give up the persecution of tax evaders and mobile capital and just stick to those who are less mobile. As an antidote, for example, critics recommend taxing capital flows with a Tobin tax .

Taxes in an international comparison

Since the end of the 1980s there has been a slight tendency towards indirect taxation in various European countries. Although a systematic abolition of direct taxes is not evident, the reforms of the past few years have mostly aimed at increasing the tax rates for consumption taxes in favor of a reduction in the tax burden in the income tax area. Ultimately, the shifts are aimed at the hope that performance incentives will be offered to encourage investment and job creation. The tax rates have been reduced and the assessment basis broadened, recently also in Germany.

In the future, too, direct taxes will occupy a central place in the tax system, because consumption taxation is not fundamentally superior to income taxation, especially for reasons of welfare state considerations.

European tax law

Through the Treaty on European Union with the defined goal of a European union of states, European law has an ever increasing impact on national tax legislation, through the specification of guidelines and the case law of the European Court of Justice . By specifying guidelines , tax law is to be continuously harmonized at national level, i.e. adapted to one another. In the area of ​​direct taxes, the directives on the free movement of workers , the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services as well as the free movement of capital ensure equal tax treatment of EU citizens in different member states. Above all, however, the claim to harmonization is directed towards indirect taxes. In particular, sales tax law has been harmonized across Europe through the 6th Directive on the common VAT system and only allows for deviations in the tax rate and input tax deduction .

Tax law in Germany

Tax law in Germany is prescribed by the Basic Law : Art. 104a ff. GG stipulates

German tax law is considered complicated and intransparent, which is why many see it as unjust. Numerous exceptions and special regulations make the application of the law difficult, encourage complex arrangements and require a high level of consulting effort.

Tax law in Austria

For historical reasons, Austrian tax law is similar to German tax law. The noticeable differences include:

  • In Austria, a municipal tax has been levied since 1994 in place of the abolished trade tax .
  • The social security contributions of an employee count towards the advertising expenses and not - as in Germany - towards the limited deductible special expenses .
  • The basic tax-free allowance per taxpayer - i.e. the subsistence level to be left free of income tax - is significantly higher in Austria at € 11,000 (2010) than in Germany (from 2018: € 9,000). The top tax rate of 50% has been levied in Austria since 2016 for parts of income over € 90,000 per year, a similarly high percentage (including solidarity surcharge) is only due in Germany from € 250,400.
  • In the case of employed persons, the mandatory Austrian 13th and 14th monthly salary (holiday and Christmas bonus, annual sixth ) is taxed at a flat rate of 6%, which significantly lowers the average tax rate.

Tax law in Switzerland

Swiss tax law is shaped by the federal state structure. Switzerland has formally harmonized direct taxes, which means that very few cantons fundamentally differ from one another. Material harmonization is still unpopular in Switzerland, which means that Switzerland has a tax-friendly climate, especially for the very rich and companies.

The Tax Harmonization Act (StHG for short) has been in force since 2001, but its purpose is limited to the formal tax harmonization of the 26 different cantonal tax laws. No material tax harmonization is currently being sought and so there is still strong tax competition among the cantons, which means that each canton has its own tax law on income and assets. In addition, there is a derived tax sovereignty at the municipal level.

The most important tax revenues for the cantons and municipalities are income and wealth taxes for natural persons and profit and capital taxes for legal entities (around 90% of total tax revenues). The Confederation also taxes income or profit, but less than the cantons. The federal government, however, has no wealth or capital tax. The federal government generates the highest income with consumption taxes, primarily with value added tax.

It is difficult to compare the income tax burden in Switzerland with other countries because there are cantons with very low tax rates ( canton Uri , canton Obwalden , canton Zug , canton Schwyz ) and cantons with very high tax rates ( canton Geneva , canton Vaud ).

The most important taxes in an international comparison

The tax competition is often used as an argument of national states saw to cut corporate tax rates competing with each other in order to make their own location more attractive. In addition to other decision-making factors (infrastructure, level of training of employees, bureaucratic obstacles, possible subsidies ), the question of taxation in globalization is an important criterion when making a decision for or against a location.

Nominal tax rates

To compare the tax burden in different countries, there are different approaches and the nominal tax rates have a signal function. The nominal tax burden is fairly easy to determine, but comparing it does not take into account the tax base.

The following table gives an overview of the corporate tax rates and the tax treatment of distributions by shareholders (as of 2005)

Country Tax rate of the corporation tax Special features of the corporation Type of taxation for the shareholder Special features of the shareholder
Germany 15% 16.375% including SolZ 25% capital gains tax: Shareholder = private person: as final withholding tax; Shareholder = trader: as credit tax with ultimately partial income taxation; Shareholder = corporation: as credit tax with final tax exemption; Partial income method
France 33.83% 34.94% for companies with> € 7.63 million turnover 25% capital gains tax as credit tax Half income method
Italy 33% at least 34.4% including surcharge taxes 12.5% ​​definitive capital gains tax Dividends are subject to the progression proviso
Austria 25% 25% definitive capital gains tax Option for assessment according to half-rate method possible
Switzerland 8.5% (excluding cantonal taxes) 16.5% -29.2% (including cantonal taxes; depending on the canton) Capital gains tax as income tax (progressive) Partial rate or partial taxation procedure
United States 35% Discounted tariff for incomes up to $ 100,000 15% as definitive withholding tax

In addition, the following table gives an overview of the total nominal corporate tax burden (as of 2005). The total burden results from the fact that the tax payments can often be claimed as business expenses and thus reduce the total tax burden.

Country Central government tax rate particularities Tax rate for the following local authorities particularities nominal total load
Germany 26.375% incl. SolZ 16.7% flat rate trade tax 38.7%
France 34.9% 33.83% for companies with a turnover of up to € 7.63 million 0 34.9%
Italy 33% 4.3% flat rate of surcharge taxes 37.3%
Austria 25% 0 25%
Switzerland 8.5% different approaches that cannot be shown with a direct percentage, as a different rate and tax rate is used for each municipality / canton. Flat-rate approach for cantonal taxes, partial taxation of dividends 24.1%
United States 35% Discounted tariff for incomes up to $ 100,000 7.5% blanket approach using the example of New York 39.9%


International comparisons of tax systems are difficult and only meaningful to a limited extent. The actual tax burden results from the interaction of the tax base, tax exemptions and tax rate. The national tax comparisons made on the basis of effective average tax rates are useful as a first point of reference, but do not take into account loss compensation regulations and the wage tax levied in many countries and are therefore only of limited use. For each individual case, a real tax burden comparison is only possible using a detailed model calculation that takes into account all individual requirements.

See also


  • Stefan Homburg General Taxation , 7th edition Verlag Vahlen, Munich, ISBN 978-3-8006-4922-8 .
  • Sebastian Huhnholz: The tax of the tax state . In: Verena Frick, Oliver W. Lembcke, Roland Lhotta (Eds.): Politics and Law. Nomos-Verlag, Baden-Baden 2017, pp. 453–472.
  • Sebastian Huhnholz: Refeudalization of the tax state? Preliminary considerations for a political theory of tax democracy. In Sigrid Boysen u. a. (Ed.): Constitution and Distribution. Contributions to a basic question of the understanding of the constitution. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2015, pp. 175–216.
  • Wilhelm H. Wacker, Sabine Seibold, Markus Oblau: Lexicon of taxes. Over 1000 keywords for practice and study. Verlag DTV-Beck, 2005, ISBN 3-423-05882-X .
  • Klaus Tipke , Joachim Lang , Roman Seer: Tax Law. 19th edition Verlag Schmidt (Otto), Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-504-20141-8 .
  • Carl Gerber: Deferral and remission of taxes. 5th edition. Boorberg, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-415-03547-6 .
  • Hanno Beck , Aloys Prinz: order for payment. Of murder taxes, carousel deals and millionaire oases. Hanser Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-446-42343-5 .
  • Daniel Dürrschmidt: "European Tax Law" after Lisbon , NJW 2010, 2086

Web links

Wiktionary: Tax  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations




Individual evidence

  1. in Germany legal definition according to § 3 of the tax code
  2. UN investigation: Germans love to pay taxes . In: Spiegel Online . January 3, 2019 ( [accessed January 19, 2019]).
  3. cf. S. Hähnchen: Rechtsgeschichte 4th edition, margin no. 319 ff.
  4. Stefan Homburg: General Taxation . 7th edition. Vahlen, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-8006-4922-8 , pp. 30 .
  5. Tax Museum Brühl: Airspace usage fee Newspaper article by Martin Ebner, first publication: d'Lëtzebuerger Land, May 16, 2003
  6. Latin-German school dictionary, FA Heinichen, Leipzig (1897): professio , professiones 'official statement of assets' or 'official statement of income'
  7. Licinius on:
  8. ^ Cassius Dio : Roman History , 52-21
  9. Presumably, the division of the year into 10 months was changed to 12 months. (Ginzel, Friedrich Karl: Handbook of mathematical and technical chronology; the time calculation system of the peoples , 1914)
  10. Volker Pribnow: The justification of government tax and church tithe levying with Huldrich Zwingli. (=  Zurich studies on legal history. Volume 34). (Zugl .: Zurich, Univ. , Diss., See a.) Schulthess Polygraphischer Verlag, Zurich 1996, ISBN 3-7255-3501-9 , pp. 31–32.
  11. Hans-Peter Ullmann, Der deutsche Steuerstaat, Verlag CH Beck, original edition, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-51135-X , p. 43f
  12. BVerfG, decision of February 22, 1984, Az. 1 BvL 10/80, BVerfGE 66, 214 , 223.
  13. Stefan Homburg: General Taxation . 7th edition. Vahlen, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-8006-4922-8 , pp. 5 .
  14. See e.g. B. Peter Sloterdijk: The taking hand and the giving side . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2010. Furthermore Ute Sacksofsky, Joachim Wieland (eds.): From the tax state to the fee state. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2000; Ulrich K. Preuß: Rule of law - tax state - welfare state. A sketch of the problem. In: Dieter Deiseroth u. a. (Ed.): Power of order? About the relationship between legality, consensus and rule. Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt am Main 1981, pp. 46–68; Sebastian Huhnholz, The Tax of the Tax State . In Verena Frick, Oliver Lembcke , Roland Lhotta (eds.): Politics and Law , Nomos-Verlag, Baden-Baden 2017, pp. 453–472.
  15. See e.g. B. Jan Rehmann , Thomas Wagner (Ed.): “Attack of the service providers?” The book on the Sloterdijk debate . Argument-Verlag, Hamburg 2010.