Wealth tax

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The wealth tax is a tax on the total wealth of a taxpayer. Your assessment base usually includes the net worth remaining after deducting the debts .

Historical development

Property taxes were already levied in antiquity , for example in the Roman Empire and Athens ; however, they served temporary purposes such as war financing. In Germany , property taxes were mainly levied on property until the late Middle Ages ; these taxes corresponded more to today's property tax . A wealth tax on total wealth was first introduced in Germany in 1893 by the Prussian Supplementary Tax Act. In the meantime, however, the wealth tax is considered to be an "obsolete model"; of the 36 OECD countries, only 4 had a general wealth tax in 2017 (in 1990 there were 12 countries).

Wealth tax in Germany

In Germany the wealth tax was a date-related substance control , as calculated by the value of net assets (total assets less total liabilities) of the taxpayer. The assessment base included real estate, savings, securities and life insurance, as well as tangible assets such as motor vehicles, household items or works of art. Both natural and legal persons were liable for tax . Natural persons received an allowance of 120,000 DM or the equivalent of around 60,000 euros in accordance with Section 6 (1) VSt.

The wealth tax was last levied in 1996 , in that year it generated tax revenue of around DM 9 billion  . The federal states were entitled to the wealth tax as state tax ( Article 106, Paragraph 2, No. 1 of the Basic Law ). In 1995 the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a different tax burden on real estate and other assets with wealth tax was not compatible with the principle of equality ( Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law). In the deliberations on the 1997 Annual Tax Act, the Federal Government at the time stated that there was no constitutional obligation to abolish the wealth tax, but since then the wealth tax has no longer been levied with effect from 1997, although the wealth tax law is still in force.

For the wealth tax in the GDR see wealth tax (DDR) .

Property tax in Austria

In Austria there was a wealth tax on net wealth until 1993. The income from this amounted to € 511 million in 1990, which was 1% of the total tax revenue. Most of the tax payers were companies. Since the wealth tax primarily hit companies and not wealthy private individuals - protected by banking secrecy - it was abolished in 1993 on the initiative of the social democratic finance minister Ferdinand Lacina. Instead, Lacina planned a reform of the basic taxation and inheritance taxation, but this did not materialize. The inheritance tax in Austria was further lifted by 2008.

Criticism of the wealth tax

From a tax science perspective, the collection of a wealth tax is rejected with the following arguments, among others:

  • The wealth tax is similar to the income tax. Since interest and similar investment income are already charged by income tax, wealth tax creates a double burden.
  • While income tax affects actual income, wealth tax affects target income. If the actual yield falls short of the target yield, over-taxation occurs.
  • Of all taxes, the wealth tax generates the highest administrative cost because valuations are difficult. If the political goal is to burden capital income more heavily, the legislature can increase the capital income tax instead of introducing another tax with the wealth tax.
  • The wealth tax would treat individuals unequally if it excludes the pension claims of civil servants and employees, but includes the old-age savings of the self-employed in the case of low tax exemptions.
  • If the legislature defines the tax base narrowly, the taxpayers evade by z. B. Buy paintings and other works of art. On the other hand, a broad assessment basis requires deep penetration into the private sphere in order to discover “Picasso in the bedroom”, for example.

Arguments for the wealth tax

From a legal point of view, the collection of a wealth tax is supported by the following arguments, among others:

  • The wealth tax corresponds to the ability to pay principle , as it is stipulated in the case of Germany in the Basic Law (Art. 3 Abs. 1 GG). Wealth fulfills functions (such as security, independence, economic and social influence) that justify an independent tax performance of the wealth.
  • In the opinion of the BFH it does not violate the Basic Law if, in the sense of double taxation, corporate assets are taxed on the one hand at the level of the corporation and on the other hand at the level of the shareholders. A constitutional complaint filed following this ruling was rejected by the BVerfG , as the legal form of a corporation has special advantages for the shareholders, which justify a tax burden that goes beyond the taxation of the assets of the corporation.
  • The wealth tax has a socio-political task. From a legal point of view, this function of the wealth tax is justified by its ability to implement the welfare state principle . Since, according to Thomas Piketty and the union-related Institute for Macroeconomics and Business Cycle Research, the incomes of the wealthy tend to be above average, a reformed wealth tax could at least slow down wealth concentration. A study by the International Monetary Fund from 2015 explicitly refers to the wealth tax as a measure against inequality. For example, “the redistributive role of financial policy can be strengthened by a greater reliance on property and property taxes”.
  • According to Joachim Wieland , the wealth tax can make a contribution to reducing national debt as part of an income-oriented budget policy. The German tax level is at a similar level as in Switzerland or the USA, although Germany provided additional services with reunification and the euro rescue. From the point of view of the DSTG, high assets in particular would have benefited in a special way from state protective measures during the euro rescue and the 2008/2009 financial crisis .

From an economic point of view, the collection of a wealth tax is supported by the following arguments, among others:

  • The administration costs for wealth tax are not abnormally high. The researchers at the German Institute for Economic Research calculated in 2016 that a tax revenue of ten to twenty billion euros per year would be possible. The collection costs would be at the same level as for income tax.
  • Insurance credits, insofar as they relate to company or private pension schemes, can be assumed to be potentially non-taxable. Pension assets would not be part of a tax base. In an expert report from 2013, the " five economic modes " also assumed an exception rule.

Net wealth tax in France

In France there has been a wealth tax since 1982, but only on private assets, not on business assets . Prime Minister Jacques Chirac abolished it from 1986 to 1988. It has contributed to the emigration of wealthy taxpayers, particularly to Belgium and Switzerland. In autumn 2012, the wealth tax was sharply increased by the socialist government under President François Hollande . The tax now applies to assets of 800,000 euros or more, previously the threshold was 1.3 million euros. The basic tax rate was increased to 0.55%; with a fortune of z. B. 4 million euros, 95,500 euros (approx. 2.4%) tax will be charged.

Emmanuel Macron , President since May 2017, initiated the conversion of the tax into a pure real estate tax. Wealth taxation is expected to drop by more than 3 billion euros.

Other states

In the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland (only at cantonal and communal level), Norway, India and Liechtenstein, wealth taxes exist to different degrees. In Japan, property taxes are levied at the municipal level based on a 1950 law, but this only applies to real estate and depreciable business assets.

Belgium, Lithuania and the United Kingdom have no wealth tax in their history. There is also no general wealth tax in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Australia. This also applies to Canada and the USA, even if individual there assets Land as in one of the German Tax resembling method of taxation.

Wealth taxes have been abolished in Ireland (survey until 1977), Austria (survey until 1993), Italy (survey on the net worth of companies until 1995), Denmark (survey until 1995), Finland (survey until 2005), Iceland (survey until 2005) and Sweden (survey until 2006). In Luxembourg there was a wealth tax for natural persons only until 2005, but a tax on the net worth of legal persons is still levied.

In the United States, wealth tax has been abolished almost everywhere. Only in some states and counties (districts) is it still formally. The entire wealth-related tax revenue in the USA was fed almost exclusively from the US property tax, which is incidentally the second most important individual tax there.

Greece led 1997 a property tax, which, however, essentially only real property concerns, and therefore more in line with the German property tax. Hungary introduced a wealth tax on residential property and certain luxury goods with effect from 2010. However, real estate taxation was not implemented due to a ruling by the Constitutional Court.

Wealth-related taxes

International, such as the OECD , the applicable property tax , vehicle tax , tax on business capital , second home tax , dog tax , inheritance tax and gift tax as asset-related taxes.


These wealth-related taxes make a significantly below-average contribution to tax revenue in Germany in an OECD comparison. According to the German Institute for Economic Research , they only generate 0.9% of GDP in Germany . This is almost half the average for the major industrialized countries.

According to Stefan Bach , Deputy Head of the State Department of the German Institute for Economic Research , wealth- related taxes (in particular inheritance tax and property tax ), which are tailored to the particularly rich, could generate around 15 billion euros annually without major economic disadvantages for Germany ( capital flight or similar) would arise. That is around 9 billion euros more than an increase in the top tax rate to 49% (currently approx. 45%) from an annual taxable income of 60,000 euros (currently from 250 401).

International comparison

In an international comparison, Germany and Austria levy very low wealth-related taxes according to OECD figures (2008). By contrast , in the UK , which has a high property tax , wealth taxes are over 4% of GDP. It should be noted, however, that this relatively high percentage also includes UK stamp duty revenue on stock deals. However, wealth and gift taxes do not exist in the UK.

The wealth-related taxes are mostly due to the local authorities (municipalities, regions). Often these corporations can also set the tax rates themselves.

In billions of euros Share of total tax revenue Share of GDP
In relation to the assets of natural persons:
United States 3.1%
Switzerland 2.6 2.7% 1.0%
Luxembourg 0.2 1.8% 0.7%
Austria 1.5 0.6%
Norway 0.9 1.2% 0.5%
Iceland 0.3 1.1% 0.4%
Sweden 0.9 0.7% 0.4%
France 2.4 0.4% 0.2%
Finland 0.2 0.3% 0.1%
In relation to the assets of legal persons:
Luxembourg 0.5 5.5% 2.3%
Iceland 0.3 1.0% 0.4%
Switzerland 1.3 0.9% 0.3%
When interpreting OECD statistics, it should be noted that the tax burden is often given as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Since the wealth in these countries is generally greater than the GDP, in Germany z. B. about 4 times as large, the percentage burden on the assets is generally significantly lower.

Web links

Wiktionary: wealth tax  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. UNRV.com - Taxes in the Roman Empire
  2. Winfried Schmitz: Eisphora. In: Hubert Cancik, Helmuth Schneider (Ed.): Brill's New Pauly. Antiquity volumes. Brill Online, 2013.
  3. Joachim Wieland: Legal framework for a reintroduction of the wealth tax. November 2003, p. 3 ff.
  4. Johannes Ritter, Zurich: Debate on wealth tax: This is how the original works in Switzerland . ISSN  0174-4909 ( faz.net [accessed September 6, 2019]).
  5. BT-Drs. 13/5975
  6. BVerfG, decision of June 22, 1995, Az. 2 BvL 37/91, BVerfGE 93, 121 - Unit values II.
  7. ↑ Wealth Tax Act
  8. ^ RIS - Property Tax Act 1954 - Federal Law Consolidated, Version of 08/28/1992. Retrieved August 28, 2019 .
  9. ^ Karl Goldberg: The development of wealth-related taxes in Austria . In: Advisory Board for Social, Economic and Environmental Political Alternatives (Ed.): Change of course . No. 3 , 2008.
  10. Oliver Pink: Lacina: "I consider wealth tax as it was then to be completely wrong". In: diepresse.com. November 14, 2014, accessed August 28, 2019 .
  11. ^ Stefan Homburg General Taxation , 7th edition Verlag Vahlen 2015, ISBN 978-3-8006-4922-8 , p. 131 ff.
  12. ^ Scientific Service of the German Bundestag, Department 4: Budget and Finance: Questions about wealth tax, justification and special problems . Ed .: German Bundestag. September 28, 2011 ( bundestag.de [PDF]).
  13. Capital in the 21st Century (translated by Ilse Utz and Stefan Lorenzer), Beck, Munich 2014.
  14. Gustav Horn, Jan Behringer, Sebastian Gechert, Katja Rietzler, Ulrike Stein: What can be done against inequality? (PDF) Institute for Macroeconomics and Business Cycle Research, 2017, p. 16 , accessed on June 5, 2018 .
  15. Era Dabla-Norris, Kalpana Kochhar, Nujin Suphaphiphat, Frantisek Ricka, Evridiki Tsounta: Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective . Ed .: International Monetary Fund. June 2015 ( imf.org [PDF]): "Fiscal policy already plays a significant role in addressing income inequality in many advanced economies, but the redistributive role of fiscal policy could be reinforced by greater reliance on wealth and property taxes .."
  16. Joachim Wieland: fair taxation instead of national debt | APuZ. Retrieved June 14, 2020 .
  17. DSTG (Ed.): Decision of the 18th Tax Union Day on 21./22. June 2017, lead application No. I: Tax policy and tax enforcement . ( dstg.de [PDF]).
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  19. ^ Stefan Bach, Bernd Bartholmai: Perspectives on wealth taxation in Germany . Ed .: DIW. Berlin October 2002 ( diw.de [PDF]).
  20. Advisory Board for the Assessment of Overall Economic Development: Wealth Tax and Top Tax Rate of Income Tax . ( sachverstaendigenrat-wirtschaft.de [PDF]).
  21. a b FAZ.net October 19, 2017 / Christian Schubert: State funeral for the French wealth tax
  22. ^ Eric Pichet: The Economic Consequences of the French Wealth Tax. In: La Revue de Droit Fiscal. Vol. 14, p. 5, April 2007.
  23. ^ French socialists cash in on millionaires . Zeit Online , July 20, 2012
  24. The wealthy are asked to pay. on: faz.net , July 18, 2012
  25. Vermogens Rendementheffing
  26. Impuesto sobre el patrimonio
  27. Manfred Schäfers: The tax zombie. on: faz.net , September 20, 2011.
  28. ^ Claudia Ossola-Haring, Winfried Ruh: Growth market India: The investment manual for companies and their consultants. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-486-58573-5 , p. 195.
  29. Liechtenstein Statistical Yearbook 2017 , p. 336.
  30. wealth tax . Entry in the universal lexicon .
  31. ^ Anna Rosinus: Asset Deconcentration and Employee Capital Participation Act. (= Socio-economic writings. Volume 38). Verlag Peter Lang, 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-59351-6 , p. 177, table 33.
  32. a b Matthias Warneke: Ten arguments against the property tax. (PDF; 303 kB), September 27, 2012.
  33. Wealth taxation - opportunities, risks and design options (PDF; 264 kB), Margit Schratzenstaller , expertise on behalf of the Economic and Social Policy Department of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, p. 34, footnote 29.
  34. OECD page
  35. ^ Spiegel Economy
  36. diw.de (PDF)
  37. gesetze-im-internet.de
  38. ^ Inheritance and wealth taxes ( memo of November 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) on the OECD website
  39. diw-berlin.de (PDF)