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Wealthy Germans launch petition for higher taxes

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Members of the initiative with fake notes symbolising Germany's debt. Photo: DPA
15:24 CEST+02:00
Some rich Germans have launched a web petition to call for the resumption of a wealth tax to help the country bounce back from an economic crisis, because, as one said, he had "a lot of money I do not need."

The text, posted at www.appell-vermoegensabgabe.de, has been signed by 44 people who want to convince the government of newly re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel to raise their taxes.

For retired doctor Dieter Lehmkuhl, 66, it is time the wealthy came to the aid of their country. He reckons that if the 2.2 million Germans who have personal fortunes of more than €500,000 ($750,000) paid a tax of five percent this year and next, it would provide the state with €100 billion.

Lehmkuhl got the idea when Berlin stumped up billions of euros to save banks and give the recession-hit economy a boost.

"It made me mad to think that we suddenly found all this money for the banks, money that we did not have before for urgent programmes like education and the environment," the left of centre weekly Die Zeit quoted him as saying.

The former doctor would like Germany to have its own version of the the US group United for a Fair Economy (UFA), which includes around 700 wealthy US residents, according to the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.

His plan would see a five percent tax for two years to fund specific projects followed by a reduction to one percent, the level of the tax when it was abandoned in 1997. Germany still slaps a 25 percent levy on capital gains.

One signer, 69-year-old Peter Vollmer told AFP he backed the petition because he had inherited "a lot of money I do not need."

Following her September 27 election victory, Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrats are currently locked in talks hammering out a common programme with their new partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

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The FDP promised €35 billion in tax cuts in its election campaign, but with Germany's public finances shot to bits by the recession, Merkel's party is wary of agreeing to such reductions.

On Wednesday, Lehmkuhl, Vollmer and a few friends held a rally in the Tiergarten park in central Berlin, throwing fake banknotes into the air for photographers in what they called a bid to provoke discussion of the idea.

"It's really strange that so few people came," Vollmer said.

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