Amnesty for Berlin tax dodgers

Berliners who have evaded taxes will not be punished if they confess to the authorities, the regional government has said.

Kristina Tscenett, spokeswoman for Thilo Sarrazin (SPD), Berlin Senator for Finance, told Berliner Morgenpost on Wednesday that people who admit to the tax evasion before being discovered by the authorities could escape penalties.

The decision to grant an amnesty to tax dodgers comes after Deutsche Post CEO Klaus Zumwinkel resigned over accusations that he dodged taxes by hiding income in secret bank accounts in Liechtenstein. More high-earning Germans are now expected to be revealed as tax evaders.

In order to be eligible for the amnesty, a tax evader must confess before being discovered. It might already be too late for some – a CD obtained by the German secret service from a former employee of Liechtenstein’s LGT bank is reported to contain the names of a large number of tax dodgers.

While the amnesty might save time for the police, ordinary Germans are keen to see tax evaders brought to book.

In a survey carried out by Stern magazine, 63 percent of those polled believe that people who are guilty of hiding more than €1 million for the purpose of tax evasion should go to jail. Around 32 percent rejected the idea of laws against people who commit tax violations.

Berlin’s laws against tax violations were tightened at the beginning of the year. The city has created six new positions for judges who only deal with financial crimes. In 2006, there were approximately 4,000 cases of tax evasion in Berlin.