Court orders €3-billion payout for commuters

Germany will reimburse €3.0 billion ($3.9 billion) to taxpayers in coming months following a ruling by the country's highest court deeming a trimmed tax break for commuters unconstitutional.

Court orders €3-billion payout for commuters
Photo: DPA

The court in Karlsruhe ruled capping the Pendlerpauschale tax credit granted to people who travel between their homes and workplace in early 2007 violated the country’s Basic Law.

The decision will force the government to revert to the former tax regime starting in January and to reimburse the money taken in last year totalling some €3.0 billion. The Finance Minstry said the decision would leave the public finances short by €7.5 billion from 2007 through 2009.

Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück disagreed with the court’s decision but added that “the reimbursement should be made as quickly as possible … to give consumption an added push.” He said some 20 million people who paid too much in taxes should get a refund by the end of March.

The refund comes amid a debate over how to reigite Europe’s biggest economy, which has fallen into recession.

“I consider it absolutely essential that we reimburse the money directly to the people, given the current economic situation,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Warsaw on Tuesday.

The German automobile manufacturers association VDA and trade unions also quickly hailed the court ruling.

According to the Finance Ministry, a full-time worker who lives at least 20 kilometers from their workplace should receive an average payment of €350 early next year. But the decision “should not please those who had hoped for an overall reduction in tax rates, because we will not be able to do both,” warned Steffan Kampeter, public finance expert for the conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group.

Green groups criticised the ruling, because the tax break “leads to more automobile traffic and a scattering of habitations” that harm the environment, said Michael Gehrmann, head of the environmentally-oriented car owners’ association VCD.


Woman on trial over killing spree at Potsdam care home

The trial began on Tuesday of a woman accused of stabbing four residents to death and severely injuring another at a German care home for disabled people where she worked outside Berlin.

Tributes laid where four people were killed at a care home in Potsdam.
Tributes laid where four people were killed at a care home in Potsdam. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Soeren Stache

Named as Ines Andrea R., the 52-year-old suspect is charged with four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder following the bloodbath at the Thusnelda-von-Saldern-Haus facility in Potsdam, Brandenburg, in April.

The victims, two women and two men aged between 31 and 56, were found dead in their rooms after being stabbed with a knife, with police saying they had been subjected to “intense, extreme violence”.

Ines Andrea R. is also accused of trying to kill two further residents and of seriously injuring another, a woman aged 43.

She was detained immediately after the incident and placed in urgent psychiatric care due to what prosecutors described as “pertinent evidence” of severe mental illness.

Around 100 police officers were involved in recovering evidence at the scene.

READ ALSO: Women in custody over killings at Potsdam disabled home

The Thusnelda-von-Saldern-Haus, run by the Lutheran Church’s social welfare service, specialises in helping those with physical and mental disabilities, including blind, deaf and severely autistic patients.

It offers live-in care as well as schools and workshops.

Around 65 people live at the residence, which employs more than 80 people.

Germany has seen a number of high-profile murder cases from care facilities.

In the most prominent trial, nurse Niels Högel was sentenced in 2019 to life in prison for murdering 85 patients in his care.

READ ALSO: Missed chances: How Germany’s killer nurse got away with 85 murders

Högel, believed to be Germany’s most prolific serial killer, murdered patients with lethal injections between 2000 and 2005, before he was eventually caught in the act.

Last year, a Polish healthcare worker was sentenced to life in prison in Munich for killing at least three people with insulin.