Court rules ‘reunification tax’ unconstitutional

In a ruling with potentially wide-ranging fiscal consequences, a court in the state of Lower Saxony on Wednesday ruled a long-standing “solidarity tax” to help fund German reunification was unconstitutional.

Court rules ‘reunification tax’ unconstitutional
Photo: DPA

Judge Georgia Gascard ruled in favour of a plaintiff suing against paying €1,000 for the Solidaritätszuschlag on top of his 2007 income taxes. He argued the surcharge meant to fund the reconstruction of Germany’s formerly communist eastern half was never meant to be levied indefinitely.

The costs for German reunification “is a long-term necessity that cannot be covered by levying a supplementary tax,” which Gascard said was allowed only temporarily according to a legislative procedure from 1954.

The judge has referred the case to Germany’s highest court in Karlsruhe for ruling on the fundamental constitutionality of the Soli, which was first introduced in 1991 shortly after reunification. Should the Constitutional Court confirm Wednesday’s ruling, the government could face a gaping hole in its budget.

After several incarnations in the 1990s, the special tax has been set since 1998 at 5.5 percent of income taxes, capital gains and corporate taxes. A direct tax, it brings in roughly €12 billion each year for the federal government. However, the funds do not necessary support reconstruction efforts in eastern Germany, exposing it to criticism from taxpayer groups.

“It’s unthinkable to me that a supplementary tax can become a permanent tax,” said Karl Heinz Däke, the president of the German Taxpayers Association. “The decision today makes it hard for politicians to levy other special taxes.”

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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.