Insurer deducted €83,000-orgy from taxes

A notorious Budapest sex party hosted by a German insurance company for its top employees was reportedly used as a €83,000 tax write-off by the company.

Insurer deducted €83,000-orgy from taxes
Photo: DPA

Die Welt newspaper reported on Sunday that the Hamburg-Mannheimer insurance firm considered the hefty sum fully tax deductible.

Ergo, the insurer’s parent company, told the paper the orgy had been considered a “normal event” for which the costs were marked as regular operating expenses.

“The bill has been treated entirely as a business expense,” said an Ergo spokesman.

“According to our assessment, this was in full accordance with tax law,” he added. “But we continue to explore the possibility of a different conclusion, and how we can rectify the matter.”

Earlier this month, revelations surfaced that Hamburg-Mannheimer had sponsored a 2007 sex party for its top 100 employees at the historic Gellert thermal baths in Budapest, for which twenty prostitutes were in attendance.

Participants told the German media that the most attractive women were marked with white ribbons and reserved for the company’s board members and top sales people.

According to Die Welt, it is common for German company executives to charge brothel visits as a business expense, and there are many ways to prevent details appearing on the bill.

Some prostitutes are paid as multilingual hostesses, according to tax inspectors, while hotels in some countries simply include sex services in the cost of a room.

“Look at the official prices in hotels, and compare them to what you actually pay,” said an inspector at a regional tax office, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“There is plenty of room for ‘special services’ to be included in the cost of a room. We have way chance to prove this.”

Receipts from the orgy in Budapest make no reference to specific services, the Ergo spokesman said.

“According to our records, there is no detailed evidence for the services of 20 prostitutes,” he told the paper.

The burden on the German taxpayer for the sex party in Budapest was lessened only slightly by the fact that each of the approximately 100 participants were forced to pay tax on €3,000 in benefits having cash value.

But in most cases, companies deduct most expenses on business trips, resulting in taxpayers footing the bill for their escapades.

Tax deductions for prostitution is not clearly defined in Germany, according to Die Welt, though most tax experts conclude that brothel services are not a valid write-off. This means that if a client requests that an event agency exclude incriminating itemizations from invoice, it would qualify as tax fraud.

The sex party in Budapest was reportedly organized by the event agency EMEC, based in the Bavarian city of Türkheim. But an EMEC executive, Robert Ackerman, refused to take responsibility for the prostitutes.

“We had nothing to do with the prostitutes at the Gellert spa,“ Ackerman told Die Welt.

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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Germany is known for having some of the world’s strictest gun laws, but shooting incidents continue to cause concern.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about gun laws in Germany

Is it difficult to get a gun in Germany?

To get a gun in Germany you firstly have to obtain a firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte) – and you may need a different one for each weapon you buy – or a license to carry (Waffenschein).

Applicants for a license must be at least 18-years-old and undergo what’s called a reliability check. This includes checking for criminal records, whether the person is an alcohol or drug addict, whether they have a mental illness or any other attributes that might make them owning a gun a potential concern for authorities.

They also have to pass a “specialised knowledge test” on guns and people younger than 25 applying for their first license must go through a psychiatric evaluation.

Crucially, applicants must also prove a specific and approved “need“ for the weapon, which is mainly limited to use by hunters, competitive marksmen, collectors and security workers – not for self-defence.

Once you have a license, you’re also limited in the number of and kinds of guns you may own, depending on what kind of license you have: Fully automatic weapons are banned for everyone, while semiautomatic firearms are banned for anything other than hunting or competitive shooting.

A revolver lies on an application for the issuance of a firearms license. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

How many legal guns are there in Germany? 

According to the latest figures from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, as of May 31st, 2022, there were 5.018,963 registered guns in Germany, and 946,546 gun owners entered in the National Weapons Register (NWR).

Where are the most guns in Germany?

Most legal guns are found in rural areas and are used in hunting or shooting sports. Guns are also more widespread in the western States than in the states that make up the former East Germany, where private gun ownership was extremely limited. 

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

What about undocumented guns in Germany?

One problem in Germany is so-called ‘old’ weapons. It’s impossible to estimate how many weapons from the two world wars are still in circulation and such antiques have appeared in a number of high-profile incidents in the last few years.

The pistol hidden in a Vienna airport by Bundeswehr officer Franco A was a Unique pistol from 1917 and the 2007 murder of a police officer in Heilbronn involved a Wehrmacht pistol. 

In 2009, around 200,000 weapons were returned in a gun amnesty, but it is still unclear how many illegal weapons are still out there.

Does Germany have a gun violence problem?

Gun crime is relatively rare in Germany, which has some of the strictest gun laws in Europe and, according to the latest figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), gun-related crimes in Germany are decreasing.

In 2021, there were 9.8 percent fewer crimes committed with a firearm than the previous year, while the number of cases recorded by the police in which a firearm was used to threaten fell by 11.2 percent. Shots were fired in 4,074 of the total number of recorded cases, down 8.5 percent from 2021.

An armored weapons cabinet filled with long guns. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Friso Gentsch

Despite this, there have been several mass shootings within the past two decades, which have had a big impact on public consciousness and on gun control policy. 

Between 2002 and 2009 there were three major incidents of young men carrying out shootings at their former high schools and, in 2020, a racially motivated gunman shot and killed 11 people and injured numerous others in an attack on two shisha bars in Hanau. The perpetrator was allowed to legally possess firearms, although he had previously sent letters with right-wing extremist content to authorities.

Recently there were also shootings at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany and at a supermarket in Schwalmstadt in Hesse.

Are German gun laws about to change?

The German parliament reacted to the mass shooting incidents in the early 2000s by tightening the gun laws, and, in the wake of the Hanau attack, a new amendment is in the works, which aims to shift focus towards monitoring gun owners with extremist, right-wing views.

READ ALSO: Germany marks a year since deadly racist shooting in Hanau

In December 2021, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) announced her intention to further tighten gun laws, as part of a plan to tackle right-wing extremism.

The authorities in charge of the protection of the constitution have been warning for some time that neo-Nazis are deliberately joining shooting clubs to obtain guns and the Federal Ministry of the Interior reports that 1.500 suspected right-wing extremists among legal gun owners.

Dagmar Ellerbrock, a historian and expert on weapons history at the Technical University of Dresden said “it is high time that we try to at least make it more difficult for these political groups to find their way through the shooting associations.”