Wanted: 1,000 German tax collectors

Of all things the German government could be short of, tax collectors is not the one most people would expect - yet it is struggling to fill 1,000 specialist jobs after a system overhaul left it responsible for gathering car tax.

Wanted: 1,000 German tax collectors

At the time, it seemed like the perfect solution to a simple problem. Back in 2009, when the Federalism Committee met to discuss finance, it concluded that dividing car tax and a special insurance tax between state and federal bodies was a silly idea.

Much better, it thought, was for the federal states to collect the insurance tax (which is levied on insurance payments instead of value added tax) and for the federal government to take over responsibility for collecting car tax. That car tax pumps some €8 billion into the German economy each year.

But collecting car tax is tedious. Each year, 50 million tax notices and a further 8 million reminders have to be sent out – a mammoth task which will be taken over by federal bodies in July 2014. The problem is that they need twice as many employees than they presently have, to do the job.

In documents seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, Finance Secretary Werner Gatzer writes “Only 641 of a total of 1,771 positions have so far been filled.” The government had planned to fill the positions with staff who had previously worked in areas related to compulsory military service, which Germany abolished in 2011.

But the smooth transition that officials had been expecting did not materialize as many staffers did not relish the prospect of working in finance.

And although a statement reads “The prospect of continued employment in the federal service is very attractive to Bundeswehr employees,” it acknowledges that the recruitment of sufficient personnel “will not be achieved on time.”

New staff will have to undergo intensive training of between six and nine months. Gatzer has proposed to employ people through Vivento, an agency associated with Deutsche Telekom and which organized work for ex-Bundespost employees. But this could cost millions.

The opposition says the buck stops with finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. “Mr Schäuble’s superiority is at odds with his ability to get his own affairs in order,” Social Democrat economic expert Carsten Schneider said.

The Local/kkf

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Where in Germany do people have the highest disposable income?

An economic study has shown huge regional differences in income throughout Germany. So which parts of the country have the most to spend each month, and which are feeling the squeeze?

Where in Germany do people have the highest disposable income?

A study by the Economic and Social Sciences Institute (WSI) of the Hans-Böckler foundation reveals stark regional differences in disposable income in Germany. In some cases, households had as much as double the spending money of those in other parts of the country. 

Here’s where people have the most – and least – disposable income each month.

What is disposable income?

The WSI calculated disposable income as the sum of income from wealth and employment, minus social contributions, income taxes, property taxes and other direct benefits or taxes.

What’s left is the income which private households can either spend on consumer goods or save.

The study, which was based on the most recent available national accounts data for 2019, looked at the disposable income of all of the 401 counties, districts and cities across Germany.

Which regions have the highest and lowest disposable incomes?

The study found that the regions with the highest disposable incomes were in the southern states.

Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg had the highest disposable income of all 401 German counties and independent cities – with an average per capita disposable income of €42,275. The district of Starnberg in Bayern followed in second place with €38,509.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: How much do employees really earn across Germany’s states?

By comparison, per capita incomes in the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia were less than half as high, at €17,015 and €17,741 respectively. These regions had the lowest disposable income in the country. 

The study also found that, more than thirty years since German reunification, the eastern regions continue to lag behind those in the west in terms of wages.

According to the WSI, the Potsdam-Mittelmark district is the only district in the former east where the disposable per capita income of €24,127 exceeds the national average of €23,706.

Do regional price differences balance things out?

The study also showed that regionally different price levels contribute to a certain levelling out of disposable incomes, as regions with high incomes also tend to have higher rents and other living costs.

“People then have more money in their wallets, but they cannot afford more to the same extent,” WSI scientist Toralf Pusch explained.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When will Germany raise the minimum wage?

Therefore, incomes in the eastern states, adjusted for purchasing power, are generally somewhat higher than the per capita amounts would suggest.

That could explain why, even after price adjustment, the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg in western Germany continue to be at the very bottom of the list.

Saxon-Anhalt’s Halle an der Saale, on the other hand, which has an average disposable income of only €18,527, benefits from the lower prices in the east.