Since 2010, hoteliers have benefited from a low sales tax rate, but in many places they have to collect and pay back a "bed tax" from their overnight guests. The Federal Constitutional Court decides that this procedure does not mean a unilateral disadvantage for the hotels.
Cities and municipalities may demand a so-called bed tax from overnight guests. According to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the local taxes are compatible with the Basic Law. The judges of the First Senate rejected constitutional complaints from hoteliers from Hamburg, Bremen and Freiburg.
Bed taxes are also levied in dozens of other municipalities. Officially, they are called, for example, culture or tourism promotion tax, city tax, lodging tax or overnight stay tax. The basic principle is always the same: Usually, a certain percentage of the accommodation price is due per person and night, usually around five percent. Sometimes a fixed amount has to be paid, for example three euros per night. Here, too, there are variants; in Hamburg, for example, the amount is staggered according to the overnight price.
The background is that hotels were relieved of sales tax some time ago. At the beginning of 2010, the tax rate fell from 19 to 7 percent. The bed taxes are a reaction of the cash-strapped municipalities. Due to a ruling by the Federal Administrative Court in 2012, "compulsory professional" overnight stays are exempt from the tax everywhere, which primarily affects tourists. The accommodations have the task of collecting and paying off the money.
The hotels see themselves disadvantaged by the expense. However, the constitutional judges consider this to be justified: "A direct survey of overnight guests would not be practicable," they said. The states would also have legislative competence.
According to the latest Dehoga overview, a total of 30 municipalities levied a bed tax at the beginning of 2019. The constitutional complaints were directed against the Hamburg culture and tourism tax, the city tax in Bremen and Bremerhaven and the Freiburg accommodation tax.