SPD-Left wants levy for the rich: "The high fortunes must contribute more"

With a one-off special levy, the left wing of the SPD parliamentary group wants to attract particularly wealthy people to deal with the crisis.

SPD-Left wants levy for the rich: "The high fortunes must contribute more"

With a one-off special levy, the left wing of the SPD parliamentary group wants to attract particularly wealthy people to deal with the crisis. Up to 350 billion euros could come together in this way, the member of the Bundestag Tim Klüssendorf calculates on ntv.de - and explains how it should work.

ntv.de: Mr. Klüssendorf, in a position paper by the Parliamentary Left - the largest political movement within the SPD parliamentary group - you propose a one-off levy for the wealthy to finance the budget in times of crisis. Who should be charged and to what extent?

Tim Klüssendorf: It's about people with a net worth of more than two million euros. For shares in corporations, the lower limit is 5 million euros. This affects 0.4 to 0.5 percent of the total population.

And how much money should these wealthy transfer to the state?

That depends on the amount of the sentences. With bold rates of 10 to 30 percent - provided with a progression, so that 'lower' high assets would be less heavily burdened than very, very high assets - a three-digit billion amount would come together. The calculations go up to 350 billion euros.

But they would only come together in the long term because you are proposing a staggered payment. Why?

Of course, it is important to us that the economic cycle continues to function and that our economic performance is not damaged. It is therefore important that these people, even if they are very wealthy, do not have to give up ten percent of their wealth within a year. That would actually be difficult to achieve because the assets are not lying around in cash, but are tied up in investments, real estate and valuables. We therefore propose a period of 20 years in which the levy can be paid off.

The assessment basis would be the respective net assets. What does this mean?

It's like the inheritance tax: It's about the gross assets, i.e. all objects of value minus the liabilities. This net worth would be taxable.

Determining these values ​​is a difficult task, even with larger inheritances. The super-rich have often parked and invested their money in complex constructs. Company assets are even more difficult to determine. How is that supposed to work in practice?

The same applies to inheritance tax. And the feasibility argument is also used by opponents of the wealth tax. But we had a wealth tax up until 1997, when the tax offices also got it. The many cases in which people obviously do not have two million euros could be handled relatively unbureaucratically. For the tax office, it is plausible for 95 percent of taxpayers to state that they do not have that much wealth. But in order to examine borderline cases, whether someone now has 1.5 million euros or 2.5 million euros, the tax office would have to be strengthened.

And the tax officials then discuss with the billionaire how much the Cézanne hanging in the second villa is worth?

Yes, even if these are rather isolated cases. Of course, art and other objects that are difficult to measure are an issue where you have to think about unbureaucratic solutions. There are practical examples from other countries where standard lists are used and where every single price is not haggled over.

Many tax offices in Germany are not sufficiently equipped for their current workload. How do you want to burden the tax auditors with so much extra work?

In principle, more staff is needed, for example to combat tax evasion. These are positions that pay off because each tax officer earns more money than it costs. Of course it is difficult to get staff for the authorities. But in my experience - I come from the administration myself - the offer in the financial sector is comparatively okay.

Your party comrade, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, was once the chief financial officer himself when he was Finance Minister. Has Mr. Scholz gotten wind of your proposal and what does he say about it?

I have the impression that the chancellor's office takes notice of the proposals coming from their own parliamentary group and that they are discussed at the highest level. Regarding the excess profit tax, the chancellor has already announced that this is currently not being planned. I haven't heard that about the property tax.

The debate about the excess profit tax and now also about the one-time tax you are proposing points to an alleged deficiency on the revenue side.

It's not about increasing tax revenue just for the fun of it. We have to finance expensive relief packages that have already cost 30 to 40 billion euros and are to be expanded further. That should be financed by the people who are doing best. In an international comparison, Germany levies low taxes on large assets. The excess profit tax also addresses the impression that some companies are still benefiting from the crisis, while many people are supposed to turn down their heating and worry about what they can still afford.

Your liberal coalition partner would presumably argue that it would be economically counterproductive to place additional burdens on top performers and to deprive the wealthy and companies of their investment capital in a looming economic crisis.

For me, people who care for people for 2100 euros gross per month are just as high achievers. That's a matter of definition. The wealth levy is also not aimed at people with high incomes who bear responsibility in companies, such as executives or skilled workers. It's about people with very high private assets, for example in the form of real estate and equity investments.

Reform of the inheritance tax, introduction of a wealth tax, higher top tax rates: ever since the coalition negotiations, the SPD's desire for greater involvement of the wealthy in state financing has regularly failed because of the smallest government partner, the FDP. Do you also want to send a signal with your proposal that the SPD now governs the country and that it must finally be redistributed more?

It's also important to me that the Parliamentary Left sends a signal like this. But the FDP is not, as some people claim, a brake pad. We are making great progress together on many socio-political issues. Of course, we are furthest apart in the area of ​​taxation and financial policy. That's no surprise. We have to see where we can still come together. That's why my suggestion isn't immediately a sign against the FDP.

But maybe against part of the FDP clientele? In your position paper, you identify the distribution of wealth in the country as a clear grievance. Isn't that a declaration of war on the super rich?

In any case, it is a message to the very high net worth that they have to contribute more to our society. Incidentally, many wealthy people are willing to do this of their own accord. The FDP also has a significantly larger group of voters. With the votes of the richest one percent alone, she would not be in the Bundestag.

Some rich may be willing to pay more. Others complain that the wealthy and entrepreneurs are already being burdened too heavily. Has the influential lobby group for family businesses already contacted you about your proposal?

Of course! (laughs) When the first draft of the paper became public, various associations got in touch. That was to be expected.

Does heavier taxation of the wealthy fail primarily because of the influence exerted by such associations and lobby groups in Germany?

Their influence should not be underestimated. But even beyond lobbying influences, there is strong skepticism among parts of our coalition partner, the FDP. The FDP is convinced that any potentially economically harmful taxation must be kept as low as possible and that it is quite dramatic when people have to give money to the state. We still have to do some persuasion work within the coalition to break this up.

Is that what your proposal is about? To show the Federal Minister of Finance alternatives to state financing if he absolutely wants to stick to the debt brake?

It is also clear to the Federal Minister of Finance that he will not get through with the budget he is proposing. Although the tax estimate has gone up, cuts in funds made by him are already leading to cancellations. This applies, for example, to students studying abroad, the funds for the Technical Relief Organization or the long-term unemployed. And coalition projects such as citizen income and basic child security are not even included in the budget. It will not be possible to finance this without new income. If Mr. Lindner also wants to abolish the cold progression, this will lead to even less income. He has to explain how this is to be financed.

A more adequate citizens' allowance instead of Hartz IV is one of the core promises of the SPD in the Bundestag. Do you expect your chancellor to tell the finance minister which party is leading the government?

And when the important decisions are made in the fall, I expect that he will exercise his authority to set guidelines in the interests of our party.

At the end of this legislative period, will the wealthy contribute more to the financing of the community than has been the case up to now?

I say yes.

Sebastian Huld spoke to Tim Klüssendorf

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