It seems that the wealthier inhabitants of the German Villenviertel were sleeping like babies last night. By which I mean, they were waking up every couple of hours screaming.
Dawn saw the first of a series of raids by the tax fraud investigators following their acquisition (for a paltry € 5 million) of stolen bank data from Liechtenstein – which is likely to allow them to finger the collars of Germany’s rich and famous for hundreds of millions in evaded taxes.
From the German press, it seems that a new social über-underclass has emerged overnight. The antisocials. Those with fat salaries and even fatter bank balances who by hook or by crook manage to salt away their wealth from the prying eyes of the taxman, while the rest of us diligently pay our dues. The knock at dawn couldn’t have come to a more deserving set of households.
Of course this got me thinking about finances in Germany. You see, although I try to save a bit (and would of course love to pay less tax), the banking system in Germany has clearly been divided with one type of banking for the super-rich and one for the rest of us.
The super rich can be seen on German bank holidays, queueing in their Mercedes and Porsches at the borders with Luxembourg, Switzerland and Liechtenstein as they go and pay a social visit to their illicit millions.
The rest of us, on the other hand, have our measly savings (or what’s left after the tax has taken its share) stashed away in German banks such as the State Savings Bank of Lower Saxony or the West Deutsche Landesbank which have systematically gambled our nest egg on sub-prime loans in the USA.
Should the well-heeled of München, Köln and Düsseldorf ever be short of a bob or two, they are offered generous loans and favourable terms. The rest of us, on the other hand, get a terse letter from the bank informing us of hefty extra charges due to us having “insufficient funds”. (Let me tell you something, Herr Bankdirektor. If we the normal citizens, as you rightly surmise, have insufficient funds, there is no bloody point in charging us a penalty fee. Because we’re not going to be able to pay it. Doh!)
I wonder if those German bank managers ever stopped to consider that the people whose mortgage risks they were taking on might also have insufficient funds.
No wonder, then, that the entire German population is cock-a-hoop that finally it’s the rich and famous that are being hauled up in front of the beak. Or are they?
Germany must be the only country that offers these wealthy tax evaders a let out! If they are quick, they can file a “Selbstanzeige” – literally a self-accusation of tax evasion. And by doing so avoid a lengthy stretch at the Kaiser’s pleasure. Of course they’ll have to pay the tax which was owed, with a spot of interest on top. But they will avoid naming, shaming, court cases, handcuffs, stripy pyjamas, porridge and all the rest of it.
Apparently the phone-lines to the tax offices have been buzzing all day as Germany’s millionnaires desparately try to call up and confess their sins. I hope they had a special call centre installed to deal with the rush! (If you have money hidden in Liechtenstein press 1, if your cash is in the Caymen Island press 2….). I hope they had canned Für Elise on endless loop as the waiting music too.
So for their € 5 million investment in illicit banking records, the German tax office will likely recover hundreds of millions in “self-confessed” taxes and will prosecute virtually no-one.
I think I’ll start investing my paltry savings on a three-legged nag at Kempton Park. I wonder if I can do that tax free?