German tax protester won't pay up if his money goes to Greece
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak to the media after talks at the Chancellery on February 22, 2001 in Berlin, Germany.
September 26th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

German tax protester won't pay up if his money goes to Greece

Editor's Note: The following article comes from Worldcrunch, an innovative, new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. This article was originally published in Suddeutsche Zeitung.

By Hannah Wilhelm, Worldcrunch

MUNICH – When it comes to tax matters, Germans aren’t big on active resistance. They complain, they grumble, they rant about high taxes. Some find legal or semi-legal ways to avoid paying them. Others secretly evade tax payments. But it’s pretty rare indeed for somebody to draw a line in the sand and simply refuse to pay: the Germans just aren’t a nation of active fiscal protesters or tax strikers.

Not so Markus Zwicklbauer. For 30 years the 58-year-old resident of Fürstenzell bei Passau has not only been a tax advisor but also a model of probity as far as paying his own taxes goes. That’s no longer the case. Except instead of creating a foundation in Liechtenstein to quietly hide his money from German fiscal authorities, Zwicklbauer is making his refusal very public indeed.

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He’s on strike, and he wants everybody to know it, writing the authorities a letter explaining his position. As he told one local paper: "It is just not admissible that our tax money is used to pay for the inefficiency of Greece and other EU countries."

And so Greek and other euro-zone debt has turned Zwicklbauer into a tax protester. What he has decided to do is pay the tax money he owes into an escrow account. And, he says, tax authorities are welcome to it if "it can be proven that the money will be used in Germany for the common good of its citizens and not wasted abroad."

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German fiscal authorities seldom have to deal with unusual cases like this. There are a few oddballs here and there who claim there is no proof of the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany and hence no entity to pay taxes to. (Who is Mrs. Merkel, then? How come there are streets, teachers – not to mention fiscal authorities who go after the holders of this bizarre belief?)

As irony would have it, tax strikes are not at all unheard of in Greece – the very country that Markus Zwicklbauer doesn’t want his hard-earned money going to. According to a poll there, 43% of small business owners are thinking of launching tax strikes as a mean of protesting government austerity measures. And in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has hinted that he considers refusal to pay taxes morally legitimate under certain conditions.

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In the United States, the phenomenon is relatively widespread, including an entire anti-tax movement comprised of those who believe that the state quite simply doesn’t have the right to take money from individual citizens to finance schools, hospitals or streets that are shared by all.

One of the movement’s best-known members is actor Wesley Snipes, who is currently serving jail time because he refused to pay millions in back taxes. Out of principle. Like hundreds of thousands of other Americans, he based his argument on an obscure paragraph in American tax law. But his refusal got him nowhere. Except into trouble.

Trouble is where Markus Zwicklbauer is doubtlessly heading -  with fiscal authorities sending him reminders to pay up, and warnings that if he doesn’t, the law will come knocking.

Read the original article in German. All rights reserved ©Worldcrunch – in partnership with Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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Topics: Europe • Germany • Greece

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Geo T

    Somebody should tell this guy that his money don't go to Greeks but mostly to French, German and Greek bankers.

    September 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    That's Angela Merkel's dilemma: at home she faces resentments of the citizenry towards Greece and other countries in the same boat. In Brussels and overseas people bemoaned and rebuked her for lacking leadership.

    September 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  3. Onesmallvoice

    What Angie Merkel needs to do is to go back to using the powerful Deutschmark instead of the Euro and and quit taking orders from the right-wing thugs in Washington who want to be dominant everywhere. The Deutschmark has been around since 921 AD and has always been strong. In other words, Angie Merkel needs to put Germany first and formost before worrying about other countries!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Welcome back to the circus, Onesmallvoice! I have a companion again and feel less lonely!

      September 27, 2011 at 6:03 am | Reply
  4. Rz

    Point is that someone strongly disagrees with what the government is doing. And rightfully so. Governments have strayed way off the beaten path of their fundamental purposes and obligations. The lending of money is supposed to be done by banks which in turn are supposed to be strictly regulated and policed by the government so that peoples deposits are reasonably safeguarded. And as a depositor, each individual can decide where to deposit their money. Using the current set up, the government has become a "self regulated" bank that is forcing you to deposit your money with it. And if this bank is making some very bad loans or investments, not only is there no option for you to withdraw your money, the bank can put your account into overdraft any time it wants and on a continuous basis. So who on their right minds would want to bank there?

    September 26, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Reply

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