Deutsche Post’s Ex-CEO Klaus Zumwinkel has been picked up early in the morning by tax investigators – staged live with TV cams. In the following days Mr Zumwinkel’s tax evasion was the No 1 content in German media. He wasn’t alone – the BND – the German spies – has bought a CD with thousands of addresses of German clients of the LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, a tax haven.
A deer-hunt followed. Peer Steinbrück, the finance minister, threatened to close all tax loopholes referring to Liechtenstein. German media started a moral crusade with the one investing his money in Switzerland or Liechtenstein being the bad guy. Politicians joined the wolves and exceled in suggestions of punishment. All that under the pretence of moral standards.
Were it the typical outbreak after some breaches of regulations – fine: everybody would move on with his daily business. This time it feels different. Even people without accounts in tax havens feel uncomfortable facing this aggressive reaction of officials. On the same day we read that more and more highly qualified skilled workers are missing in Germany. They do not immigrate. Why should they? There is no incentive for living and working in Germany, a country with the highest tax burden in Western Europe, a government still increasing this burden (probably thinking of the Laffer curve as racetrack) and trying to squeeze money out of the hardest working citizens. Perhaps it’s time for a change.