Blog 6

Comparing Tax Complexity: Germany vs. Austria

Is the grass always greener on the other side? Interestingly, after reviewing the complexity of the tax systems in Germany and Austria, the researchers Thomas Hoppe, Martina Rechbauer, and Susann Sturm find that in many cases the grass is often almost exactly the same, since the tax systems of both countries often display an equal degree of complexity. However, in a few cases, the grass is actually greener on the other side of the border. The researchers therefore argue that both countries have room for improvement, and that they should carefully look at their neighbor and review, and possibly update, their own system accordingly. Some main findings of Hoppe, Rechbauer and Sturm’s latest research are summarized in the visual below.  


Read the Publication “Hoppe, T., Rechbauer, M., & Sturm, S. (2019). Steuerkomplexität im Vergleich zwischen Deutschland und Österreich – Eine Analyse des Status quo. Steuer und Wirtschaft, 96(4), 397-412.

The researchers build their analysis on the recently developed Tax Complexity Index. The Tax Complexity Index is a result of a joint project of LMU Munich (including Sturm) and Paderborn University (including Hoppe) and has been published in July 2019 (the paper is available here). It measures the level of tax (code and framework) complexity faced by multinational companies in 100 countries. To collect the data needed to calculate the Tax Complexity Index, an online survey was distributed to tax experts of international tax services firms and networks across more than 100 countries in 2016. About 1,000 questionnaires were received and analyzed. The survey will be repeated in the future, allowing to track changes in tax complexity over time. Hence, it will be possible to analyze how changes in the tax code and the tax framework affect firm behavior such as foreign direct investments. All in all, the project will be a stepping-stone for future research as it provides a unique data set and an excellent opportunity to derive implications and recommendations for policy and practice. More information is available at:

They selected these two countries for comparison because they have many similarities. Both countries are developed countries within the EU and have the same national language. To a certain extent the countries also face a similar and shared history. Furthermore, both countries have similar economic, political and social structures. Therefore, a comparison between the two countries was possible without taking too many contextual variables into account. 

In Project A05, Accounting for Tax Complexity we study the determinants and variation of global tax complexity, answering the question:

How does tax complexity affect the transparency of tax effects, and how does this transparency affect tax compliance as well as investment behavior?

We construct a country-level measure that covers the complexity of the tax code (tax regulations) and the tax framework (tax processes and features such as audits). We collect detailed data on facts and perceptions on tax complexity to compare and benchmark tax complexity and its determinants within and across countries as well as over time. A05 investigates the effects of tax complexity on firm’s tax compliance behavior and their investment decisions. Moreover, A05 exploits exogenous shocks to tax complexity in individual countries to identify causal effects.


Thomas Hoppe

Project A05: Accounting for Tax Complexity

Thomas Hoppe is Research Assistant and Doctoral Student at the department Taxation, Accounting and Finance, Paderborn University. 


Susann Sturm

Project A05: Accounting for Tax Complexity

Susann Sturm is Research Assistant and Doctoral Student at the Institute for Taxation and Accounting, LMU Munich.


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