Blog: Fact or Fake News?

Fact or fake news: Do German corporations pay only two thirds of the regular tax rate?

Trust is good, control is better – an often-quoted truism that obviously also applies to scientific studies. Hans-Peter Huber and Ralf Maiterth (Humboldt University of Berlin) took this to heart when they scientifically reviewed and ultimately refuted a study that initially brought some explosive news to light. The study “Effective Tax Rates of Multinational Enterprises in the EU” (Janský 2019), commissioned by the Greens in the European Parliament, concluded that companies in Germany pay, on average, only two thirds of the regular tax rate. This news was heavily debated in both the media and political circles when the study was published in early 2019. Hans-Peter Huber and Ralf Maiterth have scrutinized Jansky’s study, and conclude that the difference between the regular tax rate and effective tax rate is, in fact, negligible. They show that Jansky’s study contains considerable methodological deficits and recalculate an effective tax rate of 29.1%, which almost corresponds to the 29.5% statutory tax rate in Germany. We summarized the most important findings and arguments of their paper in our infographic below.

“Our result does not mean, however, that there are no tax arrangements at the expense of the German tax authorities. It is just that these cannot be identified on the basis of companies’ separate financial statements.”
Hans-Peter Huber

Read the paper “Huber, H., Maiterth, R. (2019). Steuerbelastung deutscher Kapitalgesellschaften von lediglich 20 % – Fakt oder Fake News. Steuer und Wirtschaft (forthcoming).

In Project B08, Tax Burden Transparency we investigate misperceptions of the tax burden and the tax burden distribution, induced by lack of transparency, as well as their drivers and their consequences for the decision making of various economic agents such as individuals, firm owners and managers, regulators, lobbyists and politicians. For our analysis we use data from the official tax statistics to establish our benchmark for the factual income tax burden distribution and the effective inheritance tax burden of firms. We compute the tax burden of the respective firm as well as that of competitors and peers based on financial statements and information collected in surveys (e.g. the Germans Business Panel).


Ralf Maiterth

Project B08: Tax Burden Transparency

Ralf Maiterth is the owner of the Professorship for Business Taxation at Humboldt University of Berlin. He is also Deputy Dean for Studies and International Affairs of the School of Business and Economics of the Humboldt University of Berlin. He is member of the academic committee of the Leibniz ScienceCampus “Mannheim Taxation” (MaTax) which is a joint initiative of the University of Mannheim and the Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung (ZEW). In addition, he is Research Fellow at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), chairman of arqus, working group quantitative business taxation. He is co-editor of the German “Steuer und Wirtschaft” and member of the German Academic Association for Business Research (VHB), European Accounting Association and of the German Economic Association of Business Administration (GEABA).


Hans-Peter Huber

Project B08: Tax Burden Transparency

Hans-Peter Huber is a Research Assistant and Doctoral Student at the Chair of Business Taxation at Humboldt University of Berlin. There he has already obtained his Bachelor’s degree. He also spent part of his studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Subsequently, Huber completed a master’s degree in business administration at the Humboldt University of Berlin and at Peking University.


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