The taxpayers' association wanted to overturn the solos before the Federal Fiscal Court.
But the BFH does not consider the controversial supplementary tax to be unconstitutional - at least "not yet".
Munich – It's Monday, 10:02 a.m., in the venerable Gustav-Jahn-Saal of the Federal Finance Court (BFH) in Munich, when a murmur goes through the rows of around 50 visitors, observers and journalists.
The BFH President and Chairman of the IX.
Senate, Hans-Josef Thesling, dismissed the lawsuit against the controversial solos.
The solidarity surcharge in the form that has been in force since 2020 is “not unconstitutional”, Thesling told the plaintiff Prof. Roman Seer from the Institute for Tax Law at the University of Bochum.
The course of the negotiation two weeks earlier had indicated that the plaintiffs would be successful.
The highest German court took less than an hour's time without asking a single question.
Many observers had concluded from the short-and-painless appointment that the five-member Senate would probably pass the lawsuit on to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.
But far from it.
Mere doubts about the constitutionality were not enough to submit the case to the Federal Constitutional Court for review – as the plaintiffs wanted – summed up Thesling dryly.
Solidarity lawsuit: couple considers regulation to be unconstitutional
Specifically, the much-noticed proceedings before the highest German tax court concerned the lawsuit of an elderly couple from Aschaffenburg.
With the support of the Taxpayers' Association (BdSt), the spouses had defended themselves against a ruling by the Nuremberg Finance Court on the payment of the soli and submitted an appeal to the BFH.
In her opinion, the purpose of the solidarity – the financing of German unity – will no longer apply when the Solidarity Pact II expires in 2019 at the latest.
Because the special financing of the East German federal states has not existed since then.
In addition, according to the plaintiffs, the Soli violates the principle of equality in the Basic Law, because only a small minority of taxpayers bear the tax, but not the large majority.
The character of the levy was converted into a "tax on the wealthy", the couple's lawyer argued at the hearing in mid-January.
Solidarity lawsuit: BFH judges see great leeway for politics
But the five-member BFH Senate did not follow the arguments of the plaintiffs.
The solos are not linked to the solidarity pact.
In addition, the federal government has explained that there will continue to be an increased financial requirement due to reunification – even after Solidarity Pact II has expired. This applies, for example, to pension insurance or benefits on the labor market, the court ruled.
The question of whether the supplementary levy is used exclusively – i.e. precisely in terms of volume – and selectively for the new federal states is also irrelevant.
The money from the supplementary levy goes into a large pot.
When it comes to the use of funds, the judges allow politicians a great deal of leeway.
In the governing coalition, the BFH judgment was largely accepted with relief.
The FDP, headed by party leader and finance minister Christian Lindner, had positioned itself as a bitter opponent of the solos.
In addition, the Federal Ministry of Finance joined the proceedings in Munich, but then withdrew again at short notice - apparently on Lindner's instructions.
But with the decision, the coalition has at least a billion-dollar budget risk less – at least for the time being.
Because the top German judges have not given the solidarity surcharge, which flushed the federal government a good eleven billion euros into the coffers in the previous year, by no means unreserved and complete absolution.
Solidarity lawsuit: Judges see regulation as a phase-out model
The judges ruled that the reconstruction of the East was undoubtedly a task for generations.
This spans 30 years.
The solo was originally introduced in 1995.
In 2025, the solo would have reached this mark.
The Senate therefore sees the supplementary tax as a phased-out model - despite the judgment on Monday.
A look at the press release reveals this.
"The levying of the solidarity surcharge," it says, "was not yet unconstitutional in 2020 and
The regulation must therefore be reviewed by the federal government "next year at the latest", explained court spokesman Volker Pfirrmann on Monday to
The soli, summed up the financial judge soberly, “cannot go on like this forever”.