Corporate Levies

A German Tax Haven

Der Bürgermeister von Monheim, Daniel Zimmermann von der Jugendpartei Peto, steht am Donnerstag (12.01.2012) in Monheim vor dem Rathaus. In Monheim steuert der jüngste Bürgermeister Nordrhein-Westfalens die Geschicke der Stadt. Inzwischen schreibt die Kommune schwarze statt rote Zahlen - und will jetzt auch noch Steuerparadies werden. Foto: Oliver Berg dpa/lnw (zu dpa/lnw: "Geldregen für Monheim: Jüngster Bürgermeister plant Steuerparadies" vom 15.01.2012) [ Rechtehinweis: (c) dpa ]
Monheim am Rhein's mayor Daniel Zimmermann is turning the Rhine river town into a tax haven.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • As business associations complain about steadily rising corporate tax bills in many German municipalities, so-called “mailbox companies” are setting up shop in low-tax towns.
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  • Facts

    Facts

    • In Germany, the 20 most expensive municipalities for companies are all in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state.
    • The lowest corporate tax rates in Germany have been set by local authorities close to major cities. Examples include the NRW town of Monheim near the state capital of Düsseldorf.
    • Cities in the south of Germany have relatively low business taxes.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Let’s begin this story, like many other articles written about tax havens, with a mailbox. Except that this one isn’t in Dublin or Panama City but in a house in Monheim am Rhein, a town on the banks of the Rhine river in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany.

It’s a house that in the kindest of terms could be called functional: two floors, a flat roof, a broad driveway leading to a garage, a balcony that looks like a pulled-out kitchen drawer and a few randomly-spaced windows.

The mailbox is also an expedient model, shoebox-size, white and square, “powder-coated” and made of “galvanized sheet steel,” according to the product label. Sounds sturdy, and that’s what it’s meant to be.

A grand total of 34 companies have their address at the house. Some of the firms have fine-sounding names like Quality Royal GmbH and Königskultur GmbH. The thing that has attracted all these companies is in the advertising blurb of Monheim 285, the company running the operation: “For all who wish to move their registered office to Monheim, quickly, easily and without major additional costs.” Such companies can “benefit from the low corporate tax rate in North Rhine-Westphalia,” a service available for annual fees starting at €129 ($140.37).

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