Peace Tax Bills in Seven Countries

by Erik Th. Hummels, 1997

5. The Federal Republic of Germany

For Germany I will use the bill introduced by Die Grünen (The Green Party) d.d. April 29 1986.

The organisation Friedenssteuerinitiative made this proposal. The bill is discussed in the Bundestag (House of Representatives of the German Parliament) on December 4 1986 and greatly criticised.

The name of the bill is ‘Gezetsentwurf zur Errichtung und Finanzierung eines Friedensfonds’[1] (Establishment and financing of a Peace Fund Bill).

In section 1 is prescribed that a peace fund will be established as a special fund of the federation to promote peace and disarmament and that the control over the expenditure of the resources of the fund will be in the hands of a Bundestag committee.

In section 2 is prescribed that the fund has to further and finance the following purposes and projects:

  1. National and international institutions which are working in the domain of world peace and peaceful conflict resolution;
  2. Research for nonmilitary and nonviolent resolution of international conflicts;
  3. Conferences and international exchange of experiences and ideas with regard to disarmament and peace;
  4. National and international institutions in the domain of development aid;
  5. Amelioration of the health, welfare and education systems and of the economic structure in developing countries;
  6. Aid programs for the civilian population in countries affected by damage of war and catastrophe and for refugees and expelled persons;
  7. Programs for peace education and development aid policy;
  8. Information of the public about the activities of the Peace Fund.

According to section 3 the resources of the fund are fixed each year by the federal legislator in the framework of the budget, and the quantity of these resources consists of the sum of the contributions of the income tax and salary tax of those taxpayers who have made the declaration as mentioned in section 4 of the bill.

According to section 4 income tax payers and salary tax payers can request that their income or salary tax will be transferred to the fund. In the request has to be stated that the petitioner rejects a war and war preparation in every form on grounds of conscience and that he therefore invokes section 4 of the Federal Constitution and is not prepared to pay taxes for armaments expenditure.

In section 5 is prescribed the resources of the Fund can be used directly for the financing of the tasks as mentioned in section 2 of the bill, in the percentage that the defence expenditure of the Federation is in relation to the total expenditure of the Federation. The surplus will be available for other expenditure of the Federation. This money may not be spent on armament and defence.

As said the bill is discussed on December 4 1986.

MP Fritsch (Green Party) gives an explanation of the bill. He states that the bill is situated in the area between the freedom of conscience as guaranteed in section 4 of the German Constitution on the one hand and the tax principle that a citizen may not decide himself over his tax money on the other hand. He points out that the bill has nothing to do with a tax boycott, but intends to give more accommodation to people who want to express their direct responsibility for peace also in this way.

MP Conradi of the Social Democrats (SPD) points out that the power to wage war is dependant on technology and its financing, and that for example the power of the US to wage war is a result of enormous investments.

He considers therefore that citizens want to refuse to finance warfare by means of their tax payment and want to pay an alternative tax for peaceful purposes instead.

The Christian-Democrats and the Liberals (FDP) are negative about the bill.

The bill is later send to the parliamentary committees without further result.

The Green Party has introduced a new bill in October 1990.[2]

A parliamentary discussion did not follow because it was the end of the legislative period. In the beginning of the next legislation period the same bill is introduced again, but now by the Green Party/Alliance 90 (Die Grünen/Bündnis 90).[3]

The bills concerned are called Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Befreiung von Militärsteuern (exemption of military tax bill).

In the general part of the explanatory memorandum is stated that everybody has to have the possibility to end his participation in the financing of armed forces and armament, when his conscience prescribes that to him.

The introducers consider that a lot of citizens did not refuse to pay their taxes until now only because this is legally and actually without any perspective or because their taxes are withheld. The intent of the bill is to change that.

The bill regulates the new financing of the military defence through a military fund, a purpose levy. The relation between the tax income and a special purpose levy makes it possible for an individual taxpayer to refuse the tax because of this purpose.

Section 1 prescribes that the Federation establishes a Federal Military Fund, under the rule of the Minister of Defence and that the expenditure of the Federation in relation to military and civil defence as to the participation to the defence alliance is financed by the fund exclusively.

In the explanatory memorandum per section is stated that the costs of the military defence which are to be paid from the fund are clearly defined, that they consist of all purposes which can provoke conflicts of conscience with regard to warfare, preparation of war and NATO.

Section 2 paragraph 1 prescribes that the Federation establishes a Federal Fund for the Conversion of the Armament production, under the rule of the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs in consultation with the Minister for the Environment, Nature Protection and Security of Reactors, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Economic Cooperation.

Section 2 paragraph 2 prescribes that the Federal Fund furthers the conversion of armament into ecological and socially acceptable production and has to finance the expenditure of the federation in relation to disarmament measures, promotion of the understanding between peoples, world peace together with development aid.

In section 2 paragraph 3 is regulated that an advisory committee will be established for advice to the minister with respect to the expenditure. The composition of the committee will reflect the different interest groups at the rate of the purposes according to this section.

In the explanatory memorandum per section is stated that an argument against abolition of armament industry and armed forces is the loss of jobs, with such an argument even further armament is legitimized.

In this bill this problem is solved, because the money that will not flow to the Military Fund will be transferred to the Conversion Fund. The introducers realise that the resources of the Conversion Fund will not be enough to finance all that and money from the general resources will be necessary.

The explanatory memorandum states that a second argument against the abolition of armament was always the power to defend yourself against enemies. The introducers consider that this is not a problem anymore, because of the end of the armament race between USA. and the Soviet Union.

They consider it as wrong to point to new dangers of war from the South, because the North is guilty and the South has so many economical and political problems.

They consider a change of mentality necessary in the western countries and more development aid to the South.

In section 3 is prescribed that the Minister of Defence will draft the budget in consultation with the other ministers concerned and that the Federal Government will decide about that and that the accountability legislation is applicable, the budget has to be laid down by law.

In section 5 paragraph 1 is prescribed that the Military Fund can only be fed in conformity with the sections of this bill, that other legal bodies are prohibited to feed the fund, that also loans are not allowed.

In the explanatory memorandum per sector in which is stated that this regulation has to give assurance that the citizen can really exclude himself totally from the financing of the armed forces and armament, that therefore it is necessary to forbid lower legal bodies to transfer payments to the fund.

In sector 5 paragraph 3, 4 and 5 is stated that the Defence tax is a purpose levy and that the income and/or salary tax payer is obliged to pay that defence tax, that this tax is a percentage of the income and/or salary tax.

The percentage will be fixed each year by the budget legislator.

In the explanatory memorandum is stated that the percentage will be the percentage of the military expenditure in the relation to the total revenue.

In section 6 in connection with section 5 paragraph 2 is prescribed that whom on grounds of conscience rejects military defence will be exempted from the defence tax and that this tax money will flow to the Fund for Conversion. The request has to be done each year.

In the explanatory memorandum is stated that the introducers do not consider an examination of the seriousness of the conscientious objections necessary, because it is of no advantage to apply for the provision.

According section 7 everybody can complain when he observes that the money in the two mentioned funds is not spent in conformity with the bill. The citizens have access to the courts in this matter.

On February 21 1991[4] this bill is discussed in the Bundestag.

MP Köppe (Alliance 90/Green Party) points out that especially for pacifists it is a very serious conflict of conscience to contribute financially to war preparation.

The bill does not give a general right of say to the citizen about the destination of his tax money.

He states that there is an analogy with the refusal of military service.

He states that because of the principle of equality the diverted tax money has to be transferred to the Fund for Conversion and that this can accommodate objections of especially the Christian Democrats that disarmament will cause loss of jobs, because through this fund finances will be available for this problem.

MP Rind of the Liberal Party is afraid of the consequences, that other people will ask for other special taxes. He states that the MPs of the Alliance 90 are not yet accustomed to financial policy,[5] that all the working with funds, pots, will make a bureaucratic government and that it will be the end of good order in financial policy when the tax destinations are transferred into pots.

MP Rind considers the right way for the diminution of the defence the way of continuing the peace policy. He points out that every four years the citizens can decide about the proportion of the armament expenditure in the elections for the Bundestag, that the citizen knows the position of the political parties about this issue.

He considers that the election decision is a decision of conscience also about that which is called by Alliance 90, defence tax.

MP Von Larcher of the Social Democrats considers also that the citizens decide about the destination of their tax money by elections.

MP Conradi of the Social Democrats considers that it is not right to dismiss this question with the words that it is a minority problem, because questions of conscience are always questions of a minority.

The parliamentary Assistant Minister of Finance Grünewald considers this bill as a restriction of the budget right of the legislator. He asks also how the Federal Government has to fulfil NATO obligations which are entered into by earlier governments.

The bill has been sent to the parliamentary committees without further result.

The last mentioned bill has been inspired by a proposal of Paul Tiedemann d.d. July 1988. Only the perspective of his proposal differs somewhat. The last mentioned bill is drafted from the perspective of the minority who wishes to make use of it.

Tiedemann has consistently drafted his proposal from the perspective of a majority, because it will always be that majority who has to pass such a bill.[6]

In the wording the difference can be seen, for example Federal Defence Fund instead of Military Fund, and not war tax but defence tax, but also in the contents of his proposal. In his draft[7] there is no conversion fund proposed, the diverted money will flow to the general resources.

He considers that when a majority makes a provision in the domain of defence tax, this will not be because that majority is of the opinion that defence is unethical.

If the majority would consider defence unethical, that majority would have abolished defence, for a majority has the right to do that.

Tiedemann states further the passing of a bill depends on a majority which considers armed forces and military necessary as always, and that at the utmost such a majority can be tolerant enough to make a provision for the minority which cannot support that policy.

One of the differences between the last mentioned bill and the proposal of Paul Tiedemann is that according to the Tiedemann proposal loans from other than legal public bodies are allowed for the fund on condition that it is visible.

In the Tiedemann proposal exemption is given when somebody is recognised as conscientious objector to military service, or makes an extensive statement to base on the conscientious decision.

When somebody has already given the declaration the previous year, he can point to that declaration, but the authorities have the right of inquiry.

When a judge has decided that military expenditure is paid from another source than the Defence Fund, then the conscientious objector can refuse to pay his income tax until the illegal financing has been corrected with retrospective effect.

Tiedemann has also made another proposal with regard to the assurance of freedom of conscience in the domain of the law of taxes and retributions.

This is not a specific proposal to accommodate to conscientious objections to military expenditure, but it is a proposal for a general provision against all kinds of tax destinations.[8]

The definition of conscientious objections is: Who rejects on grounds of conscience certain expenditure from public budgets has the right of exemption to pay for that.

Tiedemann proposes also here a sort of examination, a clear and personal statement of the applicant with a possible inquiry of the authorities.

He proposes an alternative duty with a sort of threshold: the conscientious objector has to pay an amount equal to the amount regarding to which he received exemption, increased with five percent, to be paid to an organisation working in the public interest, for example a charity.


  • [1] Bundestag Drs 10/5420.
  • [2] Bundestag Drs 11/8393.
  • [3] Bündnis 90 is a party based in the new federal states (former DDR).
  • [4] Bundestag Ber 12/450.
  • [5] This because Alliance 90 (Bündnis 90) is not based in the old federal states. Rind considers this party therefore as inexperienced.
  • [6] Paul Tiedemann, Das Recht der Steuerverweigerung aus Gewissensgründen (The right of tax refusal on principle grounds), Hildesheim, Germany, 1991, see page 99.
  • [7] Ibid. pages 149 to 171.
  • [8] Ibid. pages 147 as far as 149, Vorschlag eines Gesetzes zur Sicherung der Gewissensfreiheit auf dem Gebiet des Abgabenrechts (Proposal for a Protection of Freedom of Conscience in the domain of Legal Regulations with regard to Taxes and other Financial Contributions to the State Act).

Copyright and responsibility Erik Th. Hummels 1997

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