Toilet tax evasion trial opens in Germany | News | DW

A 49-year-old woman went on trial in the German town of Cottbus on Thursday, accused of withholding around 1.2 million euros (about $1.2 million) in taxes from toilet revenue at places like the motorway service stations and restaurants.

Some restrooms in these facilities have voluntary contribution plates where users can deposit change.

The defendant is accused of concealing this income from the state in eight separate cases between 2005 and 2008, when he ran a cleaning business maintaining a network of toilets.

The defendant did not speak about the tax evasion charges brought against her on the day of the opening of the trial.

Cases go back 14 years or more, past the standard statute of limitations

The case is complicated on several levels. Demonstrating how much money has been paid is extremely difficult, as there is no fixed price for relieved customers who deposit a few coins at the exit. The judge said daily earnings could vary from €30 to €500 from site to site.

“You have to try to approach the most probable result, as close as possible to reality,” chief prosecutor Elvira Klein told the dpa news agency.

The judge said on Thursday that the figure announced by the prosecution of 1.2 million euros seemed high, offering a counter-estimate of around 600,000 euros.

The fact that the investigation took about 15 years to reach a courtroom also places an additional burden on the prosecution.

Only tax evasion cases of “particular gravity” – defined as a minimum of €50,000 in unpaid taxes – do not expire under a 10-year statute of limitations in Germany. Prosecutors believe they can identify a total of eight cases that are still eligible.

And Thursday’s first witness tried to argue that the person who should really face the charges was no longer alive.

Defendant’s mother, first witness, blames deceased partner

The defendant’s mother was the first witness. She argued that although her daughter was the nominal chief executive of the business, she had nothing to do with collecting the revenue.

She said her late boyfriend ran the business as a partner, with her daughter responsible for tasks such as bookkeeping.

“My daughter didn’t want to see any money,” she told the court.

The defendant’s lawyer argued that their client was unaware of the amount of income from the collection plates and had no idea of ​​the “real” dimensions of the business.

The prosecution says his case is made more difficult by the fact that the company’s records relating to the payments cannot be found.

Tips or gratuities are tax exempt in Germany, but only if it can be shown that they end up in the hands of the employees. Voluntary payments that accrue to a company (or to a self-employed person) are not exempt from tax.

Another issue the court will grapple with in part of the case is jurisdiction: four of the 78 washroom facilities maintained by the company are in Austria, not Germany, and the criminal chamber said it considers that it was doubtful whether German law would apply to their income.

Six days of hearings are currently scheduled for the trial with 28 witnesses expected to be called, including Cottbus Tax Office in September.

msh/lo (AFP, dpa)

While You’re Here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what’s happening in German politics and society. You can sign up for the weekly Berlin Briefing email newsletter here.

Comments are closed.