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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tax Reforms and "Modell Deutschland": Lessons from Four Years of Red-Green Tax-Policy


When the red-green (SPD-Bündnis90/DieGrünen) coalition took over the federal government from the Christian-Democrat/Free-Democrat (CDU/CSU/FDP) coalition in 1998, tax reforms had a very high political priority. And, in fact, the government pushed through an astonishing number of far-reaching tax reforms/tax changes within a period of little more than two years. This paper follows two aims. First, it gives a short description of the measures taken and evaluates them with respect to tax theory and the German tax reform debate of the 1990s. Second, it explicitly addresses the question whether the tax changes were influenced by the wish to reform the Modell Deutschland, i.e. whether something substantial was done to change Germany´s status as a perceived high tax country and if so, whether the attempt was successful. It will be shown that even though the problem of high taxes might have been many observers´ and, indeed, also the government´s dominant concern, there was much more to the German debate. The chapter will also ask whether generously cutting taxes was the right thing to do. It demonstrates that under Germany´s peculiar economic and institutional circumstances at the end of the 1990s, the attempt to cut taxes led to serious problems for fiscal policy, growth, and employment.

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