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City wants to change the statutes : Bonn hotel owner successfully sues against bed tax

City wants to change the statutes : Bonn hotel owner successfully sues against bed tax

The city of Bonn has levied a tax on accommodation since 2015. The operator of a hotel in Bonn has filed a complaint against it and won, which is why the city has revoked the rule and wants to change the statutes in autumn.

Taxes are a tricky business: they have to be paid, but it is not always clear by whom. This was demonstrated by a case that has been with the Cologne Administrative Court for several years and is now finally to come to an end. It concerns the accommodation tax that the city of Bonn has been levying since 2015. About 1.3 million euros in "bed tax" are collected annually for the city and the operator of a Bonn hotel has filed a complaint against it.

But to start at the beginning: The city introduced the tax on 1 July 2015. This accommodation tax was to be paid by anyone staying overnight in a hotel for private reasons and is five per cent of the accommodation price. Hoteliers across the country were up in arms against the tax, because it meant a considerable additional expense. "This whole burden of work and administration will be passed on to the host", wrote someone in an angry letter to the editor in August 2016, who themself privately rents out holiday apartments. Another reader wrote to the GA: "It is not acceptable that private visitors have to pay the city of Bonn, who are not able to control their expenses and simply tinker with generating income.


SPD leader Walter-Borjans had the idea in 2009

Norbert Walter-Borjans, then a Cologne treasurer and now chairman of the SPD, is considered to be the inventor of the bed tax. With the "culture promotion tax" he wanted to generate additional income for the city treasury. Numerous cities in Germany followed Cologne's example, including Bonn in July 2015. Source: Let.

One case is currently before the Cologne Administrative Court

A case is currently pending before the 24th Chamber of the Administrative Court in Cologne, confirmed judge Pierre Becker-Rosenfelder. "However, this will be settled in the near future, because the city of Bonn has revoked the attacked tax rule as a result of a judicial notice", says Becker-Rosenfelder. This judicial reference refers to a decision of the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster, according to which the hoteliers are legally not the taxpayers, but so-called payers.

And here the city has made a mistake. Because the hoteliers have so far received a tax assessment from the city to settle the accommodation tax. In this case, however, it is the guests and not the hotel operator who are liable to pay tax. The judge said "If the city wants to collect the tax from the hoteliers, it may not use the chosen means of the tax assessment notice, but must use other tax law channels.

Despite the OVG's decision, the city says it does not have to change the statutes in question. "In accordance with this judgement, the accommodation tax statutes in Bonn have been in place since mid-2015", Kristina Buchmiller from the press office announced. "There are no objections to this."

Filing a tax return

The OVG had clarified in recent decisions that a demand from the party liable for payment, i.e., the hotels, could not be a tax demand, but only a liability notice. Against this background, the OVG therefore considers the introduction of a so-called registration tax to be a more practicable method of levying accommodation tax than the declaration procedure practised in Bonn, Buchmiller said.

The advantage of the registration tax is that the hoteliers would have to make a tax declaration in which they calculate the accommodation tax themselves and pay the resulting tax amount to the city. "A tax demand is then basically no longer necessary."

The city has already prepared a corresponding new regulation, which is to be passed at a council meeting on September 1 and, according to the proposal of the Treasury and Tax Office, will come into force on October 1, 2020. "All accommodation facilities will receive detailed information about this immediately after the resolution is passed."

Mathias Johnen, Deputy Managing Director of Dehoga Nordrhein, was also not pleased with the bed tax in its current form. He said that the additional expense would not be reimbursed. "We felt like a kind of deputy sheriff." He welcomes the new constitution. "It's always easier in direct proceedings."

(Original text: Thomas Leurs; Translation: John Chandler)