Hamburg's finance senator Andreas Dressel is considered a particularly zealous member of the red-green Senate. Not only does the social democrat celebrate his office regularly in various public events, he has also been touring through the seven districts of the Hanseatic city for weeks on the subject of property tax returns. Because the need for information and advice is great, as is the questioning of the necessity of this declaration of determination. At the events, however, the mood of many citizens would quickly loosen up and the panic subside as soon as he explained the "simple" Hamburg model, Dressel said on Tuesday in the state press conference, even among those "for whom math lessons already it's been a little longer."
But because the city-state is "not satisfied" with the return of the property tax return so far, Dressel launches another charm offensive to convince all property owners of the importance of submitting the return. Just last week, “in these weeks of concern for many citizens”, the federal and state governments agreed on a “one-time” extension of the deadline to January 31, 2023, as Dressel emphasizes. "There will be no further extension of the deadline - so use the time," announces the social democrat.
"Tax returns are no fun, but they are necessary," says the Senator for Finance. This also applies to property taxes. Dressel explains: "Germany's municipalities depend on the approximately 14 billion euros in property tax revenue in order to maintain their municipal services even in times of crisis - this also applies to Hamburg with our property tax share of around half a billion euros."
In 2018, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the previous model to be unconstitutional. It was based on partly completely outdated data. The property tax must now be recalculated from 2025. For this, the tax offices require the submission of a property tax return from all property owners. The data should provide the basis for determining the new property tax values and property tax measurement amounts in order to determine the new assessment rates as part of the budget preparation.
The final decisions with a payment request will be sent by 2025. Only then do the landowners find out what is in store for them financially. Nationwide, 38 million economic units have to be revalued, around 420,000 of them in Hamburg.
In the metropolis on the Elbe, around 60 percent of taxpayers have not yet submitted their declaration. Therefore, according to Dressel, the Senate is continuing its "comprehensive assistance for citizens" beyond the originally planned deadline at the end of this month. This is to improve the return. Hamburg currently ranks in the upper midfield nationwide. From the point of view of the finance senator in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the figures are worryingly low, which is why he sees an east-west divide.
A "very significant part" of the 160,000 declarations received in Hamburg so far were submitted via the Elster online procedure. According to Dressel, on the other hand, tax consultants only received just under 18,000 declarations from the tax office. There is "still a lot of room for improvement".
The finance senator continued: "If you have the few necessary data together, the declaration can be made quickly." Furthermore, the Hamburg residential area model based on the areas in the declaration submission is simpler than the system in many other federal states. And in contrast to value-dependent models, the declaration in the Hanseatic city only has to be made once and not every seven years, according to Dressel. "We would like to thank the around 40 percent who have already handed in and appeal to the around 60 percent of taxpayers who have not yet handed in to take action now."
Property owners who have not yet submitted their property tax return in Hamburg have already received a written reminder from the city of the submission and referred to the information and assistance that is summarized on the website www.grundsteuer-hamburg.de. There, taxpayers will find, for example, step-by-step instructions for filing via the Elster portal and a film intended to make it easier to fill out the tax return. There is also a question and answer catalogue. In addition, the HamburgService will help and support you by phone on 115.
If the declaration is not submitted or is submitted late, the data will be estimated by the tax office, and fines and surcharges for late payment may also be imposed. "As a taxpayer, you have to ask yourself whether you want that," says Dressel. The obligation to submit the declaration also remains in place after an estimate has been made.
Dressel would like to continue his road show through the districts in the coming weeks, for example he will be making a guest appearance again in all seven districts of the Hanseatic city with an information mobile. Incidentally, Dressel spent part of the public holiday on October 3rd submitting his own property tax return. "I didn't find it that bad," emphasizes the finance senator, adding: "Have courage, everyone can understand that."