Paul L. Caron

Friday, December 17, 2004

Hitler Was a Tax Cheat

Hitler From

Adolf Hitler spent years evading taxes and owed German authorities 405,000 Reichsmarks -- equivalent to $8 million today -- by the time his tax debts were forgiven soon after he took power, a researcher says

Klaus-Dieter Dubon, a retired Bavarian notary and tax expert, said Friday he found Hitler's tax records in a Munich archive. They show the Nazi dictator battled tax collectors for eight years before becoming chancellor in 1933.

Hitler's record as a dictator who started World War II and sent millions of people to their deaths in concentration camps is well known. But the unearthed records show a new, previously undocumented side to his life: as an ordinary tax evader.

Dubon found that Hitler earned 1.232 million Reichsmarks in 1933 from sales of "Mein Kampf" -- his book outlining his doctrine of German racial supremacy and ambitions to annex vast areas of the Soviet Union. He should have paid tax on 600,000 Reichsmarks of that income but didn't, the researcher found. Hitler, listed as an "author" in the tax office records, also challenged, delayed or begged permission to pay in installments taxes owed on income he got in preceding years for speeches.

To lower his taxable income, Hitler resorted to many of the perfectly legal tax avoidance strategies that Germans still use extensively today. He tried to write off his new Mercedes in 1925 as a "company car." In one exchange with tax collectors Hitler described the car as "only a means to an end." Hitler also later tried to get costs for a desk, book shelves, travel costs, a chauffeur and private secretary deducted from his income tax along with other "professional expenses."

Hitler's troubles with the Munich tax office suddenly vanished shortly after he took power in 1933.  The infamous 1933 Enabling Act gave Hitler dictatorial powers but also helped him win his battles with the Munich tax office for good. The office first declared Hitler liberated from income tax in 1934 and in 1935 absolved him of his past tax debt of 405,494 Reichsmarks.  "That was the end of his tax problems," Dubon said. "It was all legalized, more or less."

(Thanks to Roth & Company for the tip.)

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