Gisela Äckerlein, 83 years old, a former secondary school teacher with bright red fingernails and a long pearl necklace around her neck, is prepared: on her wooden table are newspaper articles that have been cut out, real estate advertisements, statements by tax experts. From all of this, the pensioner is able to figure out how to proceed – for her family, but also for her neighborhood around Baldeplatz.

In 1921, more than 100 years ago, her family bought a house here at Auenstraße 27. The building is even older, it has turrets and bay windows and is a listed building.

Äckerlein has lived there for 65 years, her daughter, her son-in-law and her three grandchildren also live here. There is a small shop for picture frames on the ground floor and a photographer has his studio in the house.

Äckerlein also rents out six apartments. The rent is currently nine euros per square meter, she says. Äckerlein wants to raise the rent a little soon, and then the price per square meter could be a little over ten euros. “Everyone is in the house by first name. In the summer there is a party in the backyard. And everyone looks after the oldest tenant, Franz. He is 90 years old,” she says.

But – maybe soon, maybe only in a few years – it could happen that not only the Äckerlein family lose the property, but also the tenants lose their cheap home. Because if 83-year-old Gisela Äckerlein dies, she will inherit the house to her daughter.

“Originally, my will contained a passage that my daughter was not allowed to sell the house,” says the pensioner. “I deleted that one.” Because Äckerlein knows that it could be very difficult for her daughter, a 55-year-old branch manager of a drugstore, to pay the inheritance tax.

How much inheritance tax is due is not based on what the family earns from rent, but on the value of the property. In 2006, this was still around one million euros. In 2018 it was already 4.6 million euros. Today the value is likely to be much higher. And that also drives up the inheritance tax.

In addition, there is a law that the traffic light government in Berlin intends to pass this winter and that will make the tax assessment of real estate even more expensive. Annual tax law is the name of this law, which the CSU wants to prevent. And that’s why Gisela Äckerlein spreads out all her documents this morning not only in front of the AZ, but also in front of Wolfgang Stefinger, who sits in the Bundestag for the CSU.

The deputy assumes that the new annual tax law will result in up to 50 percent more inheritance tax for real estate. The Munich specialist lawyer for inheritance law Benno von Braunbehrens expects something similar – depending on the quality and location of the property. The lawyer explains that the basis for calculating the value of real estate has changed as a result of the annual tax law. The aim is that this is more based on what would realistically be achieved in a sale.

Until recently, many people didn’t even notice this change in the law, says von Braunbehrens. But now his law firm Advocatio, in which three inheritance lawyers work, can no longer accept all inquiries. “Some days right now ten people are calling who want to give away or transfer their property before the end of the year.”

That is out of the question for Gisela Äckerlein. She used her allowances years ago – but they weren’t long enough to transfer the entire property, she says. And there was no talk of the annual tax law. That’s why the 83-year-old now hopes that politicians in Berlin will change their minds after all.

At least the CSUer Stefinger is convinced that the SPD in particular is not doing themselves any favors with the new law: “80 percent of property owners in Munich are private individuals,” he says.

He fears that large corporations will buy the houses if the heirs cannot – or do not want to – pay the high taxes. “Tenants are then just a number.” He therefore demands that landlords with cheap rents be spared inheritance tax if they maintain the rent for at least ten years.

“Have you already approached investors?” Stefinger wants to know from the 83-year-old. “Oh, they’re like a swarm of mosquitoes on a lake in summer,” she says, waving her hand. “Look.”

Then Äckerlein pushes a real estate ad across the table to the CSUler. A few blocks away, a house that was demolished and rebuilt. “The apartment with the luxury equipment costs five million euros.” Luxury emphasizes Äcklein as if it were an insult. The district, says Aackerlein, is no longer what it used to be. Craftsmen are moving away, shops are closing, and there are almost no workers here today, she says. “We’re selling our homeland.” Then Äckerlein brings her guests to the door – with a smile – and a warning: “I listen to all the speeches in the Bundestag – and I’ll be careful what you say.”

This article was written by Christina Hertel

The original of this article “Gisela (83) desperate for new inheritance tax: “We sell our homeland”” comes from the evening newspaper.