The property tax is one of the domestic political excitement of the year, along with the gas levy and citizens’ income. Missing data, blocked access and the tight deadline give an idea of what owners and tenants could face. Protests are stirring in the southwest.
Eberhard Scholl no longer understands the world. The pensioner from Obersulm in Baden-Württemberg pays property tax of 209.89 euros a year for his 863 square meter property with the house built in 1983. According to his calculations, in 2025, when the new property tax comes into force, it will be 1410 euros, almost 7 times as much.
For his 90-year-old mother-in-law, reports the former industrial clerk, it will be around 1,000 euros. “For a house in need of renovation,” adds the 70-year-old in an interview with FOCUS online. “Actually, she can’t afford that with her pension.”
FOCUS online reports from a dozen landowners from Baden-Württemberg that, according to calculations, will pay between 700 and 2800 percent more property tax in the future. Whole streets would be affected, especially but not exclusively in rural areas.
The extreme example with an increase of 2800 percent is a property in a large city in the north of the green-black governed federal state, which consists of two parcels. According to the land register entry, once residential development, once agricultural area, in other words: garden.
The agricultural area costs 75 euros so far, and the built 1329 euros property tax per year. The property owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, reports, first in an email and then by telephone, that the land value map suddenly shows everything for residential construction with a land value of 780 euros.
“The new property tax would then be 2151 euros for the agricultural area instead of 75 euros, i.e. 2857 percent more. Both together should then cost a total of 4352 euros in property tax from 2025 instead of 1400 euros a year.”
Those most affected are owners of large properties, often pensioners, who built their houses on cheap land decades ago and are not exactly in the lap of luxury. Normal people, middle class, like Eberhard Scholl.
“What can I do about the fact that my property, in which I can’t build anything, is now worth more?” asks the 70-year-old. “It’s really hard on the wallet.” For him and his fellow campaigners, who have now joined forces to form ever-growing local initiatives, the standard land values are incomprehensible.
And it is precisely these standard land values that are important in the Ländle. Baden-Württemberg relies on a so-called modified land value model. This provides that the land area and the standard land value should be the basis for the future calculation of the tax.
The standard land value, in turn, is determined by the expert committee of the respective municipality. It is intended to reflect the average location value of the floor within a certain area in euros per square meter. There are around 200 of these expert committees, some municipalities have joined forces here.
Eberhard Scholl feels that the standard land values are not only unfair, but also arbitrary. However, one problem is that “many do not even know that they will soon have to pay so much more”.
He found out the standard land value himself via the freely accessible internet portal Boris-bw. There, users can not only find out about the standard land value of their own property, but also about the classification of properties in the neighborhood, in principle throughout Baden-Württemberg. He has not yet submitted his property tax return, in official terms: declaration of determination. Here he wants to use the extended period until January 31, 2023.
So far, the tax offices have calculated the property tax on the basis of outdated data from 1964. The Federal Constitutional Court overturned this regulation, which is why the federal government passed the new property tax law at the end of 2019. In addition to land area and standard land value, the federal model also includes the type of property, net cold rent, building area and building age. However, the federal states are free to pass their own laws.
“With the Baden-Württemberg model, the land alone is decisive,” explains Andrea Schmid-Förster from the Taxpayers’ Association in Stuttgart. “There are distortions here because buildings are not taken into account.” Accordingly, it does not matter whether grandma’s house is on the property, a state-of-the-art villa or a rented apartment building.
The tax expert knows the problem well enough, as described by Eberhard Scholl. “There are many cases where parts of the property should not be built on at all, but it is still rated as high-priced building land overall.” “The fault is in the law!”
The taxpayers’ association of Baden-Württemberg is therefore planning to file a model lawsuit against the Land Tax Act in the state. “The owners of large properties are clearly the losers,” stresses Schmid-Förster. Many lived on small pensions.
“The law pretends that you can use any plot of land in any way you like, but the building plan usually doesn’t allow for that.” Conversely, if you own a large plot of land, you would theoretically have to divide it and then sell the area as building land or build it yourself.
The reform for the new property tax is complex – and this year it will require owners. You have to submit some data to the tax office. You have to be very precise and observe special deadlines. In our large guide you will find all the information you need to know in a compact form.
The tax expert also complains about the limited possibility of taking action against the standard land values determined by the expert committees in the communities. The only way to handle it would be to have an expert opinion drawn up yourself – at your own expense. Cost usually not less than 1000 euros. “However, it is questionable whether it is useful,” says the expert.
In the Ministry of Finance of Baden-Württemberg, on the other hand, the situation is relaxed. A statement states that a comparison with the old values would be fundamentally difficult, especially as these have been classified as unconstitutional.
And further: “In addition, no one can currently say how high the real estate tax will actually be from the calendar year 2025, since the required assessment rates are missing. They must be determined by the municipalities for the first time in 2024 on the basis of the new notifications. In this respect, there are currently no new property tax values.”
Andrea Schmid-Förster advises those affected to lodge an objection to the property tax assessment, which flutters into the house after the property tax return has been submitted and is already being sent in Baden-Württemberg. The deadline for this is one month. Anyone who takes action against the property tax assessment notice or the final property tax assessment notice is too late.
Alongside trade tax, property tax is the municipality’s largest source of income. However, they are required to keep the new property tax revenue-neutral, which means not stuffing the city coffers full. In addition to the standard land values, the adjusting screws are the respective assessment rates of the municipalities.
In any case, the Ministry of Finance is assuming that there will be some significant changes here. This means that if the standard land value increases, the assessment rate should decrease in return. “Calculation aids on the Internet with old assessment rates are therefore not serious,” says the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance.
For the approximately four million owners of private property in the southwest, estimates assume that property taxes will increase by an average of five percent from 2025. The concern that a few thousand will still be asked to pay excessively remains. According to the Ministry of Finance, an individual assessment is not affordable.
“Therefore, the evaluation models with building components also fall back on a mostly rough generalization,” says the ministry. “Baden-Württemberg therefore deliberately avoided the error-prone valuation of the building from the outset and only used the land component for taxation.” In addition, the value of a property depends to a large extent on the land and soil, keyword: location.
For the FDP budget politician Stephen Brauer, the new property tax is “basically an entry into the wealth tax,” as he says to FOCUS online. Simply taxing substance that does not generate any income is absurd. The member of the state parliament expects a wave of lawsuits in Baden-Württemberg.
He criticizes that for decades it was said that owner-occupied property was the best old-age provision. “The standard land value model is diametrically opposed to this in many cases.” Brauer also points out that tenants also have to be careful because the property tax is usually passed on to them.
But the law is a done deal, “the child fell into the well, so to speak,” as Brauer says. “The state government has passed the buck on to the communities, which should now fix it,” the FDP man clarifies. His appeal therefore also goes directly to the municipalities to mitigate the roughest rashes by reducing the assessment rate.
According to a press release from the State Statistical Office, a total of 171 municipalities in Baden-Württemberg increased the assessment rate in the first half of 2022. Only the municipality of Aulendorf reported a reduction of 50 percentage points. Eberhard Scholl, however, has not yet given up hope that everything will turn out for the better: “No one will say anything against ten percent more property tax.”