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Seymour Gris: Killing off the Creative Class

A new "freelancer tax" will surely be the death knell of many a one-man or woman start-up in Berlin.

In a new package of proposed laws beautifully entitled “Rewarding Life’s Work” planned by the Merkel government, the self-employed will be required to pay a monthly “retirement contribution” of around €350 to help fill up the coffers of the bankrupt German pension system which is already subsidized by €80 billion in taxpayer money beginning in 2013.

Freelance writers and artists luckily enough to have gotten into the cosy Künstlersozialkasse will continue to pay the low, low rates of health and retirement insurance, while people such as freelance programmers, tour guides, language teachers, cultural organisers, shop and restaurant owners will have to cough up the cash – on top of the high health insurance premiums (usually already at least €300 a month) they already pay monthly. High-earning lawyers and doctors as well as other friends of the conservative Merkel government such as rich people who live off of their investments – are exempt from the law!

An article in co-working magazine Deskmag explains it well: while the point of this new law is to keep the thirty-something freelancers of today from becoming the beggars of 2050, it might just turn them into the Hartz IV recipients of today.

Berlin is especially susceptible to this legislation, as it will kill off myriad microcosms of entrepreneurism in every imaginable field from culture to food to IT. Or else drive more small business people into the tax-free black market.

The architect of the law, aristocratic Minister of Labour Ursula von der Leyen, surely has never experienced the highs and lows of starting up something small on a tiny budget – something you’re passionate about, something you believe in, something that makes you happy, even if it provides barely enough to live off of in the beginning.

IT entrepreneur Tim Wessels – who started his own company while in high school – has set up an official Bundestag petition to protest the proposed law. If the petition receives 50,000 e-signatures by May 22, he will be given a chance to give a talk in parliament. Sign it now!

UPDATE, May 23, 2012: The above-mentioned petition has received well over the required 50,000 signatures. The petitioner will now have a chance to make his case in the Bundestag. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.