Sat, Dec. 18, 2004

Published Tax IDs: Problem

CK - Washington.   Proof that the publication requirements for web site owners in Germany can do real harm: reports on the potential for abuse of tax IDs and unauthorized access to the tax filing system. Mischievous parties can easily use tax ID numbers which are required to be published under Impressum* laws on the Internet and the federal tax code on invoices. They can access the federal tax filing and reporting system with those numbers and file declarations for others. Such declarations would enter the tax administration system and result in unrealistic, and potentially ruinous, tax bills. Combined with the new rule requiring electronic estimates and return beginning early in 2005, a major headache may be in the offing.

From an American perspective, the tax ID disclosure requirements seem irreconcilable with the European principles on privacy and the protection of data. By requiring such disclosures, government may be biting the hand that feeds it.

* Impressum is the short, unofficial name for the identification of content providers on the Internet and in other media. While non-Internet media had been subject to this requirement for some time, the extension of this anti-privacy rule to the Internet is of more recent origin. Austria has similar rules. Such rules would violate the American ordre public which considers anonymity sacrosanct ever since the Federalist discussions, see Jonathan Wallace, Nameless in Cyberspace: Anonymity on the Internet. American courts invalidate laws that attempt to outlaw the anonymous exercize of free speech.

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