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German Tax Protester Won’t Pay Up If His Money Goes To Greece

German tax advisor Markus Zwicklbauer has stopped paying his taxes. Fiscal authorities can have his money, he says, provided they prove it’s being used for the common good of German citizens – and not “wasted” abroad.

Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and German Chancellor Merkel
Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and German Chancellor Merkel
Hannah Wilhelm

MUNICH – When it comes to tax matters, Germans aren't big on active resistance. They complain, they grumble, they rant about high taxes. Some find legal or semi-legal ways to avoid paying them. Others secretly evade tax payments. But it's pretty rare indeed for somebody to draw a line in the sand and simply refuse to pay: the Germans just aren't a nation of active fiscal protesters or tax strikers.

Not so Markus Zwicklbauer. For 30 years the 58-year-old resident of Fürstenzell bei Passau has not only been a tax advisor but also a model of probity as far as paying his own taxes goes. That's no longer the case. Except instead of creating a foundation in Liechtenstein to quietly hide his money from German fiscal authorities, Zwicklbauer is making his refusal very public indeed.

He's on strike, and he wants everybody to know it, writing the authorities a letter explaining his position. As he told one local paper: "It is just not admissible that our tax money is used to pay for the inefficiency of Greece and other EU countries."

And so Greek and other euro-zone debt has turned Zwicklbauer into a tax protester. What he has decided to do is pay the tax money he owes into an escrow account. And, he says, tax authorities are welcome to it if "it can be proven that the money will be used in Germany for the common good of its citizens and not wasted abroad."

German fiscal authorities seldom have to deal with unusual cases like this. There are a few oddballs here and there who claim there is no proof of the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany and hence no entity to pay taxes to. (Who is Mrs. Merkel, then? How come there are streets, teachers – not to mention fiscal authorities who go after the holders of this bizarre belief?)

Berlusconi and Wesley Snipes

As irony would have it, tax strikes are not at all unheard of in Greece – the very country that Markus Zwicklbauer doesn't want his hard-earned money going to. According to a poll there, 43% of small business owners are thinking of launching tax strikes as a mean of protesting government austerity measures. And in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has hinted that he considers refusal to pay taxes morally legitimate under certain conditions.

In the United States, the phenomenon is relatively widespread, including an entire anti-tax movement comprised of those who believe that the state quite simply doesn't have the right to take money from individual citizens to finance schools, hospitals or streets that are shared by all.

One of the movement's best-known members is actor Wesley Snipes, who is currently serving jail time because he refused to pay millions in back taxes. Out of principle. Like hundreds of thousands of other Americans, he based his argument on an obscure paragraph in American tax law. But his refusal got him nowhere. Except into trouble.

Trouble is where Markus Zwicklbauer is doubtlessly heading -- with fiscal authorities sending him reminders to pay up, and warnings that if he doesn't, the law will come knocking.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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