Adolf Hitler spent years evading taxes and owed German authorities 405,000 Reichsmarks —equivalent to $8 million today — by the time his tax debts were forgiven soon after he took power, a researcher said on Friday.
Klaus-Dieter Dubon, a retired Bavarian notary and tax expert, said he found Hitler’s tax records in a Munich archive. They show the Nazi dictator battled tax collectors for eight years before becoming chancellor in 1933.
“Hitler owed tax but didn’t pay it, full stop,” Dubon told Reuters on Friday. “He was constantly challenging tax office rulings on his income tax between 1925 and 1932, just like a common citizen. After taking power he didn’t pay tax anymore.”
Hitler’s record as a dictator who started World War Two and sent millions of people to their deaths in concentration camps is well known. But the unearthed records show a new, previously undocumented side to his life: as an ordinary tax evader.
Dubon found that Hitler earned 1.232 million Reichsmarks in 1933 from sales of “Mein Kampf” — his book outlining his doctrine of German racial supremacy and ambitions to annex vast areas of the Soviet Union.
He should have paid tax on 600,000 Reichsmarks of that income but didn’t, the researcher found.
Hitler, listed as an “author” in the tax office records, also challenged, delayed or begged permission to pay in installments taxes owed on income he got in preceding years for speeches.
“The 1.232 million Reichsmarks in income in 1933 is a fascinating number,” said Dubon, 71.
“It was a huge income when you consider teachers then had annual salaries of 4,800 marks,” he said. “As chancellor, Hitler only earned 44,000 Reichsmarks in 1933 but told the tax office he donated that to a charity for widows, which he didn’t.”
Tax troubles vanish for dictator
To lower his taxable income, Hitler resorted to many of the perfectly legal tax avoidance strategies that Germans still use extensively today. He tried to write off his new Mercedes in 1925 as a “company car.” In one exchange with tax collectors Hitler described the car as “only a means to an end.”
Hitler also later tried to get costs for a desk, book shelves, travel costs, a chauffeur and private secretary deducted from his income tax along with other “professional expenses.”
“Hitler was always lodging formal objections and fought the tax office in an absolutely normal way,” said Dubon. “Before 1933 it was a normal to and from. He didn’t care about their rulings.”
Hitler’s troubles with the Munich tax office suddenly vanished shortly after he took power in 1933.
The infamous 1933 Enabling Act gave Hitler dictatorial powers but also helped him win his battles with the Munich tax office for good. The office first declared Hitler liberated from income tax in 1934 and in 1935 absolved him of his past tax debt of 405,494 Reichsmarks.
“That was the end of his tax problems,” Dubon said. “It was all legalized, more or less.”
Dubon said the head of the Munich tax office, Ludwig Mirre, excused Hitler from paying tax only after first formally writing to him to ask permission. An assistant to Hitler wrote back to Mirre, “Herr Hitler accepts your proposal.”
Mirre was promoted a month later to head of the German tax office and given a 41 percent pay rise.
“It’s all so ridiculous,” said Dubon. “But in a dictatorship everything the dictator does is correct.”