* Germany targets structurally-balanced budget by 2014
* Strong tax revenue growth to taper off from 2013
* Merkel coalition debates how to relieve taxpayers
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN, Oct 31 Germany has its sights on a
balanced budget by 2014 but strong recent growth in tax revenues
will tail off from next year, Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble said on Wednesday.
Germany's income from tax receipts should be 5.8 billion
euros higher than previously forecast in 2012, the Finance
Ministry said on Wednesday, although it will inch below previous
estimates in three of the following four years.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has hiked its forecast
for 2012 growth by 0.1 percentage points to 0.8 percent but cut
its 2013 growth forecast to 1 percent from 1.6 percent due to
the weak economy across Europe.
"We are striving for a structurally-balanced budget for
2014," Schaeuble said.
The minister was quoted last weekend as saying Germany could
cut its structural deficit -- which does not account for
economic fluctuations -- to 0.35 percent of gross domestic
product in 2013, three years ahead of a constitutional deadline.
Presenting the latest tax revenue estimates for 2012-2016,
he said the tax numbers "correspond with an economy that is on a
moderate growth course" but still meant that Germany was the
"stability anchor and growth locomotive of the euro zone".
Germany has proven resilient to the euro zone's three
year-old debt crisis and its economy has grown steadily
throughout this year, though there are signs it is heading
towards stagnation in the final quarter.
Even as its peers within the currency bloc struggle with
austerity measures and rising joblessness, German unemployment
has remained at its lowest rate since reunification and wages
have risen, boosting tax revenues.
The panel of experts working for the ministry said it
expected the tax take to be 602.4 billion euros this year,
higher than the 596.5 billion forecast in May.
The forecasts are derived from estimates delivered by the
Finance Ministry, Bundesbank and the German council of economic
"With the extra income in 2012 we can further reduce our net
new borrowing," Schaeuble told a news conference. "Our policy of
growth-friendly consolidation works."
However, from 2013 until 2016, the tax take is expected to
fall marginally below the May forecasts, except for 2014 when it
is seen slightly above the previous estimate.
With one year to go to a federal election when she is likely
to seek a third term, the conservative chancellor Merkel may use
the improved tax projection for 2012 as backing for a raft of
disputed tax and welfare measures to stimulate the economy.
But the centre-left opposition argues that tax cuts are
irresponsible at a time of budget and debt consolidation and may
find justification for its stance in the gloomier outlook for
German tax revenue growth from 2013 onwards.
The opposition has already blocked one government attempt at
tax relief worth 6 billion euros in the Bundesrat upper house of
parliament, where Merkel no longer has a majority.
Merkel's own coalition has been embroiled in bitter internal
disputes, especially between her Christian Democrats and their
partners among the Bavarian conservatives and the Free Democrats
(FDP), about whether to scrap a fee for medical appointments or
give money to stay-at-home parents, among other proposals.