The simple answer is that Mr. Boll is a convenient tax shelter for wealthy Germans looking to escape from the Teutonic version of the IRS. Germany’s tax laws are all kinds of backwards and when a person from The Land of Steins and Lederhosen ends up becoming too successful, the government wants a gigantic cut. They aren’t fourtunate enough to have the wildly corrupt government that America has that functionally gives gigantic bags of cash to the rich and murders poor minorities with hurricanes and angry unicorns, so they have to find other, more creative ways to hang on to their cash, and due to Germany’s nationwide appreciation for the “arts”, loopholes exist allowing them to actually make money on the abortions that Uwe’s cellophane uterus spews onto the screens of America’s cineplexes.
Hit the jump for the specifics on the most clever financial strategy to come out of The Black Forest since Goebbels figured out how to pay for prostitutes with handfuls of gold fillings.
Having just made 100 million euros, you have only moments to celebrate before your German tax accountant tells you the bad news: You’re in a 45-percent tax bracket, so you must pay the government 45 million euros. Ach! That leaves you only 55 million. Can nothing be done?
Now I – a high-flying Hollywood movie producer, well tanned from California’s summer sun – visit you. For 90 million euros, you can have the copyright to a film I want to make. To encourage native cultural industries, your country’s German Tax Fund makes film production costs immediately tax-deductible. You’ll write off the 90 million as an instant loss and pay taxes only on the 10 million euros left.
Nein, your accountant tells you, that deduction only applies to films made by German companies. But fear not! I, the producer, advise you to set up a shell corporation in Munich that “owns” my film, wink-wink nudge-nudge. The shell will lease back to my studio all rights for 15 years, in a “production service agreement” and a “distribution service agreement.” After the lease expires, I’ll buy back the film, cheap. With only 10 million left after you take the loss, you pay tax of only 4.5 million euros, leaving you 5.5 million.
Ach du lieber! You’ve lost nearly 95 million, right? No, we’re not done yet. Follow me closely here: Under the German tax code, you can take the full 90-million deduction, then have your Munich shell company charge me (the American producer) 80 million to lease back the rights to my movie. Because you just took a 90-million loss, you don’t have to pay taxes on the 80 million you recouped.
You’re only out 10 million, plus the 4.5 million you paid in taxes. You still have over 85 million left! And after you paid me 90 million, and I paid you 80 million back (most of which I got by pre-selling foreign and cable rights to my film), I’m 10 million up on the deal, and I’m not taxed in Germany. Sweet.
OK, so you’ve invested 90 million in my film and taken a loss. Now, you may ask, what happens if my film makes money? Under our contract, I pay you the profit between seven and 20 years from now. You’ll pay taxes on the profit then. All seems well.
But wait! Your accountant has just noticed that, effective January 2006, the German government tightened the German Tax Fund to apply solely to native German filmmakers and production companies. You and I stare in dismay. Oh no! What shall we do?
If only we knew a native German film director with his own German production company …
Seriously, that’s damn clever.
Of course, the German government knows what’s going on, but since they would rather keep the deutschmarks within their economy, they turn a blind eye to this sort of pseudo-ethical accounting.
Sadly, this means that Mr. Boll will be making movies for quite some time. He seems to be an ebullient font of crappy ideas and praying for an end to wealthy, clever Germans wanting to hang on to their cash is tantamount to praying for a pop starlet whose vagina won’t look like a hand grenade exploded inside of a ham.