I will make this the last report on the conference; the various questions it left me with will have to to introduced gradually.
Joe McClinton (on German tax and social insurance law) gave a full discussion of a list of taxes but left me with the feeling I ought to research all these for myself. It seems to be the same with all areas of law and accountancy (and for all other special subjects too): you can’t trust any bilingual dictionaries, but monolingual reference works don’t bring out the difference between the two systems. You really need to have an overview of a complete set of taxes in one country and of a complete set in another country before being able to decide whether the suggestions given in a bilingual law dictionary are helpful.
Take Gewerbesteuer. Joe doesn’t like the usual translation, trade tax, partly because it sounds like a ‘Handelssteuer’; at all events it does not give much idea of the meaning, whereas if you used the U.S. term ‘local business tax’ you would be very close in meaning and would be adding the idea of ‘local’, since Gewerbesteuer does go to the local municipality. The term ‘local business tax’ carries some meaning even for a British reader. On the other hand, one might think ‘business’ meant ‘an enterprise’ rather than the operation of a business (even translators pay Gewerbesteuer if they revise and make a profit on translations into languages they don’t speak, or run language schools).
Joe referred to a Lexikon Steuern A-Z on the Bundesfinanzministerium (German Federal Finance Ministry) website. It is an excellent source, answering the questions: what is taxed, who pays the tax, how much tax is paid, what is the wording of the statute that creates the tax, who collects the tax and how did the tax develop historically.
The presentation covered the definition of tax and Steuer (you don’t need two words for Steuern und Abgaben, because for all intents and purposes there is no difference between the two). I also wrote down: Gebühren, Beiträge, Sonderabgaben (like Solidaritätsbeitrag, Körperschaftssteuer, Lohnsteuer, Einkommenssteuer and Umsatzsteuer.
There is a lot of stuff on the Internet that will answer some of these questions. For example, Horwath has a page with links to brief definitions of taxes in English. KPMG has a virtual library of publications in English and German, including newsletters in English on German tax. Google searches on “Doing Business in Germany” produce good results. On LEGAmedia, there are articles by Dr. Thomas Marx on the subject.