At the moment there is a lively discussion about the introduction of a toll for passenger cars in Germany. The Bavarian party Christian Social Union (CSU), which is currently part of the German government, presented their plans to introduce a toll for passenger cars in form of a vignette in 2016.
The average costs of the vignette valid for one year were announced to be about 88 Euro. (1) The CSU further plans to reduce the annual tax on motor vehicles about the same value. This leads to the result that only foreign car owners that drive through Germany will be charged. Minister of transport Alexander Dobrindt promised that no German car holder will be financially burdened by more than before the toll introduction. (2)
The revenue from the toll is planned to be earmarked to finance the maintenance investments in the ailing German infrastructure. The Cologne Institute of Economic Research recently calculated that 120 Billion Euro has to be invested in order to cope with the investment backlog. (3) By asking German firms the IW also found that 64% of them indicated infrastructural problems in traffic to compromise their business activities.
From that point of view government revenues that are used to finance infrastructure are needed urgently in order to guarantee that Germany stays capable of competing.
But is the introduction of a toll that has to be provided by foreign car owners a good solution?
Despite the fact that it is not clear yet, if Dobrindt’s plans are conform with European anti-discrimination laws there are other concerns to be mentioned. At the moment it is not foreseeable how high the earnings due to the toll will be. Whereas the Department of Transportation estimates that the revenue of the toll paid by foreign car drivers will be up to 800 Million Euro (4), a survey by attorney of the ADAC came to another result. According to the study a revenue of 298 Million Euro can be expected whereas the costs of distribution, registration and controls are expected to be 300 Million Euro. (5) In other words: It’s a zero-sum game! Additional economic costs are not even involved in this calculations. For example politicians and economists suspect negative consequences for economy and tourism in regions near to the border.
Comparing to the above mentioned number of 120 Billion Euro that need to be invested to preserve the German infrastructure, it is pretty clear that the revenue from the toll is only a drop in the bucket anyway. Given that infrastructure is a really important public good the German government has to find a way to finance the refurbishment of their streets in order to guarantee that Germany keeps its locational advantage. The car passenger toll only for foreign car drivers is due to the high bureaucratic and economic costs compared to the small expected revenue no solution to the problem but more a populist demand.
(1) The Wall Street Journal: Germany Plans Toll For Foreign Drivers, July 7, 2014:
(2) CSU Landesgruppe: Keine Mehrbelastung für deutsche Autofahrer, July 7, 2014:
(3) Cologne Institute of Economic Research: Infrastruktur zwischen Standortvorteil und Investitionsbedarf, February 6, 2014:
(4) Der Spiegel: Gebührenkonzept: Dobrindt plant PKW-Maut auf allen Straßen, July 5, 2014:
(5) Presseportal: Mautstudie: Infrastrukturmaßnahme des Verkehrsministers bringt keine Mehreinnahmen, September 10, 2014: