Germany's new commuter allowance almost exclusively favours motorists
The brand new climate package in Germany has already taken a beating from all sides (for going too far, or not far enough, depending on who you’re talking to). However, yet another charge has been laid at its door: one of the package’s cornerstone policies, the increase in commuting allowance, is apparently going to do very little to help the environment. In fact, it almost exclusively benefits people who drive to work.
Four-fifths of long-distance commuters in Germany drive
According to figures from the 2016 census, provided to SPIEGEL by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), more than four-fifths of long-distance commuters in Germany use passenger cars to travel distances of more than 20 kilometres. Correspondingly, less than a fifth use a climate-friendly means of transport such as the train.
One of the most controversial measures in an already-controversial climate package, the federal government’s planned 5-cent increase to the commuter allowance (Pendlerpauschale) is intended to compensate for higher fuel costs as a result of CO2 pricing - but only for long-distance commuters. Therefore, for anyone travelling more than 20 kilometres to work can deduct 35 cents per kilometre from their income tax in their annual tax return.
Commuter allowance promotes driving in Germany
While the climate coalition politicians insist that the higher allowance is not intended to encourage driving in Germany, the data tells a different story. 67,7 percent of all commuters in Germany - almost exactly two thirds - use a car. And when you take distance into account, things look even worse: when travelling between 25 and 50 kilometres, 84,3 percent of commuters use a car; and for distances even further away, 78,7 percent drive.
Extrapolating from the data, SPIEGEL is able to predict how many people will benefit from the higher allowance. They estimate that around 19 percent of all commuters in Germany travel more than 25 kilometres to work; of those set to benefit from the higher allowance, therefore, 15,7 travel by car, and only 3,3 percent with another means of transport.