Opaque company network: tax investigators target Bauhaus

Opaque company network
Tax investigators are targeting Bauhaus

Bauhaus founder Heinz-Georg Baus was considered a tax evad from early on. Only a few years after starting the hardware store chain, he moved the company headquarters to Switzerland at the end of the 1960s. The company has its headquarters in Mannheim
now get a visit from the tax investigation.

In contrast to the competition, the Bauhaus hardware store chain never went public and expansions were always paid for on their own. That had an advantage: the group did not have to disclose its finances.

According to a report by the "Manager Magazin", that could change with the visit of the tax investigators. Accordingly, the headquarters of the group in Mannheim has already been searched several times. For the first time in 2018, the magazine quotes an insider.

"As part of a tax audit, the charge of reducing corporate taxes for the years 2007 to 2018 has been raised," a company spokesman for the "Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung" confirms the report. The preliminary investigation was initiated on April 13, 2018 and expanded on April 22, 2020. "What is in dispute is the adjustment of complex and legally difficult to assess settlements between group companies," said the spokesman. The company cooperates fully and has been in an active exchange with the investigating authority since the beginning of the proceedings, explains the Bauhaus spokesman and refers to the presumption of innocence. The company is also confident that the process will end soon. The public prosecutor in Mannheim does not comment on the case with reference to tax secrecy.

In the industry, the tax model is controversial because of a complex network of holdings, intermediate holding companies and service companies in Switzerland, Luxembourg and allegedly also in the Caribbean. With the US home improvement chain Home Depot as a model, the 26-year-old Heinz-Georg Baus opened the first store in Mannheim in 1960 – only to move his home and company headquarters to Switzerland nine years later, fleeing the tax. When the local tax authorities wanted to take a closer look at the business, the carpenter's son moved to Monaco – before moving the holding company to Belp near Bern in 2014.

The company likes to keep a low profile. There are only a few photos of the founder, who died in 2016. According to Forbes, the entrepreneur, who was also one of the country's first self-made billionaires, left a fortune of $ 3.8 billion. In the meantime his son Bernd runs the business as a member of the board of directors, and he also continues his father's discretion.

Today, 23,000 employees work for the company with annual sales of 6.8 billion euros in a total of 279 stores. In Mannheim there are just 60 employees for the Bauhaus AG Service Center Germany there.