From an email forum for expats in Germany, a cry for help from a non-German (guess which nationality) married to a German:
Last night my husband informed me offhand he needed to pay his bi-yearly car tax again. Since he recently joined a new firm which provides their employees a company car I inquired which car he meant… He said no, he was paying the taxes on a car he hasn’t owned for the past nine and a half years. !!!
After my initial shock I inquired further and the story unfolded as follows. In mid 1998 (before I joined him) he owned a used Volkswagen Polo. He was a career Army guy back then and while on the way to work one day the car began to smoke, got too hot apparently, and the motor locked up on him on the autobahn. After having it inspected he learned that to fix the car would take more than what it was worth, so he contacted a junkyard in Bonn and arranged to have it towed away and junked. No money changed hands so there was no receipt.
…My husband informed me there are (at least) two sets of papers required to own a vehicle. One set are for ownership and the other are something to do with the allowance to drive it on the public roads. I’ll have to take his word for that. When the junking company showed up he was required to give them the ownership papers and the other papers he kept.
No money changed hands so there was no receipt to show any transaction had taken place. The company simply showed up with a wrecker, hauled the car away and that was that. He was supposed to receive some kind of documentation per mail (transferral of ownership?) regarding the car but very shortly after this happened he…was out of the country for approximately a year.
When he returned he found out he was still being billed for the taxes on the car. When he went to the tax office to straighten things out he was told he needed proof of the transferral of ownership in order to stop being taxed. He went to the junkyard and requested a copy of the paperwork they had, only to be told they didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, didn’t know which car he meant, and couldn’t help him.
He went back to the tax office and they told him without those papers he has to pay the tax or they will prosecute him. He yo-yo’ed back and forth between the two offices for a while longer with no result before he gave up and paid the tax. After a few years of paying the tax and it being a hardship he decided to try again to resolve the problem, only to find the junkyard had gone out of business.
Now it seems we’re stuck paying this tax (approximately 400,-Euros per year) forever on a vehicle that hasn’t been in our possession for going on nine and a half years. I am highly frustrated about this and the fact he’s been simply paying it year after year without getting it taken care of, but he says he’s exhausted the known possibilities and it’s at an end.