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Andri Jürgensen: "For the KSK it is only relevant whether this is art or not".

Andri Jürgensen: "For the KSK it is only relevant whether this is art or not".
Photo: © Nadim Merrikh

Are they already inside or are they still rehearsing?

Everybody wants to get in there: in the KSK - the artists' social security fund. Because to be insured in it, is a privilege. Andri Jürgensen is a lawyer who has specialized in KSK issues. In between, he also worked as an assistant director in Kiel and as a journalist for ZDF. Therefore, he not only is a legal expert, but also knows from his own experience the weal and woe of his clients - the spectrum of his clients ranges from very small to very large. We want to know: Who joins the KSK and who stays out? What makes the KSK so special?
 

INTERVIEW  BORIS MESSING
 

CCB Magazine:Mr. Jürgensen, you are a legal expert for the KSK. The number of insured persons has risen sharply over the past 20 years - currently, some 187,000 self-employed persons are insured through the KSK. For many artists and publicists, being insured with the KSK not only means saving money and having social security, but is often a prerequisite for their artistic activity as such. However, many have to struggle hard to be accepted into the noble circle of the KSK. Why is it so difficult to get in there? Where does the resistance come from?

Andri Jürgensen:Very simple: because of the money. The more artists are insured through the KSK, the greater the financial needs of the KSK. It is financed on the one hand by a state subsidy and on the other hand by the social security contribution for artists paid by those who use them, such as theaters, publishers, orchestras or galleries. This means that all companies that commission independent artists or publicists must pay an additional levy of currently 4.2 percent on their payments for the artists. For example, when the levy rate once rose to just under six percent in 2005, there was great pressure on the federal government from the associations representing the cultural institutions. During this period we had 150,000 KSK-insured persons and 50,000 cultural institutions, and it was clear that a further discrepancy would cause the levy for the latter to rise further to seven, eight or even nine percent. Andrea Nahles, as Minister of Labor at that time, told the KSK that she was watching the increase in the number of insured persons carefully. It's easy to decipher the message.

CCB Magazine:What do you think of the criticism that independent artists and publicists are put in a better position by the KSK than other solo self-employed persons, many of whom do not earn much more than artists?

Andri Jürgensen:The question is very much justified. Why don't freelance tax consultants, midwives or educators also receive such support? Well, for one thing, this would not be financially affordable if every professional group had a system like the KSK. But I think there is another, much more central difference that justifies KSK funding for artists and publicists and that is the completely differently functioning market in the art field. Artists are very much dependent on public taste, while craftsmen or lawyers usually acquire a solid customer base that brings reliability to the revenues. Other self-employed people are less exposed to the often large fluctuations in income. That's why I still consider the KSK to be justified today. And without the KSK, many artists could not exist economically.

CCB Magazine:The cultural institutions may not deduct the KSK share to be paid by the artists and publicists with whom they work from their salary. This is regulated by law. But who prevents them from simply paying them less right from the start?

Andri Jürgensen:No one, they can do it like that. What is negotiated beforehand is a matter between the them and the artist, nobody can talk into it. There is no minimum wage in the cultural sector. And a significant part of the art industry only functions through self-exploitation.

Artists depend very much on public taste, craftsmen or lawyers on the other hand usually acquire a solid customer base that brings reliability to the income. Other self-employed people are less exposed to the often large fluctuations in income. That is why I still consider the KSK justified today

CCB Magazine:Correct me if I'm wrong, but in a way, the cultural institutions and creative people are in the same boat: both have an interest in ensuring that not too many people join the KSK. If more come in, then more tax money must be paid to finance the whole thing. And that in turn can have a negative effect on the artists' and publicists' fees. Am I right?

Andri Jürgensen:I think the point is not so dominant. For one thing, no artist thinks like that. They have completely different problems to worry about. On the contrary, the artists are rather solidary, because without the KSK they could not work independently. It's also completely absurd what the self-employed have to pay for voluntary statutory health insurance. However, there is much criticism of the system on the part of those who use it, not so much of the fee as such, but of the bureaucratic effort it involves. What is art, what is not, the demarcation is very difficult, this often entails a great deal of administrative work, all employees have to be trained - that's a huge effort!

CCB Magazine:While we are at it. A practical example: a self-employed stage designer was asked by a former client after a tax audit to tone down the description of her activity on the invoices in such a way that the client could avoid the KSK levy. How should she have reacted?

Andri Jürgensen:Yes, it's difficult. The legal situation is clear, of course, because the invoice must show what has been done. But the reality is not quite so simple, because many artists are forced to play along. So, let's say, if you're in the KSK or want to get in, you're naturally dependent on proving that you're artistically active. Bills are a good way of doing this. If a client wants you to include a fair drafting in the invoice, for example, even though it was actually a design work, then you should - if you charge for fair drafting - record elsewhere what you actually did. Up to a certain limit, many people play along, because as an artist you are in a difficult situation - you don't want to alienate your client and have further orders from him in the future. Such clients, however, behave in a highly unprofessional manner.

CCB Magazine:Cultural institutions who hire an artist or publicist always have to pay the KSK levy, even if the artist whose services they use is not insured with the KSK. Why?

Andri Jürgensen:The reason is very simple: all artists should be treated equally, regardless of whether they are in the KSK or not, whether they live abroad or in Germany. A group should not be given preference over the price. If the obligation to pay the levy depended on the insurance obligation, then they would say: "You're in the KSK, oh too bad, we have one, who's not in there, we'll take that one and save a few percent". This is avoided by always paying the levy.

CCB Magazine:As the artist's or publicist's income increases, so does the amount of money for the KSK. Does the bottom line remain that, regardless of the level of income, it's still cheaper to be insured through the KSK than through a statutory or private health insurance? And: Can you be kicked out of the KSK if you earn too much?

Andri Jürgensen:To the second question: no, there is no limit as to when one can be kicked out of the KSK, there is only a maximum contribution, as of which the monthly contribution is capped. But since the order situation is often subject to great fluctuations, it's better to stay in anyway. On the first question: I think the KSK is always worth it. There is simply no cheaper insurance for artists. Especially with regard to the pension subsidy, which is also half financed by the federal government and half by the cultural institutions. The pension contribution is obligatory in the KSK. Artists often don't worry about their age; the obligation to pay into the pension scheme as a KSK-insured person gives them a certain security for their retirement.

In principle, I would argue that the KSK should not only look at income, but also at the effort to establish oneself in the marketplace through art or journalism. Now the Federal Social Court recently decided that it is not only money that counts for young professionals, but also evidence of their efforts to gain a foothold in the market

CCB Magazine:Many KSK-insured persons cheat on their income forecasts and declare a lower profit so that their contribution does not increase. What are the consequences of being audited?

Andri Jürgensen:So, the KSK audits five percent of the insured per year. With almost 200,000 insured persons, that means about 10,000 examinations per year. The KSK with its 300 employees can hardly keep up with that anyway. If you are audited and have to submit your tax assessment, no panic. The KSK is not so biting and actually quite generous. A deviation of 20-30 percent is quite acceptable. If your profits have been significantly higher than forecast for years - say 10,000 euros, but you make 30,000 euros - the KSK will impose a fine. The fine itself is still extremely favorable in relation to the savings over the years.

CCB Magazine:So it's worth cheating?

Andri Jürgensen:Calculated it is worth it, yes. However, the KSK and the statutory system are a community of solidarity: if you earn little, you pay less, and if you earn more, you pay more, and for those who earn little at the moment. To be honest is an act of solidarity.

CCB Magazine:In the first three years of employment, during which one is considered a job entrant at the KSK, one does not have to make a profit in a year. However, a musician who has already earned money with performances during his five-year training is no longer considered a career starter at the end of his training, according to the KSK. This means that he has to prove the minimum profit of 3900 Euro per year when he joins the KSK. That can get a jazz musician into trouble already. Isn't there a contradiction here, since the KSK is supposed to relieve artists especially at the beginning of their career?

Andri Jürgensen:This is indeed a sore point. For there are areas like the fine arts where it is very difficult to earn enough money to be allowed to stay in the KSK. And if you've already earned a little money here and there during your studies, you're no longer considered a career starter when you start working. Basically, I have always argued that the KSK, especially at the beginning, should not only look at the income, but also at the efforts to establish oneself in the market in terms of art or journalism. Fortunately, the Federal Social Court recently decided that it is not only money that counts for newcomers to the profession, but also evidence of their efforts to gain a foothold in the market. An author, for example, who has a production cycle of two or three years, benefits from this. Now it's easier for them to join the KSK as newcomers to the profession.

CCB Magazine:Let's assume that an artist earns his money in two or more artistic fields, for example music and acting. Is it allowed to add the minimum profit of 3900 Euro per year from both or more artistic sources of income to stay in the KSK? Or does only the source of income count that was declared when joining the KSK?

Andri Jürgensen:All income from independent artistic activities counts. If, for example, one is an author and musician, the profit from both areas counts together. But sometimes it's difficult to classify whether another activity is art or not. In such cases, you should inform the KSK and have it check whether something in the income structure has changed. In everyday life, many artists do not think about informing the KSK that something has changed in their professional life. However, one may earn a maximum of 5,400 € from non-artistic activities - if one exceeds this amount, one loses the subsidies for health and care insurance. And the KSK can also reverse this up to four years later, you have to take out voluntary statutory health insurance retroactively, and that gets really expensive.

CCB Magazine:Mr. Jürgensen, thank you very much for the interview.

Category: Knowledge & Analysis

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