Grumbling Germans want refund over new compulsory receipt law

Many receipts are printed on paper that cannot be recycled. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 19 January 2020

Grumbling Germans want refund over new compulsory receipt law

  • German authorities hope to tighten their grip on money flows through businesses where a large proportion of payments happen in cash

FRANKFURT: In January, it became law in Germany that retailers must print a receipt for every last transaction in a bid to fight tax evasion, but shopkeepers, customers and industry groups are already bucking against the scheme.

“Small shops’ cash registers already have electronic chips that tax officials can read any time. Why should we go back to the old system?” asked Christian Koch, owner of Hammett, a specialist crime novel shop in Berlin.

“It’s a pain, of the 50 tickets I print each day I’ll throw 49 straight in the bin,” he added.

Even bakers selling rolls for a few dozen euro cents each must now print a receipt for every transaction — even when their customer doesn’t want one.

With their high numbers of small sales each day now generating reams of unwanted documentation, bakeries and snack stands are especially outraged by the change in the law.

“I’ve already emptied this once,” said a worker at Frankfurt sausage stand “Best Worscht in Town,” pointing to a bin overflowing with discarded slips of paper during the busy lunch hour trade.

“It’s a really stupid idea for the environment.”

Obligatory receipts were voted through in 2016, but the law slipped under the public radar until shortly before it came into effect on Jan. 1.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier asked Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to give up on the plans, especially because receipts printed on thermal paper cannot be recycled.

Since then, retailers’ federation HDE has also written to Scholz, asking him to exempt businesses that issue more than 500 receipts per day on average.

“That’s one receipt per minute for a shop open nine hours a day,” the group said in the document, seen by AFP.

Until now Scholz has resisted all such calls, saying the fight against tax evasion — estimated at around €10 billion by tax officials — must include preventing shops and restaurants from failing to record transactions properly.

“I don’t think small shops are really trying to get out of paying their taxes,” said Sarah, a shopper at Hammett.

“They should worry more about people like Amazon, make them pay their taxes in Germany,” she added.

German authorities hope to tighten their grip on money flows through businesses where a large proportion of payments happen in cash, making them more open to tax fraud.

In Berlin, retailers are legally required to install tamper-proof cash registers by October, and many have yet to make the switch.

“It costs close to €1,000 ($1,110) per device, and a lot more if you have to buy a new one,” trades association ZDH told AFP.

That represents a “prohibitive” cost for retailers, especially those like a chain of bakeries with 30 or 40 branches, for example, it added.

The finance ministry retorts that Austria, Italy, Portugal and other European countries get along just fine with obligatory receipts.

But the HDE notes that France plans to gradually phase out the requirement — except in cases where customers explicitly request a paper record.


Bailout will keep Air France-KLM afloat for less than year: CEO

Updated 21 September 2020

Bailout will keep Air France-KLM afloat for less than year: CEO

  • ‘If we base it upon the past few weeks, it is clear that the recovery in traffic will be slower than expected’
  • Governments are coming under pressure to tie airline bailouts to environmental commitments

PARIS: Bailouts provided to Air France-KLM by the French and Dutch governments will keep the airline flying less than a year, its CEO Benjamin Smith said Monday and evoked the possibility of injecting new capital.
In an interview with the French daily l’Opinion, Smith also warned that calls for airlines to contribute more to fight climate change could be catastrophic for their survival which is already under threat due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When countries imposed lockdowns earlier this year to stem the spread of the coronavirus airlines faced steep drops in revenue that have claimed several carriers.
A number of countries stepped in with support, including France which provided $8.2 billion to Air France and the Netherlands which received a $2.9 billion package.
“This support will permit us to hold on less than 12 months,” said Smith.
The reason is that air traffic is picking up very slowly as many northern hemisphere countries are now fearing a second wave of infections.
“If we base it upon the past few weeks, it is clear that the recovery in traffic will be slower than expected,” according to Smith, who said when the bailout was put together the airline was expecting a return to 2019 levels only in 2024.
Smith said discussions were already underway with shareholders on shoring up the airline group, and steps would be taken before the next regular annual meeting in the second quarter of next year.
“One, three or five billion euros? It is too early to put a figure on a possible recapitalization,” he said.
The airline group had $12.12 billion in cash or available under credit lines.
Major shareholders include the French government with a 14.3 percent stake, the Dutch government at 14 percent, as well as Delta and China Eastern airlines which each hold an 8 percent stake.
Governments are coming under pressure to tie airline bailouts to environmental commitments.
One proposal that has come from a citizen’s convention convoked by President Emmanuel Macron would cost airlines an estimated $3.6 billion.
Smith said the imposition of environmental charges on the industry would be “irresponsible and catastrophic” for Air France-KLM.