It is well known that bakers do not only bake bread, but also rolls - sometimes very small, but very many. And that is exactly the problem that has led to a lively debate in the past few days. That is, whether they will have to add a receipt to every small bread roll they hand over the counter. This is how the Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) plans.
The recent reaction by Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU) to the initiative is remarkable. He wrote a letter to his government colleague in order to avert the receipt of receipts that actually came into effect at the turn of the year. According to the German Press Agency, he noted that a requirement to issue receipts for mini-amounts would put an undue burden on the environment: billions of dollars often printed on thermal paper would end up in the trash "billions".
It is noteworthy that this is where the Minister of Economic Affairs discovered his heart for the environment. After all, that connects him to the bakers. The Central Association of the German Bakery Trade already criticized the receipt obligation in November and warned of "completely unnecessary mountains of garbage". And then he calculated exactly what the earth should be expected to do: "With careful estimation and assuming that an average receipt is around 20 centimeters long," the baker's lobby determines a total length of around "five billion receipts" each year, roughly "corresponds to 25 times the circumference of the earth or two and a half times the distance between earth and moon". One would really like to save the planet all the misery, battered as it already is. If, yes if. If it was really about that.
One could well and with good reason have spoken more about bureaucracy, costs and other aspects of the receipt requirement for mini amounts. One could have discussed technical alternatives. But if you just loud enough "environmental protection!" and "mountains of garbage!" calls, you have to have this impression, a debate these days is much easier. The obligation to pay receipts is actually not supposed to spoil the bakers or fill the environment, but to make small transactions recordable in order to make tax evasion more difficult. It's all about this.
The principle is already known from Greece. Even before the country slipped into the financial crisis, it had tried to motivate many illegal innkeepers and small traders to be more honest with the tax (but rather half-heartedly). Because for a long time it was rather unusual to get a receipt in the restaurant, which gave the restaurateurs a certain amount of freedom when it came to paying VAT. The Greek Treasury later felt this. Even later, when the country had to be financially saved, the international donors also became interested in it. A receipt requirement was not part of the Greece bailout. It is not known whether Germany, when negotiating the rescue packages, pushed to exempt Greek innkeepers from this for environmental reasons. It can be assumed that the donor countries had been much more important to secure the VAT receipts than the reduction of the waste caused by receipts.