A bit of bureaucracy with your sandwich: kronacher reacts with incomprehension

A bit of bureaucracy with your sandwich: kronacher reacts with incomprehension

Two poppies for 2.20 euros. A coffee and a butter horn for 2.95 euros. Two breadsticks for one euro. Receipts with the smallest amounts like this one were found on thursday in the oesterlein bakery branch. "We use them as grease paper", saleswoman erika graf still tries to get something positive out of the whole note madness. "But we don’t need that many."

But the law is the law – and that means that since the 1. January 2020 it will be compulsory to issue a receipt for each purchase. So the bakery clerks dutifully print out every receipt and place it on the counter. "If the worst comes to the worst, maybe five percent of customers took the receipt with them today," he says, reports graf. The 57-year-old and her colleagues collect the unwelcome leftovers in a plastic bin.

"Because that is yes thermopapier, must we the whole notes in the restmull dispose", continues graf. Customers’ reactions range from amused smiles to incomprehensible shaking of heads. Anyone who laughs now will probably lose their spit at the next price increase. "Sooner or later, merchants will pass on the additional costs to the customer", the bakery employee fears.

"The grossest nonsense

"This is the biggest nonsense I have ever heard." Ingrid nadler from the kronach candle house of the same name finds clear words for the outgrowth of the new treasury law. Her ten-year-old cash register prints every transaction on a so-called journal roll. "Everything is documented in the cash register anyway", nadler explains. Only when the 79-year-old prints an additional button does the cash register print a receipt for the customer.

But nadler must now print this button even if the customer does not want the receipt. The opinion of her customers is clear: all day long she has heard phrases like ‘that’s a load of crap’ or ‘keep the blob’.

Not a single customer wanted a receipt on thursday. "Why should I then print out h one?", asks nadler in view of ten cents for a box of matches or an egg for 30 cents.

The frankischer tag also wanted to ask the federal ministry of finance, which introduced the receipt requirement at the end of 2016 as part of the law to protect against manipulation of digital cash records. "Every receipt that is available to the tax authorities through test purchases or verification of traders can be used for comparison with the cash register data in the event of a cash register inspection or audit", the press office explains on request. "The voucher issue serves to strengthen transparency and efficient verification of vouchers by the tax authorities." Sales made past the cash register should thus be immediately recognizable, since in these cases no receipt was issued. "With this transparency, tax evasion is counteracted", it continues.

Unfair to traders

But it’s not only the purpose behind the "receipt obligation" that is important leaving the common citizen perplexed. "As if the dispute over the obligation to issue receipts was not enough of a source of conflict, the ministry of finance is going one better and wants to "no longer recognize old cash registers" on its own initiative, hans michelbach, chairman of the union’s finance committee, criticizes what he sees as unfairness against small businesses. "This has far-reaching consequences, especially for smaller businesses."

In a worst-case scenario, a retailer would have to buy two new cash registers in one year: first one that meets the current standard at the beginning of the year, and then another one that meets the future anti-tampering security features in the following nine months of the year. It is "unspeakable" to hold businesses responsible for a situation for which they are not responsible," says nadler. The christian democrat joins the union of small and medium-sized businesses and the economy in calling on finance minister olaf scholz to allow old cash registers to be used again for a transitional period.

While most local merchants will be affected by the new cash law, there are a few exceptions that will not be affected by the bureaucratic tangle. In addition pays the cleaning simon. "We have always printed two receipts", reports saleswoman iris neumann. "One is stapled to the clothing before the cleaning, the other is given to the customer as a pick-up slip." Because the receipts attached to the clothes have to be machine-washable, they are not made of thermo paper, but can be disposed of with the waste paper. "We are really lucky this time", the 58-year-old is pleased. "For the other companies, this is already an enormous effort."

Commentary by FT editor sandra hackenberg:

A little more bureaucracy is needed?

Estimates put the damage caused by tax evasion by german companies at several million euros a year. A rough number, without question.

However, this sum is offset by other figures: 423 million euros that retailers have to invest once in new cash register systems. Another 106 million euros a year for maintenance. If the cash registers, such as those in butcher shops, are equipped with scales, the cost of a changeover can be as high as 4,000 euros. If such a system has to be bought new, it can cost up to 30,000 euros – for the small butcher next door, this can be an investment that threatens the very existence of the business.

The most impressive figure, however, is probably this: 965,000. According to estimates, the paper queue is that many kilometers long if all the additional receipts are combined – that’s two and a half times the distance from the earth to the moon.

Certainly: it is right and good to upgrade the cash registers with security systems to make manipulation and thus tax fraud more difficult. But the question remains why an additional receipt has to be printed out for each purchase. In practice, the cash register receipts are either taken away by the customer or disposed of promptly by the handlers. In both cases, they were no longer present during a tax audit. Federal government abolishes yellow slips to reduce bureaucracy. But this is exactly the opposite. This is nothing other than german bureaucracy.