Germany says new rule requiring receipts fights tax fraud

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, arrives with Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, left, for the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. In the back ground left German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

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BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s finance minister is defending a new rule taking effect Jan. 1 that will require shops to provide a receipt for every purchase, a change that critics fear will result in vast amounts of paper being wasted.

The rule aims to combat the evasion of value-added taxes but some environmental activists worry they will produce piles of unwanted receipts, printed on paper that can’t be recycled.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party, recently called for changes so not every tiny purchase requires a receipt. He said when he is given one, he usually leaves it — like 90% of Germans.

But Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, a center-left Social Democrat who is also vice chancellor, has stood firmly by the legislation. He argues that the receipts don’t necessarily have to be printed but could be sent as an email.

“This is about sales tax fraud in the billions, every year — sales tax that the customer pays but some traders or restaurateurs don’t pass on to the state,” Scholz was quoted Sunday as telling the Funke newspaper group.

The legislation requires tamper-proof cash tills, he said.

“We wanted to ensure that every sale is booked,” Scholz added. “For this, there has to be a receipt – either on paper or as an email. All concerned had a very long time to get ready for the new law.”

The legislation was drawn up in 2016.

Opponents of the new rule probably won’t get much help from the chancellor. Asked in parliament on Wednesday when her government would scrap mandatory receipts, Merkel pointed to the effects of tax evasion and replied: “Not at all, I fear.”

Germany’s standard rate of value-added tax is 19%, though a reduced rate of 7% applies to some items such as groceries.

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