New law forces all retailers in Germany to issue receipts

New law forces all retailers in Germany to issue receipts

As of January 1, 2020, all bakers, hairdressers, restaurateurs and other retailers in Germany will be legally obliged to issue receipts to their customers. The measure is supposed to make tax evasion more difficult - but unsurprisingly people are complaining about more unnecessary bureaucracy and paper wastage.

Kessengesetz 2020 comes into effect in January

From the New Year onwards, “Receipt-Obligation” (Bon-Zwang) will be in force in Germany. According to the “Law on Protection Against Manipulation of Digital Basic Records”, or the Kassengesetz 2020 for short, from January 1 every buyer has to get a receipt. In the event of a violation, a fine of up to 25.000 euros is due. 

The law applies to everyone who sells something or offers services for money. Anyone who doesn’t have an electronic cash register must manually enter each transaction in such a way that the tax office can trace it. 

The receipt must include information on the following: the name and address of the issuer, the time and date of the receipt, and the type and quantity of items purchased. It also needs to include an invoice number and the serial number of the cash register system. 

The obligation to issue receipts is intended to increase compliance with taxation. A seamless stream of electronic documentation should, in the future, help ensure that no revenue flows undocumented past the tax office. 

German customers and retailers outraged

Unsurprisingly, the new law has caused something of an uproar among retailers and customers alike. Leaving aside the fact that it will cause annoyance for customers, who generally don’t want a receipt, many have been quick to point to the far-reaching consequences the new law will have for the environment.

Welt writes that the number of receipts printed each year in Germany is enough to cover 43 football fields. Placed one after the other, they would be 2,2 million kilometres long, enough to wrap around the equator 50 times. That’s a hell of a lot of paper - and a significant additional expense for small traders. 

“We talk about environmental protection and discuss reducing the use of disposable coffee cups, but then we create mountains of rubbish from coated paper,” said Daniel Schneider from the Central Association of the German Bakery Industry.

Receipts could pose a health risk?

Experts consider receipts to be particularly problematic since they are printed on thermal paper that is, as the Federal Environment Agency points out, “usually coated with the harmful chemical bisphenol A” - an industrial chemical used to make plastics and resins that is known to affect fertility. Although the use of bisphenol A is to be phased out in 2020, there is not currently enough data to assess whether the alternatives are any better.

Of course, the receipts don’t have to be issued on paper - email or text receipts are also an acceptable form - but somehow it seems unlikely that people will be keen on handing over their email address at their local bakery. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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Nach Lakes 23:35 | 17 December 2019

Well, I love this. Not because of the waste it will cause, of course, but because it will most probably means that many sellers are going to have to accept cards as payment now. I just HATE paying everything with cash: Germany, please get into the future with card payments.. And if that means you have to implement receipts, bring it.