Bonpflicht: Germans stage creative protests over new receipt requirement
For over a month now, the so-called Bonpflicht - or obligation for companies to issue a receipt - has been in effect in Germany.
However, the regulation - meant to stymie tax fraud at cash registers - has triggered not only anger but also artistic action among some of the affected businesses.
They are protesting in their own unique way against the fact that retailers with electronic cash register systems have to hand over a receipt to customers for every purchase - whether or not they ask for it.
Particularly bakers with walk-in customers, who usually do not offer receipts, complain about unnecessary mountains of rubbish.
The tax authorities, on the other hand, have been complaining for years about high losses of tax revenue due to cheating cash registers, with talk that figures amount up to the billions.
Here are some of the creative protests which have ensued.
In Moosinning in Bavaria and in Budenheim near Mainz, the mandatory receipt has become a big seller.
A 'Krapfen', or doughnut, with an edible receipt being sold in Moosinning. Photo: DPA
In these small German towns, bakeries are not garnishing their doughnuts or crepes with a receipt made of fondant or sugar paper.
The result looks - at least in Bavaria - very similar to a normal receipt thanks to the tax number, address, price and VAT statement.
In Mainz, an additional "Helau" identifies the doughnut as part of a carnival campaign.
According to the companies, the promotions are well received by customers, even though normal receipts are still required in addition to their edible counterparts.
Some establishments, such as Café Eigler in Leipzig, turn the receipt down with a play on words. Shoppers are instructed to take a “Bonbon” (meaning “candy” in German) with them after their purchase.
Christmas lights and receipts?
The Gasthaus Gutenberg in Karlsruhe had already started its protest against the Bonpflict in December. More than 1000 receipts were neatly threaded on strings and hung up like holiday garlands in the guest rooms.
Ornamental receipts hang at the Gasthaus Gutenberg. Photo: DPA
They have been since taken down by request. Instead of above the heads of the guests, the vouchers - together with new receipts - can now be found hanging above the shop window.
This is obviously a popular place for the receipts: the Jahn bakery in Ansbach, Bavaria, also collects the receipts in within the window.
Customers drop their receipts from the Jahn bakery into the window. Photo: DPA
Back to the origins
Giving the state what the state wanted is the motto of various calls. For example, the Frick bakery in Weingarten, Baden-Württemberg, posted a statement on its Facebook account explaining that customers are obliged to receive a receipt - together with the suggestion to take the slips of paper home, collect them and, if possible, drop them in the letterbox of the tax office.
At Theo's Kitchen in Husum, Schleswig-Holstein, you can add your receipt to a growing pile which teh restaurant plans to send to the Ministry of Finance. Two bags are already full, they say.
The masses do it
According to Erik Schweickert (FDP), member of the Baden-Württemberg parliament, about half a million receipts were collected by ten bakers in his constituency. He used them for a protest action in front of the state parliament building.
Schweickert (FDP) helping drop off these "Bon bags" in front of the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament. Photo: DPA
Most of the bags were then taken away by a waste disposal company, and Schweickert took five with him to the meeting of the economic committee of which he is chairman.
Sauna clubs must be law obliging, too
However, the obligation to issue a receipt does not only cause trouble between lawmakers and politicians. Near the Hessian town of Dieburg, the police had to move in to settle the dispute between a visitor to a sauna club and its security service.
The man had asked for a receipt after visiting the establishment and was then thrown out of the door. The reason why the man insisted on receiving a receipt wasn’t clear.
However, he was in the right: after the intervention of the officials, he received a handwritten receipt for the entrance fee he had paid.
An alternative solution?
The debate about the flood of receipts need not be a debate at all, because there are various digital alternatives to the slip of paper: receipts can also be transmitted via apps or by photographing a QR code.
However,Germany is also notorious for being slow on moving forward in the digital world (cash is still king in Deutschland) so this is not the obvious solution - at least yet.