Allocation plus VAT? Gas could become significantly more expensive for consumers

The planned gas levy could be significantly more expensive for consumers than previously known.

Allocation plus VAT? Gas could become significantly more expensive for consumers

The planned gas levy could be significantly more expensive for consumers than previously known. As became known during a special session of the Bundestag Committee for Climate Protection and Energy, gas customers may also have to pay VAT on the surcharge. With the surcharge, which is to be introduced from October, the federal government wants to enable gas importers to pass on the additional costs resulting from increased gas purchase prices to all consumers.

The exact amount of the levy has not yet been determined, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) had mentioned a range of 1.5 cents to five cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) last week. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had previously spoken of only around two cents per kilowatt hour of gas. The amount results from the difference between the actually planned purchase prices for Russian gas and the actual prices for replacement purchases. The amount is also influenced by the amount of gas that Russia is still supplying via Nord Stream 1. At present, only about twenty percent of the delivery volume originally agreed is flowing through the Baltic Sea pipeline.

Even without VAT, at a kilowatt hour price of five cents for an average four-person household with a consumption of 20,000 kWh, the surcharge adds up to up to 1000 euros per year in the worst case, which is due in addition to the gas prices, which are already rising. Should VAT actually be due as well, the amount could rise by up to 19 percent to just under six cents per kilowatt hour or the equivalent of 1200 euros.

The plans drew fierce criticism from the opposition. “Solidarity must not also be taxed. The federal government must therefore immediately withdraw its plan to add 19 percent VAT to the gas surcharge. The state must not earn money from this additional burden," said the deputy CDU chairman, Andreas Jung, WELT. "Instead of government saddled up, we need more targeted relief for people with low and middle incomes and better support for energy-intensive industry."

In the committee, the representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs referred to constraints under European law, and that it was not so easy to lower the tax rate. In fact, there is an EU value-added tax system directive in which the member countries are set common specifications for the VAT rates. The regular tax rate must therefore be at least 15 percent, the reduced rate at least five percent. The tax can only be completely eliminated in special situations - according to the Union, Germany and the other EU countries are in such a situation. If the federal government weren't to push for the abolition of value added tax, there would be a "social and economic imbalance," warns the CDU deputy.

Representatives of the governing parties see it that way too. "The levy must not be a basis for further tax revenue," said the energy policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group Michael Kruse WELT. It is therefore currently being examined whether the value added tax on the gas levy can be completely omitted. "If this is not the case, it is clear to me that the additional government revenue must be returned to consumers together with further relief," said Kruse. A spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs referred questions about the taxation of the levy to the Federal Ministry of Finance. "According to the current legal situation, the gas levy is part of the assessment basis for calculating sales tax," said a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance (BMF) WELT. "The BMF is examining ways to ensure that gas customers do not incur any additional burdens in this context."

Details of the ordinance for the introduction of the gas surcharge are currently being clarified within the federal government as part of the so-called departmental coordination between the ministries. In the next few days, the ordinance is to be passed by circulation without a cabinet meeting.

Value added tax is not the only open question in the design. The second problem is that the federal government does not yet know who will have to pay this surcharge. Customers with fixed contracts, and these are private households and companies - together a quarter to a third of all contract holders - cannot be subject to a surcharge according to the current regulations. However, the amount per customer depends on how many they have to pay.

According to the plans of the traffic light coalition, the amount of the surcharge is to be announced on August 15th. And because the federal government wants to raise the levy on October 1st, but customers have to be informed of this six weeks in advance, there is now enormous time pressure. The energy suppliers now only have four days to inform millions of gas customers about the levy by letter – because the letter form is mandatory.

In order to also include customers with fixed contracts in the levy, the Energy Security Act (EnSiG) might have to be changed again. A spokesman for Economics Minister Habeck simply said: "We are aware of the issue of fixed-price contracts." The question is part of the ongoing inter-departmental coordination. According to information from coalition circles, these fixed-price customers would be excluded from the levy until there was a change. However, the corresponding change is to be implemented before the levy comes into force on October 1, so that these customers will probably not be able to avoid the additional costs in the end. According to reports, a special session of the Bundestag is not required for this. The spokesman for the economy ministry said there were no changes to the schedule.

"In the implementation of the gas levy, there is sheer chaos in the federal government: the chancellor mentions a possible additional burden of around 300 euros for a family of four, now his government is more than three times as much," said CDU Vice Jung. "It is also still unclear how the gas levy to support Uniper with 15 billion euros and also with a federal participation via KfW is related. Chaos does not create trust. That is why Olaf Scholz, together with his Vice-Chancellors Robert Habeck and Christian Lindner, must now immediately create full transparency on these issues, clarify all open questions and clear up the taxation of the gas levy.”

The municipal utilities now fear massive financial burdens if the traffic light plans are implemented as planned. "Legal risks have arisen as a result of the interpretation of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in relation to the planned levy," said the general manager of the Association of Municipal Enterprises, Ingbert Liebing, WELT. Since it is unclear who has to pay the gas levy, the energy suppliers have to bear the levy costs themselves. "This leads to massive liquidity problems," warned Liebing.

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