Bundestag resolutions Higher tobacco tax and more protection for “coffee trips”
Status: 11.06.2021 8:26 a.m.
The Bundestag passed numerous laws into the night. Among other things, the redistribution of EU agricultural subsidies was decided and the rules for so-called coffee trips tightened. Smoking will become more expensive in the future. An overview. The plenary session began on Thursday morning – it was only ended on Friday morning at 0.59 a.m. by Parliament’s Vice-President Wolfgang Kubicki. The agenda in the Bundestag was tough. In the last few weeks before the summer break, the grand coalition is trying to get as many projects as possible through parliament. An overview of the most important resolutions of the night session.
Tobacco tax is rising – and also applies to liquids
Germany’s smokers are asked to pay more. The Bundestag decided that the tobacco tax for a pack of 20 cigarettes will rise by an average of ten cents in the coming year. A year later, a further ten cents will be added, in 2025 and 2026 another 15 cents per pack will be added. Vaping e-cigarettes and tobacco heaters is also taxed higher. So-called liquids for use in e-cigarettes are to be subject to tobacco tax in the future; up to now they have been subject to sales tax. An additional tax is to be introduced for heated tobacco, so that in future there will be a taxation similar to that of cigarettes.
More consumer protection with “coffee trips” and online marketplaces
The sale of insurance, home loan and savings contracts, medical products and dietary supplements on so-called coffee trips will be prohibited in the future. In addition, the participants of such trips must be better informed about their rights by the organizer. The fine for violations will be increased from 1,000 euros to 10,000 euros. The new law also provides for a regulation according to which consumers may not be asked to pay before the end of the day on which the contract is signed for contracts that have come about as part of an unsolicited visit to the home. In the future, online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay will have to disclose the essential criteria for their rankings of search results. They must also inform consumers whether the potential contracting parties are entrepreneurs or private individuals. Rankings in search results must not be influenced by hidden advertising or hidden payments. The platforms must also explain how they ensure the authenticity of user reviews. Fake reviews are expressly prohibited in the future. Advertising in online networks should be more recognizable in the future – this applies to influencers, for example. Labeling is not necessary if the advertiser has not received any money or similar consideration from a company.
Protection of package tours
Consumer protection is also being strengthened for package tours: a multi-million dollar fund will in future protect package travelers from possible damage in the event of bankruptcies. Tour operators are to pay 750 million euros into the fund. The fund is also intended to prevent the state from having to step in when tour operators go bankrupt. The new fund is to guarantee prepayments by customers, the repatriation of stranded holidaymakers and their accommodation until they are returned. It basically replaces the previous protection through insurance or bank guarantees. The background to this is the bankruptcy of the travel company Thomas Cook in September 2019.
Fight against tax havens and money laundering
Capital flight to so-called tax havens is expected to become less attractive in the future. If the Federal Council also approves the new regulation, operating and advertising costs for cross-border transactions can only be claimed for tax purposes if the respective states adhere to international tax standards. In addition, regulations on withholding tax, which are incurred on investment income abroad, are being tightened. The basis is a “black list” of the EU, in which “non-cooperative countries and areas” are listed, which from Brussels’ point of view facilitate tax evasion or unfair tax competition. There are twelve countries such as Panama, Fiji and the Seychelles. However, this list is controversial – mainly because it does not contain any tax havens within the EU. In order to combat money laundering and terrorist financing more effectively, the German transparency register will also be expanded and better linked internationally. Additional reporting obligations for the economy should make it easier to track down letterbox companies and to identify the people behind nested company structures. At the same time, this is intended to protect reputable companies from coming into contact with questionable business partners and criminal machinations. In addition, the investigators in Germany should work more closely with the authorities in other EU countries.
Compensation for phasing out nuclear power
The Bundestag also gave the green light for the compensation of energy companies for the accelerated nuclear phase-out. The adopted amendment to the Atomic Energy Act empowers the responsible federal ministries to conclude a public law contract “on the payment of financial compensation” which ends “all national and international legal disputes”. In March, after years of dispute with the energy companies RWE, Vattenfall, EnBW and E.on, the federal government reached an agreement on compensation: Germany pays the companies compensation totaling a good 2.4 billion euros. This compensates for residual amounts of electricity that the companies can no longer generate in their own plants, as well as investments that the companies made in reliance on the nuclear power plant life extension that came into force in 2010.
Distribution of EU agricultural subsidies approved
The Bundestag also approved the federal government’s legislative package for the distribution of EU grants for German farmers. In the coming years, this will increasingly be based on criteria such as environmental protection and animal welfare. From 2023, a quarter of Brussels direct payments will be linked to certain ecological requirements. For example, there is additional money for not using pesticides or for more nature conservation in meadows and pastures. In total, it is about six billion euros that Germany’s farmers will receive annually from the EU until 2027. So far, the distribution of such funds has largely been based on the area of the farms – regardless of the impact on the environment and landscape. With the reform, small and medium-sized businesses are to receive significantly more support. Young farmers up to the age of 40 also receive more money. In addition, there will in future be a premium for grazing animal owners who have so far benefited little from the area premium. The Federal Cabinet had already adopted the new requirements for the national structure of the Common European Agricultural Policy (GAP) in April. At EU level, however, there is still a struggle about how the reform of the EU agricultural policy should be designed. The aim is to reach an agreement by the end of June. The legislative package that has now been passed, which is aimed at a Agricultural Ministers’ Conference Compromise goes back, then changed again. Previously, the Bundestag had, among other things the powers of the protection of the constitution expanded . In the course of the day, the parliament wants to pass a number of other laws of the grand coalition – for example on care reform and on Compliance with human rights in global supply chains .