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"We don't know, we'll clarify later" - Confusion about energy aid for pensioners

Everything had to happen very quickly again – as so often in the past few months.

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"We don't know, we'll clarify later" - Confusion about energy aid for pensioners

Everything had to happen very quickly again – as so often in the past few months. Last week, the Bundestag dealt with the federal government's draft law for the planned energy price lump sum for pensioners for the first time. At the beginning of the week, experts were hurriedly consulted, and on Thursday the MPs already decided on the 300 euros. The money should be paid out by December 15th.

As much as many of the 20 million pensioners in Germany are happy about the special payment, the law once again makes it clear how overburdened the state apparatus is now after many months of fighting the crisis. Technical mistakes, as they became clear with the gas levy, are the price for the speed that is repeatedly demanded by citizens, companies, interest groups and political opponents.

The law on the so-called energy price flat rate II (EPP II) was "sloppily made", railed social politician Max Straubinger (CSU) on Thursday in the Bundestag. Not only did victims of accidents and acts of violence who were entitled to victim pensions go away empty-handed, but one day before the law was passed in the Bundestag, it was not even known whether pensioners would have to pay tax on the 300 euros or not.

Straubinger was alluding to a situation in the Bundestag Finance Committee on Wednesday, one day before the vote. There, the representatives of the traffic light government and the Federal Ministry of Finance were asked whether pensioners have to pay tax on the 300 euros. The answer: we don't know, we'll clarify later. This is what Antje Tillmann, financial policy spokeswoman for the CDU/CSU, reports.

The fact that pensioners also have to pay tax on the 300 euros if their income exceeds the allowances is actually mandatory. "It would be clearly unconstitutional if pensioners didn't have to pay taxes on it," says Tillmann. Finally, the principle of equality applies. After all, working people also have to pay tax on the energy price flat rate that was transferred to them in September.

On Thursday, the parliamentary state secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labor, Kerstin Griese (SPD), had to make it clear once again in her speech in the plenary session that the 300 euros for pensioners must also be taxed. "Anyone who has high pensions and income pays taxes on it, that's right," she said.

But announcements in the Bundestag, at press conferences or on talk shows are one thing, detailed legislative work is another. Apparently, a tax regulation was simply forgotten in the text of the law on the "payment of a flat-rate energy price to pensioners and pension recipients". At least there is nothing about it so far.

If this point is not reworked, the technical errors could lead to unequal treatment, not only between working people and pensioners, as Daniela Karbe-Gessler, head of the tax department of the Taxpayers' Association, says. But also in comparison to officials. "Then all retirees will have to pay tax on their 300 euros, while retirees don't," she says.

This follows automatically from paragraphs 19 and 22 of the income tax law, which are relevant for the two groups. If it is to be different, this must be explicitly stated. "It has to be created as it were a new tax event for pensioners," says Karbe-Gessler. The legislator can determine that, but he must also do it.

In the future, Germans will have to limit their gas consumption even more than they have in the past. This would not only avoid a shortage. The increase in gas prices and dependency on imports could also be limited in this way.

Source: WORLD

Another law that has not yet been voted on is intended to help with the necessary corrections to the Energy Price Flat Rate II: the annual tax law.

"The corresponding regulations for the tax treatment of EPP II are currently being developed and are to be implemented within the framework of the 2022 annual tax law by the end of the year," the Ministry of Finance said on request. There's still time. The second and third readings in the Bundestag are not planned for the beginning of December.

However, it is not just such necessary corrections and subsequent changes that are causing a lot of work for the specialist officials in the ministries these weeks. There are also new relief packages such as the gas price brake.

They now have to work out in detail and with legal certainty what was presented to them by a commission of experts in broad outline. In its interim report, the Commission wrote, among other things, that the discount announced for December, the planned first stage of the brake, should be stated “as a benefit in kind” in the income tax return.

Now tax experts are puzzled as to what the members of the Commission could have meant by that. A "monetary benefit" is known in tax law only in the relationship between employers and employees. "Obviously, the Gas Price Commission wasn't that deep into tax law when they wrote about a 'monetary advantage'," says Karbe-Gessler from the Taxpayers' Association. It is still unclear how the discount will be taxed. For this, too, a new element of tax law must first be created.

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