Receipts: "I did not become a baker to print receipts"

At six in the morning in Südlohn, a place deep in the west of the republic. The lights are already on in the Tenk-Bomkamp bakery, the boss is in the bakery. Two shop assistants pass bags of rolls over the counter. The receipts, spit out from the cash register on the glass display case, remain there. The paper queue is getting longer and longer.

The obligation to pay was decided three years ago, at the end of an arduous legislative process. With the regulations, the state wants to take action against the largest tax fraud in the country: the evasion of sales taxes on cash transactions. According to experts, several billion euros have not ended up in the tax register, but in the pockets of retailers and restaurateurs because they can sell goods in black. When SPIEGEL reported in an article a few weeks ago about the resistance of the bakers to the regulation, Michael reported Tenk. The master baker from Münsterland, whose Facebook campaign was mentioned in the text, was outraged. It was about wording in the article that gave the impression that every baker evaded taxes. And it was about the supposedly withdrawn politics. Michael Tenk was angry.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Tenk, we would like to apologize to you. In our article on the obligation to pay, we got the impression that you were not paying your taxes. Sorry. Tenk: I accept your apology.

SPIEGEL: We would like to discuss with you the topic that brings you up as usual only cheap rolls from the baking factory. You should print your customers receipts in the future, this has long been common in many other industries. What's so bad about it? Tenk: I feel politicized. We are always given new regulations that are completely out of touch with the world. Already in 2016 I had to buy a new cash register, now again. This was followed by a change in the declaration specifications for food, which led me to print extremely long labels on every cookie bag. Finally, the receipt requirement. We drown in bureaucracy, at some point it just ends.

SPIEGEL: Are the receipts too expensive for you – or what's the problem? Tenk: Yes, too. I use eco paper. It is more expensive, but I accept that for the sake of the environment and the health of our employees. Every day a roll goes on. SPIEGEL: A roll costs about one euro. Tenk: That may be. But I use the receipts to produce something that nobody wants. Almost every customer leaves the receipt behind. Many even get upset about the garbage and blame us. I have up to 300 customers a day, on average everyone spends less than five euros. Do you want a receipt for six rolls?

SPIEGEL: If we knew that this would prevent tax fraud.Tenk: Yes, you say that now, but leave the receipt in the morning.

SPIEGEL: Proponents of the obligation to pay argue that tax fraud can only be prevented with receipts. If dishonest traders have to fear the discovery, they will keep their books carefully.Tenk: As a baker, it is hardly possible to outwit the tax office. We have a glass factory. The purchase of goods, for example, is fully documented in a digital receipt book. I don't know what it looks like in other industries. I don't presume anything to any company. SPIEGEL: You could make invoices disappear or sell cakes without booking them in your cash register. Tenk: So much data is now being recorded that cheating is noticeable. Of course, I could buy ten bags of flour in the supermarket to bake black rolls. But the effort is high and the risk of discovery is high. Legislators shoot cannons at sparrows, the vast majority of bakers are honest.SPIEGEL: Then you could use the receipts as proof of your tax compliance. According to the motto: Look here, at baker Tenk everything is settled neatly! Tenk: I've had a large screen at my till for years. Every customer can see exactly what I'm booking.SPIEGEL: Do you think that vouchers should be completely abolished? Tenk: No, vouchers must be available on request. I use it too. If I see anywhere as a customer that something has not been posted correctly, I request a receipt. I am not fundamentally against receipts, provided that customers want them and take them with them. I would be for a small limit: receipts would only have to be issued for purchases over five or ten euros. SPIEGEL: You have many loyal customers who use a customer card. You could send them an electronic receipt. Tenk: We're working on that, but it still takes a while. Our cash register provider is currently developing an option. This will also be costly for us, also because there has to be a large customer display at the checkout. And it doesn't change the fact that 97 percent of customers don't want a receipt.SPIEGEL: Would it be a solution to oblige customers to take their receipts with them? Tenk: Then they throw the notes outside. That doesn't help anyone. SPIEGEL: Speaking of garbage. How many bags do you use?

Tenk: My employees and I try to hand out as few bags as possible. But there are still around 100,000 a year.SPIEGEL: The receipts don't really matter anymore. Unlike the bags, they are completely superfluous.SPIEGEL: Financial experts see it differently. Can't you care if you pay your taxes well and your competitors defraud taxes? Tenk: I just don't think that many bakers work dishonestly. I don't know how they should do it. SPIEGEL: The obligation to pay was decided three years ago. There was enough time to prepare. What did your industry do to find a solution? Tenk: We assumed that there would be an exemption from the obligation to pay for bakers. The Central Association of the German Bakery Trade was also convinced that we would get an exemption. But I am not the spokesman for the association. I do my own actions. I am currently giving three rolls to each customer who is selling ten receipts from different shops here in the shop. I then send them as a protest to the SPD headquarters in Berlin – by letter, because they cannot refuse to accept them. SPIEGEL: Why to the SPD? Tenk: It is responsible for the entire bureaucracy. Olaf Scholz has made the possibility of an exception for bakers with an application decree practically empty. That's why we're mad at the SPD. I do not need additional requirements. I became a baker because I want to bake, not to print receipts.

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