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Germany Has A New Receipt Law — And Bakeries Are Getting Sweet Revenge

Doughnuts with a receipt made of fondant were on display last week at a bakery in Moosinning, Germany. These <em>Kassenbon Krapfen</em> — receipt doughnuts — are a reaction to Germany's new receipt law.
Tobias Hase
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picture alliance via Getty Images
Doughnuts with a receipt made of fondant were on display last week at a bakery in Moosinning, Germany. These Kassenbon Krapfen — receipt doughnuts — are a reaction to Germany's new receipt law.

A new law has taken effect in Germany that requires receipts to be issued at businesses such as restaurants, bakeries, hairdressers, no matter how small the transaction.

It's known as Kassengesetz, or "cash register law": a law for protection against the manipulation of digital records. The measure is meant to increase transparency and prevent tax fraud. The idea is to log each transaction in a format that can be reviewed and verified.

Many of these businesses — and their customers — have taken umbrage at the new requirement, but none has done so more deliciously than the country's beloved bakeries.

In some towns in Bavaria, in southern Germany, some bakeries are incorporating the receipts into the goods themselves. The Bäckerei Ways in Moosinning has begun peddling Kassenbon Krapfen — receipt doughnuts. The pastries are slathered with pink icing and then topped with a receipt made of fondant, tax included.

A bakery in Ansbach, Bavaria, encourages customers to drop their receipts in the window last month, a symbol of the bakery's opposition to the law.
Daniel Karmann / picture alliance via Getty Images
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picture alliance via Getty Images
A bakery in Ansbach, Bavaria, encourages customers to drop their receipts in the window last month, a symbol of the bakery's opposition to the law.

The Streicher bakery in Grosshabersdorf had the same idea. "Edible and not hazardous waste," baker Roland Streicher toldinFranken.de.

Despite its verisimilitude, the sugary doppelgänger doesn't count: A regular receipt still has to be generated.

Businesses must provide a receipt, but customers aren't obligated to take it. Some bakeries have begun collecting the receipts from customers in a growing pile in the shop window, a visible reminder of displeasure with the new policy.

At the Gasthaus Gutenberg restaurant in Karlsruhe, the proprietors took that idea a step further, stringing receipts in a garland crisscrossing the room.

There is in fact no requirement to issue paper receipts in particular. Businesses can issue receipts by email or cellphone. But Germany is still a notoriously cash-based society, making those options unpopular. Companies also aren't required to use an electronic recording system (in which case they are not obligated to issue a receipt), but they still need to keep complete and orderly records.

Bakers demonstrated against the receipt law in Hanover in November, seeing it as a symbol of increased bureaucratization. The law went into effect last month.
Sina Schuldt / picture alliance via Getty Images
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picture alliance via Getty Images
Bakers demonstrated against the receipt law in Hanover in November, seeing it as a symbol of increased bureaucratization. The law went into effect last month.

Many critics of the law point to the huge amounts of waste generated by issuing all those receipts. Receipts are often made of thermal paper coated in chemicals that shouldn't be recycled.

A German trade association estimatedthat all those compulsory receipts will generate enough paper each year to wrap around the world 50 times.

So the controversial law could be good for other enterprises, like the small company Ökobon: It makes organic receipt paper.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

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