Germany creates a gas tax to protect its energy system from bankruptcy

The winter will definitely be very expensive for German gas consumers. In addition to the price increase, all bills will be burdened with an additional tax. On Monday August 15, the government announced its amount: 2.419 centimes per kilowatt hour (kWh) consumed from 1er October, i.e. an additional charge of nearly 500 euros per year for a family of four living in a single-family house and consuming 20,000 kWh per year, excluding VAT.

The objective of this tax, already very controversial, is to guarantee the stability of the country’s energy system in the face of the fall in Russian gas deliveries, a consequence of the tensions linked to the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. According to the Minister of the Economy, Robert Habeck, who presented the device at a press conference on Monday afternoon, this additional contribution is the means “the fairest” to avoid a wave of bankruptcies among gas importers, which would put the entire distribution of heat and energy in the country in danger.

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The fall in deliveries by the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline – currently at 20% of its normal flow – has indeed placed importing companies in a critical situation. For lack of Russian gas, they have to buy the fuel elsewhere, at a much higher price, while being linked with their customers by long-term contracts. Caught in a vice, these distributors were threatened with bankruptcy. Uniper, the first importer of Russian gas in the country, which delivers many municipal services, thus benefited from emergency aid from the State in July.

VAT negotiations

The new levy should make it possible to spread the risk as widely as possible… without directly affecting the State budget. The tax should allow importers to cover 90% of their additional purchase costs. The device will work thanks to an intermediary company, Trading Hub Europe, which normally organizes market operations for all German gas distributors. It will be responsible for collecting and paying the proceeds of this direct debit to distributors who request it. The energy companies RWE and Shell have thus announced their intention to give it up, assuming their additional purchasing costs themselves.

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One way to benefit their customers, exempt from tax, while the burden to come for all the others is considerable. For energy-intensive companies such as chemicals, steel or glass, the additional charge linked to the tax should amount to 5 billion euros, calculated the lobby representing them. For individuals, the potion is particularly bitter. Each gas-consuming household – Russian or not – should expect an increase in its bill of several hundred euros per year, to which could be added 19% VAT.

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