In view of the additional costs in the billions for private households and companies as a result of the introduction of the gas surcharge, calls for further state aid are increasing – especially for those on lower incomes. For a family, the levy means additional costs of almost 600 euros per year for gas. Without VAT, as requested by the government, it would be 484 euros. According to economic researchers, the companies will be charged 5.7 billion euros.
The gas network operators announced the amount of the gas levy on Monday: it will be 2.419 cents from October. That is 576 euros for a family household with a consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours and 144 euros for a single household with a consumption of 5000 kilowatt hours.
According to the German Economic Institute (IW), energy-intensive basic industries such as the chemical and metal industries as well as manufacturers and processors of glass, ceramics, stone and earth are particularly affected on the company side. These three sectors alone bear more than half of the additional costs.
The German chemical industry will face additional burdens of more than 3 billion euros, explained the general manager of the industry association VCI, Wolfgang Große Entrup, on Monday. Although the levy is the best model from an economic point of view, it means an “extremely bitter pill” for the industry, which has already been hit hard. The surcharge must be kept as low as possible through state subsidies. The funds for this could be counter-financed from additional revenue from sales tax as a result of the high energy prices.
The machine builders also expect a significant burden from the gas levy. “Together with massively increasing gas and electricity prices and problems getting offers at all, the energy supply is becoming a massive challenge for medium-sized companies,” said Thilo Brodtmann, Managing Director of the industry association VDMA. “We assume that gas prices will at least triple in the medium term compared to pre-crisis levels.”
Not only consumer advocates and social organizations, but also business associations are demanding relief for gas customers. The energy industry association BDEW, for example, proposed reducing the value-added tax on gas and electricity prices to the reduced rate of seven percent for at least two years. Companies would also benefit from this.
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Social associations suggested, for example, an increase in the Hartz IV standard rate and an expansion of the entitlement to housing benefit, the introduction of basic child security and an energy allowance for people who are retired. The proposals also include a heat quota of 10,000 kilowatt hours per household at a fair price.
The Verdi union brought up a gas price cap for “normal consumption” for a family of four of 12,000 kilowatt hours. The costs for this amount of gas would have to be capped at the 2021 level.
“The gas surcharge cannot be introduced without a relief package,” also demanded the Federal Association of Consumers. Many questions are still open – so the government must postpone the introduction of the levy: “As long as the coalition is arguing about further relief measures, the levy should be tax-financed.”
Sharp criticism from the opposition
The left called citizens to demonstrations against the planned gas levy on the street. “I had announced a hot autumn of social protests against the social coldness of the federal government,” said party leader Martin Schirdewan on Monday in Berlin. Because the federal government has decided on an anti-social course, “we will support this protest and will also organize it where we can”.
Left boss Schirdewan again called for a gas price cap: A basic quota for heating, cooking and hot water should be made available to all gas customers at a fixed price. Only additional consumption would cost more.
The economic policy spokeswoman for the Union faction in the Bundestag, Julia Klöckner, described the gas levy as “necessary but incorrectly implemented”. “It was discovered too late that the gas levy is subject to VAT,” the CDU politician told the German Press Agency in Berlin on Monday. The VAT exemption must first be decided unanimously in the EU Council, and approval for this can take up to eight months.
“This is where (Economics Minister Robert) Habeck (Greens) and Finance Minister Christian) Lindner (FDP) slept. Because the levy could have been designed in such a way that it is not subject to VAT,” explained Klöckner.
Klöckner said the surcharge would also mean billions in additional costs for companies that depend on gas. In addition, gas and electricity costs have risen sharply. “We have to be careful not to put jobs at risk.”
“Gas surcharge without a relief program is disrespectful”
CSU regional group head Alexander Dobrindt criticized the fact that the federal government had not presented a relief program at the same time as the gas levy was announced. “To present the gas surcharge without a simultaneous relief program is disrespectful,” Dobrindt told the German Press Agency on Monday.
At the traffic light, there is confusion instead of a clear course: the VAT problem is unresolved, the consideration of pensioners in the energy flat rate is unresolved, the explosion in energy costs for medium and low incomes is unresolved, but gas levy burdens have been decided,” Dobrindt complained. “The traffic light shows itself as the coalition of quick burdens and lack of respect.” Now a relief package is urgently needed. Otherwise the energy costs would become a poverty trap for many families.
Green boss names further relief options
Green leader Ricarda Lang named a greatly expanded housing benefit, higher child benefit or a new edition of the energy price flat rate as ways to relieve the burden on citizens. A tax on war-related excess profits could also help “to relieve those who suffer most from the rising prices”.
The FDP immediately objected. Deputy Christoph Mayer explained that the relief packages that have already been launched are only just beginning to take effect. A housing benefit reform was agreed as a further relief. Priority must be given to reducing cold progression. An extension of the Akw running times could also have a price-dampening effect. (dpa, AFP)