In the middle of the Christmas business, an initiative from the CDU is causing a stir. The idea: a fee for parcels that online retailers send to their customers. This is intended to finance a “city center fund” that will benefit stationary retail. This has been particularly hard hit by the corona pandemic with the shop closings. The coalition partner SPD supports the proposal. The FDP and especially the retail sector itself are not very enthusiastic.
“Pact for lively inner cities”
The position paper “Pact for Lively Inner Cities” from the CDU / CSU parliamentary group comes from the deputy chairman Andreas Jung and the local political spokesman Christian Haase. They advocate introducing a parcel fee for online trading, “the amount of which is proportional to the order value”.
“The fee is collected from the online retailer and paid by him to the tax office. With the income from this, the online retailer will share in the costs of communal infrastructures used by him,” says the catalog of demands that is available to the German press agency . Previously, the World on Sunday reported about it.
Jung and Haase justify the suggested levy, for which they do not give any specific figures, with the “imbalance in relation to the stationary retail trade”, which could thereby be eliminated. The traders with the shops in the streets are already contributing significantly to the municipal budget with their taxes. The two CDU politicians want to use the money raised “in full to strengthen a diverse retail trade in lively inner cities”.
Product safety and tax payments for products from the Far East
The German Trade Association (HDE) will immediately raise an objection. In relation to international online trading, the main thing is fair competition. “This does not require new taxes on parcels, but better controls to ensure that our local regulations for product safety and tax payments are also observed for deliveries from the Far East,” said HDE Managing Director Stefan Genth.
“A package tax would also affect many domestic online retailers who are correct and punctual taxpayers,” argued Genth. “In addition, that would be a disservice to the third of stationary retailers who have built up an online business.” These companies have already increased their online sales significantly and also used large Internet platforms. “The future of retail lies in the combination of online and stationary on-site,” summarized Genth. It doesn’t help to play the sales channels off against each other.
“No substitute for fairer taxation of the Internet giants”
For the opposition FDP, a package tax would be “a new bureaucratic monster”. Rather, it is more important to give the retail sector “a clear and reliable opening perspective for the next year,” said FDP parliamentary group vice-president Michael Theurer. During the shutdown, all retailers across Germany should be allowed to collect goods, he demanded.
For the SPD, parliamentary group vice-president Achim Post commented positively on the union proposal: “A kind of corona levy from online retailers like Amazon can be a building block for more justice in the crisis and provide concrete support for local retailers.” Such an additional taxation of the online trade could “not be a substitute for a fundamentally fairer taxation of the Internet giants”. Their power threatens to grow further in the crisis.
Low-wage mail order workers
In the boom in Internet sales, worries about the situation of employees are also growing. Since 2008, the number of employees in the mail order business has almost tripled from 60,022 to 161,331 in March 2020. According to the Federal Employment Agency, the median income of those fully employed in the mail order business last year was 2,663 euros gross per month – and thus 738 euros lower than across all sectors. This emerges from a response from the Federal Agency to a request from the left in the Bundestag.
Every third full-time employee in the mail order business accordingly worked at low wages with less than two-thirds of the median salary, i.e. earned less than 2,267 euros gross per month. The proportion of low-wage employees was almost 15 percentage points higher than that of the total number of employees.
According to the Federal Agency, around 60 percent of the employment relationships that were started in the mail order business last year were temporary. Across all industries, this was only 40.7 percent. In addition, almost 29,000 mail order employees were still working as mini-jobbers in March.