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The receipt issuance obligation: background, effects, and alternatives.

Victoria Waba,  Content Marketing Manager
Victoria Waba
Content Marketing Manager
4 min read

The receipt issuance obligation (known as Belegausgabepflicht or Bonpflicht in Germany) came into force on January 1, 2020, at the same time as the Cash Register Security Ordinance (KassenSichV). This legal obligation stipulates that companies must hand out a receipt to their customer after every transaction. The measure aims to prevent cash register manipulation and tax evasion and also to strengthen consumer protection through transparency. In this blog article, we will give you a comprehensive overview of the topic as well as its implications for companies.

What is the receipt issuance obligation?

The obligation to issue receipts (Section 146a (2) of the German Fiscal Code, AO) is a legal obligation in Germany, according to which a receipt must be issued for every transaction. It affects companies of all sectors and sizes that sell products or services directly to end customers.

To be compliant with KassenSichV, the receipt must contain certain information, including the cash register and TSS number, the start and end time of the transaction, the signature counter, and the verification value. Since June 2021, the readable TSE signature on the receipt can be replaced by a verification QR code.

Why is there a receipt issuance obligation?

The introduction of the receipt obligation aims to ensure greater transparency and control in business transactions involving large amounts of cash. Issuing receipts for every business transaction ensures that all transactions are fully recorded and documented for tax audits. This enables tax authorities to more effectively verify companies' tax obligations. The receipt requirement also provides consumers with proof of their transactions and serves to protect consumers.

Who is affected by the receipt issuance obligation?

In Germany, the receipt obligation applies in principle to all companies that operate an electronic cash register system and handle transactions with end consumers. The regulation applies regardless of the size of the company, so both small stores and service providers, as well as large companies and chains, must comply with the receipt issue obligation. Open cash registers are exempt from the regulation. However, there are certain specifications that may vary depending on regional regulations. Companies should therefore inform themselves about the exact legal requirements.

Are there any exceptions to the receipt issuance obligation?

Anyone who can prove a factual or personal hardship can apply to the tax authorities for exemption from the obligation to issue receipts. This includes, for example, the sale of goods to a large number of customers not known by name. Another case is the unreasonable issuance of cash register receipts, although additional costs are not a sufficient argument.

Criticism of the receipt issuance obligation

Since its introduction in 2020, the receipt requirement has been the subject of much debate, especially in the context of businesses with frequent but low-value transactions such as bakeries or kiosks. Frequently cited arguments include the unnecessary amount of paper printed, as customers are not required to accept the receipt, and it is often disposed of immediately. Time delays, for example in busy stores at peak times, can also be an annoyance for businesses.

The digital receipt as a legally compliant alternative

Companies can also digitize their receipt handling and provide their customers with digital receipts. By switching to electronic receipts, companies can save valuable resources, while being legally compliant. By scanning a QR code, customers receive the receipt directly on their smartphone without having to provide personal data.

Initially, this was only possible if customers explicitly agreed to receive a digital alternative instead of a paper receipt. In the meantime, however, the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) has simplified this regulation: The tacit consent of the customer to the electronic receipt is sufficient. In practice, this means that companies must inform customers about the digital receipt, but it is not mandatory to download it.

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KassenSichV in 2023 - What will change

At the beginning of the year, a further transitional period of the German KassenSichV expired and the regulation was enacted for all POS systems. Every electronic POS system must therefore be equipped with a certified technical security system (TSS) as of January 1, 2023.