Some should take shorter showers and heat less in winter – others make billions in profits. This may be a somewhat shallow description, but it is essentially accurate as a result of Russia's war against Ukraine.
In any case, this narrative seems to have prevailed among the population, and the demand for a consequence is clear. According to ARD Deutschlandtrend, 76 percent of those entitled to vote are of the opinion that there should be an additional tax for companies with extraordinary profits because of the war in Ukraine.
The SPD and the Greens, who have been calling for a so-called excess profit tax for a long time, find this survey result just right. SPD leader Saskia Esken points out in the ARD morning show that the state is currently giving both citizens and companies with high energy consumption financial support: "If others are making excessive profits, then they should also participate."
Who bears the costs of the crisis?
The Greens see it the same way. In an interview with the ARD capital studio, the deputy leader of the parliamentary group, Andreas Audretsch, speaks of effortless billions in profits. "I can't argue that people will have to pay a surcharge on gas from October and bear this crisis, and at the same time oil companies are pocketing billions in profits."
A majority of FDP voters apparently share this argument. According to the ARD Germany trend, 58 percent of them are in favor of an additional tax on extraordinary profits – 38 percent of the FDP voters are against it.
FDP warns of unemployment
So it's no wonder that FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai initially expresses his understanding for the debate about an excess profit tax. In the ARD morning show, however, he warns even more explicitly of the possible consequences: Investors would be deterred if the state arbitrarily defined when a profit was an excess profit: "The damage to Germany as a business location, especially to jobs in Germany, will be enormous. "
Djir-Sarai's party friend, the Federal Minister of Finance, had already intervened in the debate beforehand. In a lengthy Twitter post, Christian Lindner referred to Italy, which had already introduced an excess profits tax because of the consequences of the Ukraine war. There are problems with collecting taxes. In addition, there are no oil companies based in Germany that could be taxed higher.
SPD and Greens want proposals from the Lindner Ministry
So how could an excess profit tax be introduced that actually hits "the right people" and generates revenue for the state? Green parliamentary group leader Audretsch thinks that countries like Italy, but also Great Britain and Spain have introduced an excess profit tax, shows that this is also possible in Germany. "One option, for example, is an additional levy as part of corporate tax," says Audretsch. Details would have to be checked.
SPD boss Esken plays the ball straight on to the Lindner Ministry: "We have experts for this in the Federal Ministry of Finance, so we have to set out together now."
A common line is not in sight in the traffic light coalition in terms of excess profit tax. Criticism of this comes from the Union, which considers such a tax to be conceivable in principle. CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader Spahn thinks that the government must make a concrete proposal and not just discuss it. In the SWR interview of the week, Spahn said: "In the end, that only unsettles everyone." Every day there are all positions from the government on topics such as excess profit tax, inflation or nuclear power plant terms.
Red-Green against FDP – not an isolated case
In fact, the list of proposals and unresolved problems is long, and in a striking number of cases the dividing line runs between the SPD and the Greens on one side and the FDP on the other. This applies to the discussion about longer terms for nuclear power plants, the speed limit, the debt brake and the excess profit tax. How long can a coalition endure this?
In any case, the discussion about an excess profit tax should continue, even if all arguments now seem to have been exchanged. With autumn comes the heating period, higher energy prices and, for gas customers, the additional surcharge. At the latest then it will be about further relief for citizens – and the question of who will pay for it.