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Coffee smuggling

Penalty on roasted coffee

The penalty duty for roasted coffee was first introduced in Prussia by Frederick the Great. A kind of luxury tax on colonial products was quite normal at that time. As coffee became more and more widespread, however, and import volumes exceeded those of an exclusive luxury product, Frederick the Great pulled the rip cord and completely banned the import of roasted coffee. After a short period in which only green coffee (subject to high penalties) was allowed to be imported, people simply roasted their own coffee, coffee roasting was also banned. So the monopoly on roasted coffee lay with the state roastery.

When the extent of illegal coffee smuggling and black burning took on uncontrollable proportions and it became clear that the state was losing large amounts of tax revenue, the bans were lifted and taxes reintroduced. The coffee tax (2.19 euros per kg of coffee) cannot be described as a protective duty, since coffee does not grow at all in Germany. In order to at least protect the German roasting culture, the current penalty duty on roasted coffee was introduced. Thus, coffee is still subject to double taxation today, because VAT must of course still be paid on coffee. Together with the coffee tax on coffee products consumed domestically, coffee earns the German state around one billion euros every year.

Since roasting coffee represents a major leap forward in the value chain, the practice of importing only green coffee duty-free is controversial. Most of the coffee-growing countries are quite poor and would benefit from the roasting trade in their own country.

A petition to lift coffee taxes and customs duties was finally rejected by the Bundestag in 2013.