36

During a business trip in Düsseldorf I have bought some chocolate from a rather fancy store. After paying for it I was asked if I want the receipt (I am almost certain that this happened after it was actually printed) and automatically said "no". This was almost automatic because where I live I am typically asked if I need a full invoice for deducting the expense.

This is rather strange for a Eastern-European person who sees signs like "ask for receipt and keep it until exiting the store" all over the place where I live (this is due to rather high tax-evasion and the government forced all stores to put such signs) and I am wondering if it's OK not to ask and keep the receipt in Germany.

Question: Is it OK if I do not take the receipt in Germany?

  • 13
    So does the sign in the store say “Ask for the receipt and keep it until exiting the store (this is due to rather high tax evasion)” or does it say “Ask for the receipt and keep it until exiting the store”? If it’s the latter, it seems to me it’s a warning that you might need it to prove you paid for the goods. Otherwise you might spend a rather unpleasant few minutes being stopped and questioned by store security. – Traveller Apr 22 at 6:56
  • 5
    It's quite funny in Austria, the law says if you paid cash you have to take the receipt and carry it with you until you leave, but there's no penalty if you don't, which creates a bit of a weird situation. – etarion Apr 22 at 7:53
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    @etarion - it kind of make sense since paying by card is traceable. Also, having laws without penalty is not that uncommon and generally, there are many reasons for having such laws as explained in this great Politics answer here. – Alexei Apr 22 at 7:59
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    If you were supposed to take the receipt, they wouldn't have asked if you want it. – Moyli Apr 22 at 8:36
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    In Italy, I was told (in 2013) that the “Tax Police” (guardia di finanza) would sometimes ask a buyer outside the store for the receipt and that the merchant could be in trouble if they didn’t have one. – WGroleau Apr 22 at 12:19
58

It is perfectly normal to accept or reject the receipt if that is asked. It is slightly impolite to reject a receipt if it has been printed and handed out, since this slows the checkout line for everybody and since the sales clerk may not have a waste basket nearby.

  • The shop is always required to keep records for tax purposes. Generally that means printing a receipt on a cash register which logs every transaction. These records don't include the printout for the customer because that would normally leave with the customer.
  • The customer may be required to keep records for tax purposes, e.g. if the expense becomes a deductable business expense.
  • Keeping the receipt would also provide clarity if there are accusations of shoplifting, but receipts are not the only way to resolve such a question. Just one of the most convienient.
  • Having the receipt may be necessary if the customer wants to complain about having gotten wrong change.
  • The receipt may be required for warranty claims.

So the customer can ditch the receipt immediately. Inconsiderate people may drop it on the sidewalk, so shops may ask routinely "do you want that" and drop it in a waste paper bin if not. I believe there are some models of cash register which can bypass the printing for the customer, while making all required records.

  • 33
    Yes, fortunately there are grocery stores which only print upon confirmation and thus reduce waste. – ComFreek Apr 22 at 8:37
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    The issue with printing on demand is the time. For one they have to wait for the customer to respond and only after can start handling the next customer. Secondly when doing a bigger weekend sopping with many items printing it can take some notable amount of time. If printed while registering that however is no issue. I have seen multiple shops returning to print by default as apparently a notable amount of people want to have it. (I sometimes ask for it, when i have the impression they scanned wrongly, as checking the receipt is simpler than arguing - especially as I'm wrong most of the time) – johannes Apr 22 at 19:50
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    Customers are easily getting impatient while waiting, when apparently hardly anything happens ... – johannes Apr 23 at 14:33
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    and since the sales clerk may not have a waste basket nearby. That is an issue the clerk should take with the store owner. And why should this be a reason for me as a customer to get this problem in my hands? (The trash I don't need) – Andreas Apr 23 at 20:45
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    It's nothing to debate about. If I don't want the receipt then it's up to the store to do what they want with it. It really isn't the customers problem. And what makes you think the customer has a handy waste bin in his/her pocket? It's the same as if someone hands you a flyer on the street, you have no obligation to accept it. – Andreas Apr 24 at 6:28
36

It's absolutely in Ordnung. If you don't need it, you don't take it, as many people in Germany do.

  • 9
    Do you feel it's right to use German in an answer? I don't know any German and had to translate what you said. – data Apr 23 at 10:24
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    @data even if you don't know what in Ordnung means, does the rest of the answer leave any room for ambiguity? – Chris H Apr 23 at 11:51
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    Is it really so hard to see "in Ordnung" probably means "in order" ? – vikingsteve Apr 24 at 7:12
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    @vikingsteve: And what does "in order" mean? (Have you ever heard an English speaker say "It's absolutely in order" to mean "It's absolutely fine"?) We can guess that Ordnung means "order", or that "in order" means "fine", but asking us to guess all these things at once is a bit much. – ruakh Apr 24 at 19:21
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    @ruakh "Everything is in order" should be perfectly understandable to an English speaker and usable in everyday speech. It's not a stretch to change that to "It's in order". – user71659 Apr 25 at 6:06
3

In some countries it is apparently easier to evade paying taxes if you don't print a receipt for your income. In China for example, businesses for a time were required to get a special printer and print receipts on government issued numbered forms using a government issued software application and for a while these forms even had a scratch area that would reveal hidden prizes, in order to motivate customers to ask for that receipt. Nowadays it's more and more electronic though, and printed receipts are no longer required everywhere.

In Germany that is not the case. Taxes are only based on the businesses own records, and a copy of the receipt given to the customer is such a record; however, whether you keep your copy is irrelevant. The records have to be complete. Every transaction has to be recorded, and skipping transactions can likely be found in a tax-audit.

Though I don't know if it is actually harder to cheat in Germany, or if it is simply done so rarely as to not be an issue.

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    Customer receipt is not a record of anything in Germany. Shops have their own merchant receipts which are always printed or stored digitally regardless of buyers' wish to have or not to have their receipts. – Neusser Apr 22 at 15:05
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    I believe that is only partially correct. When a business does have an electronic cash register, this must meet certain standards. If not, they must document their daily manual count. – o.m. Apr 22 at 15:34
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    Untaken receipts have potential. For some commodities, e.g. car fuel, the shop assistant may collect receipts not taken by customers and then sell them for tax evasion purposes. For example small businesses may purchase such receipts to claim (false) expenses (fuel which they did not actually buy) and then list car rides which actually never happened and this way make their taxable income lower. So for such commodities, taking the receipt can be a small contribution to prevent the behavior. – miroxlav Apr 23 at 17:15
  • @miroxlab: I'd think the resale value of these receipts is low: how much would you pay for a fuel receipt considering that you could just take one of your own private fuel receipts? (Besides, AFAIK the German tax office works on the premise that no properly kept vehicle log exists, so that will probably be the very first to be questioned and subject to an estimate). The same holds for pretty much all other goods on such "Kleinbetragsrechnungen" for stuff where the customer may not take their receipt (i.e. nothing with warranty/possibilty to return etc.) – cbeleites supports Monica Apr 24 at 11:18
  • @cbeleites – OK, but if you purchase uncollected receipts for let's say 10000€ for fuel or for building materials (another favorite commodity for this practice), it is a volume what you normally would not get from your private use. On internet you can see some ads selling them which shows this is what some people actually do. – miroxlav Apr 24 at 14:08
3

I live in Munich and receipts here are generally printed on-demand, i.e. the cashier asks if you need the receipt and if the answer is yes, he will print it for you. But:

  • Now-defunct grocery chain Tengelmann used to put up signs suggesting that customers don't take a receipt if not needed to save the environment.
  • Waiting for the receipt to be printed may increase waiting time for the people behind you in the queue.

Hence it is perfectly fine not to take the receipt.

  • Nowadays, the receipt printers are quite fast. – glglgl Apr 24 at 18:39
  • @glglgl True, but usually the cashier is already moving to grip the next customers groceries, so he has to stop his current motion, focus on the register in front of him, push the button to have the receipt printed and most of the time, he also hands me the receipt or at least tries to if I'm not faster to grab it ... – kratom_sandwich Apr 25 at 14:10
2

In Germany, this is perfectly alright, especially in a "fancy store".

The receipt is obviously needed should you ever want to return a good (hardly the case with chocolate), though in a "fancy store", your word of honour is normally enough anyway (also, shop assistants will immediately recognize your face and know what you bought -- even after weeks, not sure how they do that, it's scary). Not so in "mass" shops. No receipt, no return, no warranty.

You may want to keep the receipt (and in particular, not throw it away in front of the store!) just in case because there exist singular cases where people have gotten in trouble due to scammers. Some 10 or so years ago, it reportedly happened rather often that someone would pick up your receipt at a supermarket, and then stop you while you were loading stuff into your car, call police and claim you stole their goods (providing the receipt as evidence).
I'm doubtful about whether that would actually hold in court, especially since it's pretty obvious from surveillance tapes and from your credit card bill that you paid for the goods. But reportedly, scammers were often successful with that (maybe also because people didn't want to risk a criminal charge?). Well, whatever, that's that. It's easy to avoid that possibility by just taking the receipt with you.

You may want to keep the receipt because some (not all) shops print more or less obscure transaction data, and sometimes data that can be used to identify you or your card on the receipt. If your paranoia level isn't above threshold for that, it's no issue.

You may also want to keep the receipt as a proof of ownerships in some stores where the cash point is very far from the exit. Otherwise, an overzealous in-house detective may become a nuisance if you can't present the receipt (though it has never happened to me, personally).

Nowadays, most stores do not print the receipt at all if you say "No" after they ask you REWE being an obnoxious exception: They ask, and you say "No", they still print it, and put it under the table quickly afterwards, but then make a vexed face when you say: "OK, now that you printed it anyway, I'll take it with me.".

In other places, by not taking the receipt you risk severe trouble, notably in the German-speaking northern part of Italy (Alto Adige). Eat in a restaurant, pay your bill, fail to take the receipt, and walk away. A hundred meters down the road, police stops you, and you're in real trouble as accomplice in a tax fraud.

-4

I have encountered some cases where if I have paid with a credit card, the business may charge a higher amount to the card than what was authorized.

Sellers know that memory is fallible and without a receipt I may be unlikely to accurately remember the correct amount of the charge to check my credit card statement, especially if the amount they actually charge is not extravagantly higher. They also know that even in the unlikely case I do remember all the details, do check, and notice that they've charged more, I don't have a copy of the receipt to be able to contradict the credit card statement or practically win a dispute through the credit card company.

If I do take the receipt, I have the capacity to check it against the credit card statement and contest any overcharge, and the business knows this. If the business is invested in keeping a low-level fraud going without detection for as long as possible (so as to maximize profits from the activity), the business will only apply the overcharge to customers who declined to take receipts.

Thus, even if I never actually do check that transaction, I am more protected from this kind of fraud than I would be if I refused the receipt. Paying cash offers even stronger protection against later changes to the amount.


I have seen cases in which a shopkeeper allows someone to purchase an item with cash without accepting a receipt and attempt to leave, then accuses the customer of stealing. The customer might be offered the choice of (a) arrest and a trip to the local jail while the details are sorted out, or (b) paying some amount of money, often related to the total asking price for the goods they were attempting to leave with, and/or the amount of remaining cash the shopkeeper knows the customer has. Due to the monetary and nonmonetary costs associated with (a), many people will choose (b), or at least a negotiated version of (b) with a lower cost than initially demanded.

Again, a business invested in keeping this racket going will only pick targets who don't have a receipt they can use as defense evidence.

(I've also seen the version where a seller of expensive small things, like jewels/jewelry, will take out many samples to show a prospective customer, and then if the customer doesn't buy, the seller will put everything away, pocketing/hiding one of the items when the non-customer's distracted, then "discover" it missing and accuse the non-customer of stealing. A receipt won't help in that case, though.)


I have seen cases where it is important to get a receipt from a service business (e.g. short-term bicycle rental) especially when paying cash, because the employees might pocket the funds and underreport sales to their employer, making the customer who doesn't take the receipt an unwitting assistant to theft from the business they may be trying to support. This seems less likely when a recording electronic cash register or electronic payment is used, but such registers aren't universal, and if you declare that you don't want the receipt your transaction might not be processed through a recording register.

In my understanding, this was the original purpose for the receipt, allowing a customer to notify the business owner to be on the lookout for those funds in the business's cash box, helping keep employees honest whether or not that notice actually occurred for any particular transaction. I have never seen such notice happen in practice, even while the fraud it is intended to prevent does.


Businesses may be more likely to conduct low-level fraud against tourists, who are much less likely than locals to return to the vendor for future business even if everything goes well, and less likely to be able/willing to take any action in the legal system of the jurisdiction they are visiting.

I believe these kinds of dishonest treatment are less likely to happen in Germany than in some other places, and do not believe a customer generally has any legal duty to accept the receipt (unless they plan to e.g. claim the purchase as a tax deduction), but I find accepting the receipt to be generally good practice.


If you are purchasing durable goods with a warranty, you may need the receipt to prove the date of purchase and amount paid for that item, which a credit card statement might not show as clearly.

If you purchased an expensive commodity and then see the same item cheaper from another vendor shortly thereafter, AND your credit card is one of the few offering a cross-vendor price-match program which covers the purchased item, you would need your receipt to make a claim under that program.

If you plan to cross a customs-controlled border with the goods you are purchasing, you may legally need the receipt to prove the value of the goods in order to demonstrate that your imports are under a duty-free exemption and/or reduce the probability that your duties will be assessed on a value higher than your recent market price for that item. This is less important for consumables you will eat/use before departing.

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    Just out of curiosity: all these incidents happened in shops in Germany? – user2705196 Apr 22 at 19:31
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    -1 for giving a misleading impression of what is plausible in Germany. – Mehrdad Apr 22 at 22:27
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    Downvoting because the question was "Is it OK if I do not take the receipt in Germany?" and your answer reads like OP would be mad to even consider it. I'm not saying that these things can't happen, but they're very unlikely to be faced in Germany. You mention that they're "less likely to happen in Germany than in some other places" but to me that seems a significantly weaker statement than is merited given the context, and it's buried in the 11th paragraph of your answer. – Chris H Apr 23 at 7:55
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    I almost never take receipts these days, since I see any electronic payments on my debit statement and know how much cash I spend via math (cash withdrawn - cash currently in pocket), but I've never been the victim of, or have even heard of anyone being the victim of such scams around here. – mag Apr 23 at 9:38
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    @WBT That's untrue. The debit cash terminals display exactly what is being charged to your card, down to the cent, at the point of sale. Transactions are not authorized unless confirmed by PIN, so unless they also somehow found out my debit pin, there is no way for them to overcharge after the fact. – mag Apr 23 at 13:37

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