Berlin Shortly before Easter, Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz (SPD) patted himself on the back on the social networks. “The protective shield works. Around 7.3 billion euros of emergency aid is already flowing for small businesses and the self-employed, ” tweeted the Federal Ministry of Finance and added: “Speed and thoroughness go hand in hand: it is carefully checked who receives the money.”
The last sentence could still fall on the Ministry of Finance’s feet. Because there can be no question of careful examination when approving the Corona emergency aid for small businesses in some federal states. In NRW, for example, the maximum amounts of EUR 9,000 and EUR 15,000 are always approved – regardless of actual needs.
Nevertheless, the practice of some countries has spread to the Federal Ministry of Economics – and there is a lack of understanding there. Because the federal states only pay the aid. The up to 50 billion euros are provided by the federal government.
The problem has already been discussed in the task force set up in the Federal Ministry of Economics and even raised the question of whether it is necessary to reclaim the money from some countries.
Although federal money is at stake, it is up to the federal states how hard they scrutinize entrepreneurs who apply for emergency aid. In Hamburg, for example, a liquidity check is required. Other countries are significantly less strict so that aid can flow as quickly as possible.
However, a flat-rate payment of maximum amounts was never intended. The Federal Ministry of Economics has set clear rules from the start. The aid should amount to up to 9,000 euros for companies with up to five employees and up to 15,000 euros for up to ten employees. The emphasis here is on the “up to”.
According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the actual amount should be based on sales and operating expenses for the next three months. An entrepreneur with zero euros turnover and 1000 euros costs would be entitled to 3000 euros in emergency aid.
But in NRW, for example, an entrepreneur would simply get three times as much. “The sums are initially paid out as a lump sum,” confirms the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Economic Affairs on request. The entrepreneur would therefore not receive 3000, but 9000 euros, the maximum rate. .
In NRW, companies could only choose the maximum amounts when applying. Berlin proceeded in a similar way with the state aid in the amount of 5000 euros, which were also paid as a lump sum.
North Rhine-Westphalia has already paid over three billion euros in emergency aid – by far the highest amount of all countries. The Ministry of Economics in North Rhine-Westphalia reports that overcompensation is generally not permitted. “Therefore, the emergency aid recipients have to reimburse overpaid funds after three months (end of June). We are currently working on a process for this. “
The head of the taxpayers’ association, Reiner Holznagel, is also pressing for such a subsequent check: “Where the subsidies were granted very quickly, it must be checked later – for example, the tax offices can do this.”
But experts have their doubts that the tax offices will succeed. The paying agencies in the federal states often do not check the tax number. In addition, the tax offices are not automatically informed by the agencies that pay out the funds which entrepreneurs receive which support.
The tax officials may therefore not be able to understand whether the information in the tax returns is correct, fears the head of the tax union, Thomas Eigenhaler.
In addition, the tax authorities are chronically understaffed, 6,000 finance officers were missing before the millions of applications for emergency aid got rolling. “So it is not realistic that the tax authorities will increase their audit intensity,” says Eigenhaler.
Taxpayer boss Holznagel also has some understanding for the entrepreneurs. There are various federal and state aids, some of which are only now being interlinked. In addition, country aid is very different. “It is actually not that easy for those affected to see through the different funding programs.”
Exactly the same problem will soon be faced by tax officials during their tax audits.
More: State aid for small business owners is paid almost without a real audit. Tax offices lack the tools for later control.