BVerwG landmark ruling: Tübingen may levy packaging tax

Packaging tax applies retroactively from 1 January 2022

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The Tübingen packaging tax is essentially legal. This was announced by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig (BVerwG) at the end of May.  A material-independent tax on disposable packaging, tableware and cutlery for food and beverages for immediate consumption or to go has been in force there since January 2022. The sales outlets are liable to pay the tax. The tax rate is 50 cents for disposable tableware and 20 cents for disposable cutlery.


This is intended not only to generate revenue for the city, but also to reduce the pollution of the cityscape by "discarded" packaging and to create incentives for the use of reusable packaging. The tax rate is capped at a maximum of 1.50 euros per single meal.


The operator of a fast-food chain in Tübingen had filed a lawsuit against this municipal packaging tax and prevailed in the lower court at the Mannheim Administrative Court.


The decision in Leipzig was different: As a rule, "to-go" food and drinks are still consumed within the municipal area, even if they are bought to go. This means that the tax is local and may be levied by the city, according to the Federal Administrative Court. The packaging tax also does not violate federal waste law.


However, because of the ongoing legal dispute, no taxes have yet been collected. Things are different now. After the municipal council has amended the statutes in the few points that the Federal Administrative Court found to be unlawful, the city administration will write to the approximately 440 affected businesses asking them to submit a tax return and on this basis send out the tax notices for the years 2022 and 2023.


Information from the City of Tübingen on the packaging tax (only in German)


Press release of the BVerwG on the Tübingen packaging tax (only in German)