German minister rejects calls to tax growing oil profits

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s finance minister on Tuesday rejected calls by some in the country’s governing parties to tax what they call “excessive profits” earned by oil companies since Russia’s war in Ukraine spiked energy prices.

Suggestions for such a tax by some politicians in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and the Greens have laid bare ideological differences between those two center-left parties and Finance Minister Christian Lindner’s pro-business Free Democrats.

A three-month cut in fuel taxes took effect last week as part of a wider package of measures aimed at blunting the financial fallout from the war. But there have been widespread complaints that prices at the pump have crept back up substantially after initially falling.

Lindner argued that a tax on energy company profits would only do harm and likely risk fueling inflation that is already running at a nearly half-century high of 7.9%.

“My concern is that an arbitrary tax increase for an individual branch will ultimately lead to things getting more expensive in Germany” and possibly lead to shortages, said Lindner, whose party has long vehemently opposed tax hikes. He said there is currently no confirmation that any “excessive profits” have been made in the oil industry.

The British government last month announced plans for a 25% temporary windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies, with the aim of raising billions of pounds (dollars) for cash payments to people struggling with sharply rising energy bills.

Spain and Italy already have approved similar taxes, while Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has urged major energy producer Norway to use the profits from the rising costs of its oil and natural gas to support the countries hardest hit by the war, mainly Ukraine.

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