Anyone who wants to refuel cheaply (more) in Poland must do so today or tomorrow at the latest – the media in the border areas have been pointing this out for days. The reason: from January 1, 2023, the VAT on fuel in the neighboring country will be increased again to the usual 23 percent.
45 cents less per liter
In February of this year, it was lowered to eight percent as part of a so-called “anti-inflation shield” by the Polish government. As a result, in Slubice and Gubin, for example, you sometimes paid up to 45 cents less for a liter of petrol than in Frankfurt and Guben on the other side of the Oder and Neisse.
But this low tax rate violated a directive of the European Union on the VAT system, which is intended to guarantee fair competition in the EU internal market. Weeks ago, Brussels had asked the Polish government to increase VAT on petrol and diesel again.
Gas station death feared
The fact that Warsaw is now complying with this without much resistance is probably also due to the fact that the measure was very expensive for the Polish state and was only planned temporarily anyway, the German side suspects. Here, for example, the North-East Association of Garages and Petrol Stations warned of a massive increase in “petrol tourism” and even of “petrol stations dying” on the German side when it announced the reduction in Polish petrol tax.
Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad, said Jürgen Ziegner, Managing Director of the Central Association of the Gas Station Trade (ZTG) on Friday in the Tagesspiegel: “Of course, that was partly due to our own tax cut from June to August and the fact that the gas station network on the eastern border of Germany is anyway more open-meshed than in other regions.”
In this respect, people are already used to tank tourism to Poland in the border areas of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony – similar to what was the case for years on the border with Luxembourg in western Germany.
“Especially for the free gas stations, it was still a struggle for survival,” said ZTG Managing Director Ziegner. “And the situation is unlikely to get any better. Even if the electricity price brake comes as planned, the energy costs of the filling stations will triple or even quadruple. And then there is the increase in the minimum wage.”
At least the German petrol stations no longer have to fear the cheap competition from Poland. From Sunday, the trip to the neighboring country will only be worthwhile for those who do not have to travel more than 15 kilometers, according to the ADAC. And also warns against carrying large amounts of fuel in canisters. “It’s always associated with risks,” says ADAC spokeswoman Claudia Löffler: “Especially if it’s more than ten liters. You should be very careful that the fuel is safely stowed in the trunk.”
Nevertheless, many people will probably make their way to Poland again, especially since some of them are attracted not only by the (still) cheap petrol, but also by the New Year’s Eve fireworks. This Friday, small queues of cars were already forming at the city bridge in Frankfurt (Oder) – but according to a resident, that was always the case at the turn of the year.