Administrative No-ops

Last week Peter Robinett sent me a link to this Times article that would seem a bit far fetched if it wasn’t mostly true. The headline (“a Limp Domestic Economy”) doesn’t really cover the article because it describes how massively things have improved in Germany. If I can believe stories, the situation here used to be far far worse. That however is no excuse.

Rule fucking (the Dutch ‘regelneuken’), protectionism and arcane laws still apply and add up to create:

This economy is overregulated, intended to insulate insiders from competition and deeply resistant to change.

But mostly we’re ok. And there lies the exact problem. If indeed the current positive climate preempts further reforms, that will be institutionally stupid.

I was mostly going to blow this off until last week upon returning from Spain I got a letter from the Finanzamt asking me why exactly I needed a Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer (USt-IdNr.). I had submitted a form for my personal incorporation here in Germany and checked the box that said ‘I need a USt-IdNr. for doing business within the European Union’1.

Then, as if the fact that I checked that box would not be enough reason by itself, as if there is a scarcity of natural numbers (ℕ) in the German administration, as if both the people working at the Finanzamt as myself have nothing better to do than spend time on these minutiae I had to get in touch again to confirm that ‘Yes, I really want and need that number.’

This is shameful and if the German administration manages to complicate even the simplest of interactions, I don’t want to know what they do to the rest.

  1. In the Netherlands the corporate tax number is the same as your BTW/VAT number.

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