Because of high back taxes: Lemonaid starts petition

Dhe Hamburg-based beverage manufacturer Lemonaid is what is called a social enterprise: founded with the intention of making money and doing good with it. The business model worked so well that Lemonaid Beverages GmbH now has more than 100 employees who generated sales of 20 million euros last year and thus a surplus of 690,000 euros. But now Lemonaid founder and managing director Paul Bethke sees the existence of the company threatened – by the tax office.

It was already at the end of 2020 when, after a tax audit, a letter from the tax office fluttered into the house, a notice of an additional tax payment of 650,000 euros. The reason: From the point of view of the tax office, Lemonaid has done too much of a good thing. What Lemonaid does to the non-profit association Lemonaid & Charitea e. V. is 6 percent of the turnover. However, only 0.4 percent of sales would be permitted as donations. But Paul Bethke has a different view of things anyway.

Even in the loss-making years after the company was founded in 2009, this sales-related support was maintained, he affirmed in an interview with the FAZ. The promise to customers should be clear: No matter how well the company manages, there should be a certain amount per bottle go to a social project. "That's the promise of our brand, so it's also advertising, the social commitment creates value for us," Bethke explains the "drinking helps principle".

petition started

However, Paul Bethke and co-founder Felix Langguth were not able to convince the tax office with this argument. The objection was rejected. This is the end of the official process, the payment will soon be due. Now Lemonaid could go to court. Instead, Lemonaid is escalating the dispute, not only in its own interest, Bethke says, but also as a pioneer among social entrepreneurs, of which there are now hundreds. Bethke suspects that many could soon experience something similar to Lemonaid.

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