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What’s new in 2013
Photo: DPA

What’s new in 2013

Published: 01 Jan 2013 07:04 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Jan 2013 07:04 GMT+01:00

The new year will bring plenty of changes to those living in Germany – from no quarterly co-payments for doctor visits to new TV licence fees – The Local has the lowdown on what’s new in 2013.

Public broadcasting fees

In the past, if you tried to get out of paying your GEZ public broadcast licence fees, you had to worry about collectors showing up at your door. Anyone with a TV, radio, or computer was obliged to register and pay up – and the more devices you had, the higher your fees. But a growing number of people were content to simply dodge or deceive the enforcers, leaving the GEZ with dwindling revenues. Now nearly everyone is going to be forced to shell out for Germany's public broadcasters. Each household will be made to pay a flat monthly contribution of €17.98 – TV or no TV, and regardless of the number of people living there. Those who are unemployed or seriously ill can receive exemptions or apply to pay a reduced sum.

Doctor's office co-pay

Perhaps even more unpopular than TV fees have been the €10 patients have to plunk down to see a doctor in Germany. Introduced in 2004, the quarterly fee – known as the Praxisgebühr – was meant to reduce unnecessary trips to medical specialists. Instead, it has increased overhead for clinics and surgeries. The German government finally agreed in November to axe the co-payment after months of wrangling between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and their junior partners the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

Childcare benefit

In exchange for winning the concession on the Praxisgebühr, the FDP agreed to back a new benefit for parents who care for their young children at home, starting in August 2013. Dubbed Betreuungsgeld, the €100 a month per child not in day care is hated by just about everyone except the CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Besides the added disincentive for women to go back to work, the benefit is considered highly detrimental to the language skills of kids from immigrant families.

Wage tax cards

Germany has been preparing to make the switch to an electronic version of the wage tax card for a while now. After multiple delays, the system is finally going digital – meaning employees will no longer have to hang onto a flimsy piece of coloured paper containing important information, such as their income tax class and child deductions. For employers, it means tapping into a centralized database to calculate employees' tax burden for a given pay period. And for everyone, that should mean less paperwork. Although things were supposed to be in place by January, employers will have the whole year to adjust to the digital system.

Tax breaks for electric cars

From 2013, people who choose an electric vehicle will be freed from car taxes (Kfz-Steuer) for ten instead of five years. The tax break is also valid for fuel cell-powered vehicles.

Long-distance buses

Domestic train services and budget airlines will face new competition from long-distance coaches in the coming year. After months of negotiations, the German government agreed to allow private bus companies to compete with state-subsidized public transport. But their stops must be at least 50 kilometres apart.

Energy efficiency renovations

A new scheme will offer up to €5,000 to help offset the cost of building renovations for energy efficiency. The federal government will pony up €300 million for the measures.

Stamp prices

The post office will raise the price for a normal letter in Germany from €0.55 to €0.58. The hike is the first in 15 years.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:25 January 1, 2013 by gorongoza
There is no value for money to listeners/viewers who sustain this monster called GEZ.
12:14 January 1, 2013 by sylaan
I think the GEZ fee is stupid beyond belief, even more now. Why the hell should someone without TV pay for this? Why should I be forced to pay for a TV station I never watch? I simply have no words to express how retarded this is.
13:56 January 1, 2013 by DinhoPilot
GEZ is the same as the UK Tv license without BBC.

The price is slightly higher in Germany, but it is natural because of the new services added like digital radio, HD TV, 3D, and all of that pause rewind fancy stuff.

At least be glad you don't pay council tax
14:00 January 1, 2013 by greatgerman
I am unemployed and i would like to get exempted fom GEZ. So could any one suggest what could i do......Filling out forms or so whatever.....
14:03 January 1, 2013 by lucksi
BBC at least has some quality programming to show for the fees.
14:16 January 1, 2013 by Berlin fuer alles
BBC does not show advertisements. German TV bombards you with advertisements. It is almost like we pay to produce the advertisements.
14:40 January 1, 2013 by puisoh
@ greatgerman .. I have no TV at home. And I discussed this at great length with my Husband, even the blind and deaf will have to pay. Our conclusion : only a dead man is exempted.
23:24 January 1, 2013 by Steve1949
@puisoh.............If you read the article it says you must pay even if you own a computer which obviously you do. I also think it's a dumb law especially if you already subscribe to Cable or Satellite TV package. I also think the dog tax is ridiculous as well. Welcome to Germany. If there's a way to get money out of you the German government will surely find a way.
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