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CHILDREN

From Kindergeld to tax benefits: What changes for families in Germany in 2021

Whether for single parents or nuclear families, there are a lot of changes coming for those who have or expect children in 2021.

From Kindergeld to tax benefits: What changes for families in Germany in 2021
A woman jogs alongside her daughter in Esslingen, Baden-Württemberg, in May. Photo: DPA

Higher child benefits

Starting on January 1st, the child supplement (Kinderzuschlag) for families with low incomes will increase to a maximum amount of €205. Parents whose income is just above the Hartz IV welfare level are entitled to this additional supplement to child benefit (Kindergeld). 

Kindergeld itself will also be increased, rising from €204 to €219 per month for the first and second child, to €225 for the third and to €250 for the fourth child. Kindergeld had already been raised by €10 last summer.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to increase child benefits and provide tax relief

Tip: it’s now possible to apply for Kindergeld online through the Bundesagentur für Arbeit, and also submit the application electronically. 

Bureaucracy relief

Germany is notorious for bureaucracy, and filling out forms related to family matters is no exception. But a new law is set to make it a little easier to get through all that paperwork. No longer will it be necessary to fill out separate forms for Elterngeld (parental allowance) and Kindergeld: rather the two can be combined in one application called the Kombi-Antrag.

They can be filled out online – although must still be printed out, signed, and sent to the relevant local office. 

It will also be possible to make the Geburtsanzeige (announcement of birth) and Namensfestlegung (or registration of the child’s name) in one form. 

Photo: DPA

German residents could also authorise different authorities to exchange information with each other when needed. That means that Standesämter (registry offices), Krankenkassen (health insurance offices), and Elterngeldstellen (parental allowance offices) could exchange necessary information with each others, sparing families the burden of submitting duplicate paperwork to each one. 

Higher tax benefits for parents

It’s not only Kindergeld which is being raised, but also the Kinderfreibetrag, or the amount for parents which is exempt from taxation. That’s going up €500 on January 1st to a total of €8,388. 

Parents will also benefit from another tax exemption, the Freibetrag für den Betreuungs-, Erziehungs- oder Ausbildungsbedarf, or the allowance for care, education and training needs. That will go up €288 per month to €2,928 which can be deducted from taxes. 

Those who have switched to working from home during the coronavirus crisis (whether they are parents or not) can also look forward to a tax-deductable benefit of €5 per day starting from January. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to give people working from home more rights and benefits

More money for school supplies

Until now, low-income families received financial support of €150 per school child per school year for materials such as books, notebooks and pencils. The amount will increase to €154.50 as of January.

At the beginning of next year, €51.50 will initially be paid for the beginning of the second school semester, followed in the summer by the remaining amount of €103 for the following first school semester.

Advance maintenance payments for single parents

Single mothers who do not receive maintenance payments from the father, or do not receive it regularly, are entitled to an Unterhaltvorschuss or “child support advance maintenance payments.”

In 2021, the advance maintenance payment for children from zero to five years of age is up to €174 per month, for children from six to 11 years of age up to €232 and for children up to 18 years of age up to €309.

Better protection against Ultraschall damage

Ultrasound examinations during pregnancy that are not medically justified and not part of the benefits catalogue (Leistungskatalog) of the statutory health insurance will be banned as of January 1st.

Photo: DPA

A new regulation in the Radiation Protection Act is intended to protect embryos from an unnecessary, excessive dose of radiation.

The high ultrasound intensities required for imaging are said to be associated with a possible risk to the unborn child, especially since much more sound energy is absorbed at the skeletal level as bone formation begins.

The ban includes Doppler, duplex, 3D or 4D procedures, commonly called “Babyfernsehen” (“Baby-TV”) “Babykino” oder “Baby-Viewing”. Many practices offer such examinations as self-pay services (IGeL).

Further changes in 2021

From an increase in the minimum wage to the end of the Solidaritätszuschlag or the 'Soli' (the charge brought in after reunification to help rebuild the east), there are lots of changes for residents in Germany to look out for next year, which the Local is reporting on for you.

There are also changes for drivers which we detail here.

READ MORE: Everything that changes in Germany in 2021

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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in August 2022

From the €9 ticket and fuel tax cut, to travel chaos, tax deadlines and digital steps forward, here's what's changing in Germany this August.

Everything that changes in Germany in August 2022

€9 ticket and fuel tax cut runs out

Germany’s €9 monthly public transport ticket offer continues until the end of August so people will be able to buy and use it for the month before it it’s gone when September starts (sadly).

The fuel tax cut is also in force until the end of August. For petrol, the government-subsidised “tank rebate” is about 30 cents per litre, for diesel about 14 cents per litre. The reduction is limited until August 31st.

No plans have been announced yet to extend these measures. 

Travel chaos continues in Europe

The summer months have been chaotic for travellers, and we have seen examples of airports congested throughout Europe. This will continue during August, as airlines have cancelled more than 25,000 flights from their August schedule. 

In Germany, around 6,000 flights operated by Lufthansa alone have been scrapped from the summer schedule.

More strikes?

German airline giant Lufthansa ground staff staged a one-day strike on Wednesday July 27th. Negotiations between Verdi union and Lufthansa will happen on August 3rd and 4th.

It may be that more strikes are announced if an agreement on pay for the 20,000 ground staff isn’t reached. Keep an eye on The Local’s homepage. 

READ ALSO: Flights disrupted across Germany as Lufthansa strike begins

Travellers queue at terminal 2 of Frankfurt airport on July 23rd.

Travellers queue at terminal 2 of Frankfurt airport on July 23rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

August regional holiday

There is only one official holiday in Germany in August – Assumption Day – or Mariä Himmelfahrt – on August 15th. It is a regional holiday for the states of Bavaria and Saarland.

It falls on a Monday, so don’t forget to prepare yourself for it, as most shops and supermarkets will be closed on the holiday and Sunday as well (as they always are in Germany).

Tax deadline

Those who have their tax return for 2020 prepared by a tax advisor or an income tax assistance association still have until August 31st to hand it in.

The deadline was extended again in May to relieve tax advisors who have extra work in their plate with auditing Covid financial assistance during the pandemic period.

READ ALSO: Why people in Germany have longer for their tax returns this year

More transparency in employment contracts

Whether it’s the scope of work, length of probationary period, possible overtime or notice period, employment contracts issued from August 1st onwards must clearly state in writing the working conditions for new jobs.

It must also be documented what wages will be paid, how they will be made up, what further training has been promised, what the shift system and rest breaks will be like, and what applies to the remuneration of overtime, allowances and bonuses.

Information on contracting parties, remuneration and working hours must be provided in writing to new employees no later than the start of employment – all other supporting documents can be given within seven calendar days.

More assistance for students

From August 1st, there will be more BAföG financial assistance for students. The maximum support rate for students will be raised from €861 to €934 per month. The tax-free amount on the parents’ income, which is the basis for calculating the education grant, will also go up. This also increases the group of those eligible for support.

The previous tax-free allowance of €8,200 for the assets of trainees will also be increased – to €15,000 for people up to the age of 29, and to €45,000 from the age of 30. Furthermore, the age limit for BAföG funding will be extended from 30 to 45.

READ ALSO: German students to get higher grants from winter 2022

View of the Martin Luther University (MLU) campus in Halle.

View of the Martin Luther University (MLU) campus in Halle. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

Minimum wage goes up

For stonemasons and people in the stone-sculpting trade, new industry minimum wages will apply from August 1st 2022; instead of €12.85 per hour, employees will get 50 cents more, raising it to €13.35. Independently of this, there is also the German statutory minimum wage, which will increase to €12 in October.

Digital step for founding companies

From August 1st, anyone who wants to establish a GmbH (a company with limited liability) or KG (limited partnership) can do so without having to attend the notarial certification in person – they can also do it via online video communication.

This is regulated by the Act on the Implementation of the Digitalisation Directive (DiRUG). “The parties involved are identified by means of an electronically transmitted photograph in conjunction with an electronic proof of identity, e.g. the German identity card with eID function,” explains the Hanover Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

Pupils return to the classroom – or go on holiday

Schools in several states will return after the summer break in August. But the southern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the last to go off on their school holidays – at the end of July and on August 1st respectively.

Cheaper medicines in the pharmacy

Patients who are prescribed biopharmaceuticals (or biologics) by their doctor, which are often used for Crohn’s disease, arthritis or cancer, can be given cheaper medicines of the same type at the pharmacy from August 16th. This is regulated by the “Law for More Safety in the Supply of Medicines”.

The biosimilars, i.e. similar biological medicines, are to come into circulation more quickly, and drug costs are to be reduced. The law is intended to relieve the burden on health insurance companies. The imitation products are produced and tested by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) under strict criteria as soon as the patent for a drug expires, and are considered to be just as effective as the respective original.

General measles vaccination mandate in care facilities applies

Since March 2020, measles vaccinations have been compulsory in communal facilities such as Kindergartens, asylum seekers’ and refugees’ accommodation and in medical facilities – for caregivers and other employees in the facilities.

Those who already worked in one of the above-mentioned facilities before March 2020 were granted a transitional period until July 31st 2022 to present proof of vaccination.

People who do not comply with the vaccination obligation will be banned from care or work from August 1st, and could also face fines of up to €2,500 if they flout the rules. People who cannot get the vaccination for medical reasons and those born before 1971 are exempt from the measles jab mandate.

A vaccination pass with the measles box ticked.

A vaccination pass with the measles box ticked. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

Titanium dioxide banned in food

Titanium dioxide is used as a whitening agent in wall paints, varnishes, cosmetics and medicines. But foodstuffs such as chewing gum, sweets, baked goods, soups and salad dressings also often rely on it, especially in the USA. It’s found on the packaging as the additive E171.

As of August, however, titanium dioxide can no longer be used in food production in Europe. The European Commission imposed the ban because it could not be ruled out that the chemical substances could alter “genetic cell material” and that the food additive could therefore no longer be considered safe. In France, titanium dioxide hasn’t been used in food since 2020.

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