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Audi set to slash 9,500 jobs in Germany

German luxury carmaker Audi said Tuesday it planned to slash 9,500 jobs in Germany by 2025 as part of a massive overhaul to help finance a costly switch to electric vehicles.

Audi set to slash 9,500 jobs in Germany
The Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt

The job cuts will be achieved through an early retirement programme and natural turnover, the company said in a statement.

At the same time, the Volkswagen subsidiary said it would create 2,000 new jobs in the areas of electromobility and digitization as it pivots to the smarter, cleaner cars of tomorrow.

The shake-up comes as Audi, like other carmakers, grapples with slowing demand in a weaker global economy, tougher pollution rules and the huge investments needed for the battery-powered era.

“In times of upheaval, we are making Audi more agile and more efficient,” said CEO Bram Schot.

“This will increase productivity and sustainably strengthen the competitiveness of our German plants.”

The remaining roughly 50,000 workers at Audi's Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm factories will have job security until the end of 2029 under the hard-fought deal struck with labour representatives.

“We have reached an important milestone,” said Peter Mosch, head of Audi's works council.

“The extension of the employment guarantee is a great success in difficult times.”

Audi said the reorganization would help boost earnings by €6 billion by 2029, keeping the premium brand on track to reach a profit margin of nine to 11 percent.

READ ALSO: German car parts giant Continental to cut 5,500 jobs

At the same time it has ramped up spending on new technologies, including battery-electric and hybrid vehicles, connectivity and autonomous driving.

Like other brands in the Volkswagen group, it is still struggling to turn the page on the dieselgate scandal — stunning revelations that the carmaker giant fitted illegal “defeat devices” to fool regulators' emissions test

New CEO

The jobs cull comes after Audi was hit by falling sales, revenues and operating profits over the first nine months of 2019.

But the company is far from alone in feeling the pain from an industry in the throes of transformation and buffeted by the knock-on effects from US-China trade tensions and Brexit uncertainty.

German car parts suppliers Bosch and Continental have themselves announced thousands of job cuts to slash costs, while Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler is reportedly planning to axe 1,100 managerial roles.

Hoping to turn the tide at Audi, the Volkswagen group earlier this month said it had picked former BMW purchasing chief Markus Duesmann to replace Schot as the brand's chief executive from April.

Under Schot, Audi suffered more than other German manufacturers from the introduction last year of strict new emissions testing standards in the European Union, which led to expensive production bottlenecks.

And like its rivals, Audi is spending billions on new technologies, including battery-electric and hybrid vehicles, connectivity and autonomous driving.

But the firm last year also had to pay an 800-million-euro fine over its role in the “dieselgate” scandal.

The saga erupted in 2015 when the Volkswagen group admitted to installing cheating devices in 11 million diesel cars worldwide to dupe regulatory emissions tests.

Audi's engineers are suspected of having helped develop the software used to make cars emit less pollutants under lab testing conditions than on the road.

By Yann Schreiber

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WORKING IN GERMANY

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

Taking the decision to go it alone and freelance in Germany can be a daunting prospect. But, if you do it right, it can be an exciting and liberating path. Here are some of our top tips on how to survive.

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

1. Get a tax advisor

The German tax system is complicated, even for Germans. All the associated paperwork uses the Amtsprache (authority language) which is more like legalese than ‘normal’ German, and mistakes when filling out tax forms can cause you, at best, a massive headache and, at worst, a costly fine. So it’s best that you employ someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out.

That person is called a Steuerberater (tax advisor) in Germany. They will help you register with the tax office, correspond with them and submit your tax declarations.

Be aware that, in Germany, different deadlines apply for tax returns depending on whether you employ an official tax advisor or not. If you are doing the tax return on your own, the deadline for submitting your annual tax return is earlier than if you use a tax advisor’s services. 

READ ALSO: What NOT to do when you’re freelancing in Germany

When looking for a tax advisor, a top tip is to use your network to get recommendations. Ideally, you want someone who will do more than just fill in the forms for you, but who will actually advise you on how best to manage your business finances so that you can make tax savings.

2. Keep your accounting in order

The better you keep your own accounts in order, the easier it will be for your tax advisor to compile your tax declarations and therefore the cheaper their services will be.

As a freelancer, there are a lot of costs you can deduct from your taxes – from train tickets, working materials, to meals out – so it’s best to keep hold of all your receipts and to keep them in good order.

2 euros and 50 cents lie on a receipt in a beer garden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

In Germany, you’re obliged to keep hold of receipts for two years, in case of a tax inspection, so it’s a good idea to photocopy the type of machine-printed receipts you get from restaurants so that they stay legible for a long time.

There are also a few things to be aware of when writing your own invoices. Firstly, make sure that you include your tax number. This isn’t the 11-digit Steueridentifikationsnummer that everyone gets when registering in Germany, but the 10-digit Steuernummer you get from the Finanzamt after registering yourself as a freelancer. 

Most companies won’t pay you if you don’t have this on your invoices so make sure you include it.

You should also make sure that you number your invoices properly – ideally in ascending order so that you can easily keep track of them. You are not allowed to issue two invoices with the same number and if you do so and the finance office notices, you could face an inspection of your whole accounting system.

There are numerous great accounting software programmes you can use to help you, such as Lexoffice and Sevdesk and, even if you have to pay for them, the costs will be tax deductible!

3. Find out if you’re eligible for financial support

In Germany, there are several opportunities for freelancers to gain financial support and to cut their outgoings, and its worth finding out if you’re eligible for them.

If you’re claiming unemployment benefits under ALG 1 and are thinking about becoming a freelancer, the employment office offers a special type of financial support to help you to get your freelance business off the ground.

Called the Grundungszuschuss (“foundation grant”) the payment is a six-month grant equalling your monthly entitlement under ALG 1 plus €300 towards your insurance costs can be applied for those in receipt of this unemployment benefit.

READ ALSO: Will freelancers benefit from Germany’s €300 energy allowance?

If you are engaged in some form of artistic profession in Germany – which can include journalism to pottery – you may be entitled to membership to the Kunstlersozialkasse (artists’ social insurance).

Being a member of the KSK means you only have to pay half of your health insurance and pension contributions, and the KSK will pay the rest.

4. Work out how much you think you will earn

As with starting any business, you need to have some idea of your expected earnings from the outset.

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, or have some freelance gigs on the side of an employment position, then it might be worth considering registering yourself as a Kleinunternehmer (“small business”).

As a Kleinunternehmer, you can currently earn up to €22.000 per year without having to charge VAT and having to submit only yearly tax declarations. 

An income tax declaration form lies on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hans-Jürgen Wiedl

Be aware that if you are registered as this kind of freelancer, you must include the following sentence in your invoices: ‘Gemäß § 19 UStG wird keine Umsatzsteuer berechnet’ which means ‘In accordance with Paragrah19 of the German VAT law, no VAT has been added to this invoice.’

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about your German tax return in 2022

If you think you will earn more than €22.000 per year, you will need to pay Umsatzsteuer (VAT) and will have to submit tax declarations in advance and more often. Depending on how much you earn, this could be every month or every quarter. 

5. Get your insurance in order

In Germany, it’s a legal requirement to have health insurance.

If you’ve just made the move from employment to being a freelancer and want to keep the same health insurer, you should get in contact with your health insurance provider straight away to tell them about your change of circumstances. They will ask you to re-register and to tell them your projected freelance earnings for the year, so they can amend your monthly fees.

If you don’t keep your health insurer provider updated, you could continue to be charged the higher rate that you had from your previous salary.

The insurance cards of the health insurance companies DAK, AOK, Barmer and Techniker-Krankenkasse TK lie with euro notes under a stethoscope. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

It’s not just health insurance you need to think about as a freelancer. It’s also wise to think about protecting yourself from any sort of claims that could arise as a result of any working mishaps. 

If, for example, you lose your laptop which contains confidential client information, you need to be protected against claims.

That’s why it’s good to have both Betriebshaftversicherung (business liability insurance) and Rechtschutzversicherung (legal protection insurance).

6. Plan your time wisely

All of these bureaucratic obligations take time. So it’s really important that you take account of that when planning your time. For example, planning half a day a week to deal with your invoices, filing, emails to clients, and conversations with authorities can be really beneficial when scheduling your working time. 

7. Grow your network

As a freelancer, networking is absolutely crucial to success. 

Keep an up-to-date profile on websites like LinkedIn and German equivalent XING and keep in contact with anyone you’ve ever worked with, no matter how brief the contact was. 

Having a network is not only about getting more clients, but also about building a support network in your field to exchange advice, tips and generally for your own enrichment. 

Participating in workshops related to your field, going to seminars, and meet-ups, can be great ways of broadening your network. 

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