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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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For members

LIVING IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in 2022

There are several important changes taking place in day-to-day life in Germany next year. There is good news on electricity bills, a streamlined unemployment system and also some tax hikes.

A conductor gives a departure signal for an ICE train on the platform at Berlin Central Station.
A conductor gives a departure signal for an ICE train on the platform at Berlin Central Station. Photo: dpa | Carsten Koall

These are some of the changes most likely to affect the lives of internationals living in Germany.

Jump in minimum wage

The national minimum wage is set to rise at least twice in the following twelve months from a current level of €9.60 per hour.

On January 1st it will go up to €9.82 and then it will go up to €10.45 on July 1st.

The new government wants to raise the minimum wage to €12 an hour by the end of the year. But that move is likely to face a legal challenge from employers’ associations.

READ MORE: German employers weigh up legal challenge to €12 minimum wage

Stamp price increase

Deutsche Post is increasing its postage rates on January 1st. A standard letter will cost 85 cents instead of 80 cents, and the cost of sending a postcard will go up to 70 cents from 60 cents.

Older driving licenses updated

Many local authorities are expecting a rush of people handing in old driver’s licenses in exchange for new ones in the coming weeks. By 2033, all driver’s licenses issued before 2013 need to be exchanged for a standard EU document.

German drivers licence

Two driver’s licenses lie on a table. By 2033, all driver’s licenses issued before 2013 must be exchanged. Photo: dpa | Ole Spata

But the deadline is staggered based on people’s age. Those born between 1953 and 1958 have to hand in their old licences by January 19th, 2020.

Surveys suggest that many people still haven’t done this. Anyone who lets the deadline pass risks an initial ‘warning’ fine of ten euros. 

Extended warranty

Anyone who buys a product that later turns out to be defective will be better protected starting in January. At the start of the year the legal presumption that a defect existed at the time of purchase will be extended from six months to one year.

Drop in renewable energy levy

Wind turbines

Two technicians from Sabowind GmbH maintain an Enercon E92 wind turbine in Saxony. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

There’s some good news for households struggling to pay their electricity bills. The levy to finance green electricity – the EEG levy – will fall to 3.723 cents per kilowatt hour at the turn of the year, a drop of more than 40 percent.

The cut to the levy will probably only stabilise the price though. On the back of surging energy costs, electricity suppliers’ costs have gone up and they and are passing them on to the customer.

Pfand on all plastic bottles

On January 1st, the mandatory deposit on plastic bottles (known in German as the Pfand) will be extended to all drinks in plastic bottles. 

People can collect the 25 cent deposit by returning the empty bottle to a bottle bank.

End to ticket sales on trains

As of January 1st, you will no longer be able to buy a ticket from the conductor on Deutsche Bahn services. Travellers can still by a digital ticket within ten minutes of departure via the bahn.de website or on the Deutsche Bahn app.

Higher fuel prices

The CO2 tax, introduced last year, will also rise in 2022, going up from 25 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted to 30 euros. The tax is aimed at pushing energy companies towards using using renewable technologies, but it is also likely to be handed down to consumers in the form of fuel price rises.

According to calculations by the ADAC automobile club, petrol and diesel are likely to become more expensive by about one and a half cents per litre each as a result.

Hitting smokers’ pockets

A woman pulls a cigarette out of a pack.

A woman pulls a cigarette out of a pack. Photo: dpa | Sven Hoppe

On January 1st, the tobacco tax will go up for the first time in seven years. It will rise by an average of 10 cents for a pack of 20 cigarettes. In 2023, another 10 cents will be added per 20-pack.

Billboard advertising for conventional tobacco products such as cigarettes will be banned from January 1st.

Prohibiting ‘potentially dangerous’ tattoo ink

From January 4th, many chemicals in tattoo inks throughout the EU will be subject to restrictions under the so-called REACH regulation. The ban list will include thousands of substances.

In the EU’s view, many of them are potentially dangerous or have not been sufficiently researched. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) emphasizes that the aim is to “make tattoo inks and permanent makeup safer.”

Compulsory vaccines in care

People employed in the care sector will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to keep their jobs next year. The vaccine mandates apply to carers, doctors, midwives and nurses and will come into force in on March 15th, 2022.

Those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons will need an exemption from their doctor.

There is also likely to be a parliamentary debate on introducing a general vaccine mandate in January – a move that the German Ethics Council has recommended – so watch this space.

READ ALSO: German Ethics Council recommends extending vaccine mandates

Tightening rules around mini jobs

In an attempt to stop exploitation of “mini-job” rules, the government will require employers to give more details on a mini-jobber such as their tax ID number starting in January 1st. The Minijob-Zentrale will inform the employer wether the employee has another mini-job.

Mini-jobs are part-time contracts that allow people to earn up to €450 a month without paying social security contributions. While someone can have more than one mini job at a time they are not allowed to earn more than €450 in total.

Unemployment registration goes online

Jobcenter Germany

A sign in front of an employment agency location in the Hannover region. Photo: dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

As of January 1st people who sign on for unemployment benefits can do so online using the Agentur für Arbeit website. But one needs a digital ID card to do so.

It will still be possible to sign on by going to your local employment agency.

End to subsidies for plug-in hybrids

Many hybrid cars will no longer benefit from government subsidies from 2022 onwards. A change to the law means that subsidies will only apply to cars with an electric range of at last 60 kilometres.

Ban on thin plastic bags

As of January 1st, plastic shopping bags will no longer be offered at German supermarket checkouts.

The ban applies to super-thin shopping bags. Bags for vegetables and multiple use plastic bags will not be affected.

Higher allowance for children of separated parents

Children of divorced couples will entitled to slightly more maintenance in the new year.

From January 1st, the minimum maintenance for children of separated parents under six years of age will be 396 euros per month, an increase of three euros.

For children aged six to eleven, the minimum maintenance will be 455 euros, an increase of four euros. For children aged 12 to 17, the payment will increase by five euros to 533 euros per month.

SEE ALSO: The best events and festivals in Germany in 2022

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