Heidelberg in lockdown. Retail shops will remain closed. Exceptions apply to shops that cover daily needs, including food and drinks. Hairdressers, massage practices or beauty salons will also remain closed/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Germany: New laws and regulations in February 2021

Like at the beginning of every month, new legal changes enter into effect in February 2021. For example, the deadline for tax returns changes and paying for online shopping will become safer. Here’s an overview of the new laws and regulations:

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Submission deadline for tax return extended
Some of us are already starting to gather the receipts and information for the 2020 tax return. But many have not even been able to file their 2019 tax returns yet. Due to the corona crisis, the submission deadline for the 2019 tax return has been extended to 31 August 2021.

However, this does not apply if one prepares one’s tax return oneself with the Elster software and submits it to the tax office. The relief applies to tax advisors and income tax assistance associations who would otherwise not be able to keep up with the processing of tax returns. They had applied for an extension until the end of August and can submit all tax returns for 2019 until then. This is because the tax advisors are currently dealing with a heavy workload due to the applications for corona aid and short-time allowance for their clients.

WhatsApp postpones new privacy rules
WhatsApp is currently asking all users to agree to its new privacy rules. The deadline for agreeing to the new rules was previously 8 February. It has now been extended due to the criticisms of the rules. Now users have until 15 May to agree to them.

WhatsApp wants to explain the changes in detail and respond to the criticisms by then. With the new rules, the company, which belongs to Facebook, says it’s primarily concerned with “creating better opportunities for communication with businesses”. In plain language, this means that third parties will be able to use WhatsApp more for marketing purposes and will have greater access to the private data of its users. WhatsApp denied this. But as a user, you have to agree to the new rules in order to continue using the app.

Credit Card: Secure online shopping through two-factor authentication
When paying online with a credit card, it was sufficient to provide the credit card number and check digit. Since 15 January, payments for more than €250 must be approved by the “two-factor authentication”. This means that for payment for an online purchase, the entry of the credit card number, expiration date and the three-digit verification (security) number, is no longer sufficient for authentication. A further authentication via a code (TAN) that is generated by a bank app or comes as an SMS on the Smartphone (mobile TAN or photo TAN) is required. 
As from 15 February, this rule will apply to payments of €150 or more and to all online transactions with credit cards from March. This should make online shopping safer and protect customers from misuse.

Streaming becomes more expensive
After Netflix, Disney+ is also raising its prices. From 23 February, new customers in Europe will pay 8.99 euros per month or 89.90 euros per year. Previously, the rate was 6.99 euros a month or 69.99 euros a year. Those who are already customers will still be allowed to pay the old price for several months.

Lent – 40 days of abstinence – begins
With or without festivities – Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. This year it falls on 17 February. From then on, it’s “40 days without” for all believing Christians. There is a wide variety of things to abstain from. Some give up sweets, others meat or alcohol. But you can also try to break certain habits, such as automatically reaching for your smartphone, during Lent until Easter!

Corona rules apply until 14 February
The pandemic containment measures, agreed by the Federal Government and the Länder on 19 January, remain in force until mid-February. The measures include the following
Contacts: We are only allowed to meet with one other person from another household. It is advised to keep the number of households we meet with as constant and small as possible.

Masks: Better protective masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops. These can be surgical masks, FFP2 masks or KN95 masks. Everyday masks made of fabric are no longer allowed.

Kitas & Schools: Kindergartens and schools will generally remain closed until 14 February or compulsory attendance suspended.

Religious Worship: Communal worshipping remains permitted if the minimum distance of 1.5 metres between worshippers is maintained. A mask with a higher standard of protection is compulsory and singing is prohibited. Gatherings of more than ten participants must be registered with the public order office (Ordnungsamt) at least two working days in advance.

Work & Home Office: Employers must allow employees to work from home wherever possible. A regulation to this effect, issued by the Federal Ministry of Labour, is valid until 15 March.

Tax Deduction for Computers: Those who purchase “certain digital assets” should be able to deduct them from their taxes in the year of purchase – retroactively as of 1 January. This applies to “computer hardware and software for data input and processing”.

Shops Closed: Retail shops will remain closed. Exceptions apply to shops that cover daily needs, including food and drinks. Hairdressers, massage practices or beauty salons will also remain closed. Alcohol consumption in public spaces remains prohibited.

Sola Jolaoso

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