Numerous new laws and regulations take effect in Germany from 1 January 2020. These include a minimum stipend for job trainees, reduced VAT for train tickets and hygiene products for women, increases in welfare benefits, tax relief for families as well as new opportunities for the regularisation of the residency status of tolerated asylum-seekers.
Doctor’s appointments round the clock
To ensure that patients can get doctor’s appointments more quickly, the appointment service points can be reached nationwide from 1 January 2020 via telephone number 116 117 (24 hours, 7 days a week). In addition, it will be possible to make appointments online.
Higher child and basic tax allowances
The tax-free child allowance increases to 7,812 euros from 1 January 2020. The basic tax allowance for adults also rises to 9,408 euros. No income tax is paid on this part of the income. The federal government is providing tax reliefs of around ten billion euros a year to families through the increases, it says.
Reduced VAT on train tickets
Train travel should become cheaper and therefore more attractive from 1 January 2020 as the value added tax (VAT) rate on long-distance tickets is reduced from 19 per cent to seven per cent. Deutsche Bahn has announced that it will pass the savings on to passengers, which should make tickets for long-distance routes cheaper.
Women’s hygiene articles cheaper
The reduced VAT rate of 7 per cent applies to everyday consumer items. Hygiene items for women, such as sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups, now enjoy the low VAT rate from 1 January 2020. The reduction of the VAT rate on hygiene items for women from 19 to 7% by the federal ministry of finance was preceded by a nationwide petition “Die Periode ist kein Luxus” (“The period is not a luxury”), which found nearly 190,000 supporters.
VAT on e-books now 7%
From 1 January 2020, the reduced VAT rate of seven percent also applies for e-books, digital newspapers and periodicals. In Germany, this was previously only the case for printed press products.
Issuance of receipt now mandatory
From 1 January 2020 you will receive a receipt wherever you buy something irrespective of the amounts involved even where this was actually not common in the past, for example, at the bakery or ice cream parlour. The reason for this is a new regulation (Kassensicherungsverordnung) that stipulates the obligation of retailers to issue receipts. The regulation is intended to curb tax fraud.
Minimum remuneration for all trainees
The modernized Vocational Training Act (Berufsbildungsgesetz or BBiG) comes into force on 1 January 2020 with the introduction of a minimum stipend for trainees. The minimum remuneration in the first year of training should be 515 euros per month. In 2021 it will increase to 550 euros, 2022 to 585 euros and 2023 to 620 euros. In addition, there will be internationally comparable qualifications such as “Bachelor Professional” or “Master Professional”. Part-time training is also to be made easier.
The Vocational Training Act (BBiG) is considered the “basic law” of vocational training in Germany and it regulates the rights and obligations of trainees and companies as well as dual-training occupations.
Modern training for midwives
Midwives and childbirth assistants will in future be prepared for their profession in a dual-study program. The existing dual training system will be converted to a university-oriented course with a high practical component. Midwifery studies will now take six to eight semesters like a bachelor’s degree program.
Path to regular residency for tolerated persons
Good integration efforts on the part of tolerated persons should pay off in the future. That is the purpose of the Employment Tolerance Act (Das Beschäftigungsduldungsgesetz), which enters into force on 1 January 2020. The law provides a path for tolerated persons, who are gainfully employed and have acquired good German language skills, to regular residency in Germany. The aim of the new law, according to the government, is to achieve greater legal clarity and certainty for employers and tolerated people who are in gainful employment.
The Employment Tolerance (Beschäftigungsduldung) can lead to a regular long-time residence permit for tolerated persons who are well integrated after 30 months if the requirements are met. Rejected asylum-seekers could be given the opportunity to complete their vocational training under the Act.
Statutory minimum wage increases
The statutory minimum wage (der gesetzliche Mindestlohn) increases from 9.19 euros in 2019 to 9.35 euros from 1 January 2020. The increase is based on the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Commission in 2018.
Contribution to Unemployment Insurance drops
The contribution to unemployment insurance (Der Beitrag zur Arbeitslosenversicherung) decreases by 0.1 points to 2.4 percent from 1 January 2020. Employers and employees each pay half of the contribution. The new regulation is valid until 31 December 2022.
Increase in welfare benefits
Anyone who is unable to support themselves is entitled to state benefits, which are reviewed and adjusted annually. The benefit rates rise again this year.
Those who are dependent on social assistance or unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II) will receive more money from January 2020: single adults will receive 432 euros a month – eight euros more than before while recipients living as partners receive 389 euros each (seven euros more than before). The standard rates for children and adolescents have also been increased by six euros each to 308 and 328 euros respectively. For children up to six years, the rate increases by five euros to 250 euros.
© The African Courier/Femi Awoniyi