August 2021: 9 changes affecting expats in Germany
From fingerprints on identity cards to sat-navs in taxi cabs, there’s a lot of change up in the air as we enter the second half of 2021. Here’s an overview of everything that’s changing in Germany in August.
1. Back to school in northern Germany
It might feel like it’s the height of summer, but some primary and secondary schools in Germany actually return to lessons in August. This year, according to the federal republic’s staggered rotational system, the school holidays end early in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein, on August 2. Hamburg, Berlin and Brandenburg aren’t far behind.
2. Children’s leisure bonus (Kinderfreizeitbonus) paid out
August will also see the federal government pay out its children’s leisure bonus (Kinderfreizeitbonus). The one-off bonus of 100 euros per child will go out to low-income families who are dependent on Hartz IV, housing benefit, or other state benefits, and can be used for holidays, sports or leisure activities.
It is part of the so-called “corona catch-up programme," with which the federal government wants to mitigate the long-term consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on children who have faced restrictions on their education and leisure time.
3. Tax return deadline extended
The government is giving people more time to complete their annual tax returns in 2021. If you need to submit a return for 2020, the deadline has been extended by an extra three months until the autumn, according to the Federal Ministry of Finance. Your 2020 return needs to be with the competent tax office by October 31, 2021, or by May 31, 2022, if you employ a tax advisor.
4. Fingerprints on identity cards
A law change aims to make ID cards in the EU more secure as of August 2, 2021. In future, anyone applying for a new ID card will have to provide two fingerprints from each hand, which will be electronically scanned and stored in a chip in the card. This implements an EU regulation that has been in force since the end of 2007 for passports. The change has met with some resistance from privacy advocates, who describe it as an encroachment on civil liberties.
5. More students eligible for student loans
In future, more people studying in Germany should be eligible for the BAföG education grant, as the basis for calculating the loan is shifted. As of August 1, the parent income threshold - which determines who is eligible for the grant and how much they will receive - will be increased to 2.000 euros per month for parents who are married, and to 1.330 euros for single parents. The maximum amount of funding available will remain at 861 euros per month.
6. Taxi drivers issued with sat-navs
A change will also be made to taxis in Germany in August, after an update to the Passenger Transport Act scrapped the requirement for taxi drivers to take a local knowledge test. Instead, every driver will have to carry a “state-of-the-art navigation device” in their car. Welcome to 2021, Germany.
7. Absentee ballots issued
The federal election is nearly here! On September 26, eligible voters in Germany will take to the polls to choose their next chancellor. However, those who do not want to vote in person can apply for a postal vote (absentee ballot) and vote from home in advance of the election. If you are eligible to vote, you can already submit an application to your responsible authority, who will begin to issue the ballots in early August.
8. Glyphosate banned for private use
If you’re a keen gardener, take note: soon you will no longer be allowed to use the controversial weedkiller glyphosate in your garden. A change, which is expected to come into force within the next few weeks, will also see the active ingredient banned for use on playgrounds and sports fields, and in parks. However, some products with a valid approval are exempt.
A national ban is currently not possible, because glyphosate is approved throughout the EU until the end of 2022 and products containing the ingredient can be sold during a transitional period until December 31, 2023. The weed killer is said to have a devastating effect on insect populations that are crucial for ecosystems and pollination.
9. Tatort returns to screens
And, finally, fans of Germany’s ever-popular detective show will be pleased to hear that Tatort will be returning to our TV screens on August 29, after its annual summer break. The new season will kick off with a case in Frankfurt, “Wer zögert ist tot" (“Whoever hesitates is dead”). Safe to say that most of Germany will be turning in.