February 2021: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany

February 2021: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany

From the tax return deadline to new rules for shopping online, there are a lot of things changing as January becomes February. Here are eight things expats in Germany should know about. 

1. Decision on whether coronavirus lockdown will be extended or relaxed

Germany’s current coronavirus lockdown is set to expire on February 14 - but even with the incidence rate dropping there’s no guarantee that the current measures, which have forced the monthslong closure of schools, restaurants, shops and bars, will be lifted. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the federal states are due to meet on Sunday, February 7, to discuss next steps. The new mutations of COVID-19 are being cited as a major cause for concern.

2. Tax return deadline likely to be extended

Due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis, tax authorities in Germany have suggested that the deadline for annual tax returns from 2019 should be extended from February 28 to August 31 for those submitting via a tax advisor. The extended submission deadline is only at the draft bill stage, but plans have so far been met with unanimous approval in the Bundestag. It therefore seems likely that the delay will be approved.  

3. Extra security measures for online shopping

Another trend that’s been driven by the coronavirus pandemic is that online shopping is booming in Germany. From February, however, paying with a credit card via the internet is going to get a bit more complicated. This is because so-called “two-factor authentication” is being introduced to provide more security for online shopping, making it harder for criminals and hackers to access customer data. 

In future, it will no longer suffice to simply enter your credit card number, expiry date and CVV (the three-digit number on the back of the card) to make a purchase online. You will also have to enter a password or a transaction number (TAN). This has been the case for payments above 250 euros since January 15; from February 15 it will apply to purchases above 150 euros, and from March 15, 2021, all online purchases will be subject to this extra layer of security.   

4. Price of Deutsche Bahn BahnCard reduced

After increasing ticket prices in December 2020, Deutsche Bahn has announced that it will reduce the cost of its annual BahnCards from February 1. The BahnCard 25, which entitles the holder to a 25 percent discount on regional and long-distance trains, will now cost 55,70 euros per year, instead of 62 euros, while the BahnCard 50 (which comes with a 50 percent discount), will cost 229 euros instead of 255 euros. 

5. Extra nursing staff in hospitals

As of February 1, new rules on nursing staff limits will be introduced in many departments in German hospitals. In a nutshell, the new rules cap the number of patients that each nurse can take care of during the day and night shifts, depending on the department, essentially increasing the number of nurses working on wards. 

For instance, after February 1 nurses working in paediatrics will only be permitted to take care of a maximum of six patients during the day shift, and 10 patients on the night shift. 

6. Streaming gets more expensive

After Netflix increased prices for its standard and premium customers (by one and two euros, respectively) in January, Disney+ is also hiking up subscription fees. From February 23, new customers in Europe will pay 8,99 euros per month, or 89,90 per year. Previously the price was 6,99 euros per month or 69,99 per year. 

Anyone who is already a customer will be able to continue to pay the old prices until the end of their subscription; when they renew, they’ll be hit with the new prices. At the same time, the streaming service will significantly expand its portfolio. 

7. Deutsche Post launches new charity stamps

On February 4, Deutsche Post is launching three new German stamps with motifs from the fairy tale “Frau Holle” by the Brothers Grimm. The stamps have different postage values and are sold with a surcharge. All of the proceeds will go towards a charitable organisation.  

8. New garden law in Bavaria

The new building regulations law will come into force in Bavaria on February 1. One of the law’s key points is a ban on rock gardens (or rockeries, if you prefer). If you’re asking what that means, it’s that the new regulation prohibits gardens made purely of gravel, concrete or artificial turf. Bavarian cities and municipalities are being asked to put a stop to these types of gardens and instead plant real plants to protect the habitats of insects and birds. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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