October 2023: 9 changes affecting expats in Germany
The summer warmth would make you think otherwise, but October is already here. From the most important tax date in the annual calendar to sick leave phone calls, here are the 10 most important changes affecting expats in Germany this month.
1. Tax declaration deadline for 2022
The deadline to submit your annual income tax return (Einkommensteuererklärung) for the tax year of 2022 is actually September 30, 2023, but the powers that be have graced the disorganised with a weekend buffer this year.
Since September 30 falls on a Saturday, and the Finanzamt is closed at the weekend, you actually have until October 2 to get your tax return into them, but it is always best not to dilly-dally. If you need, you can also apply to your local tax office for an extension, which is usually granted automatically.
2. Heating subsidy no longer available
Anyone who heats their house with petroleum, liquid gas, logs, wood pellets, wood chips, wood briquettes and coal can still apply for the heating subsidy (Heizkostenzuschuss) until October 20.
Submitting an application takes around 20 minutes, after which you could receive a subsidy payment of up to 2.000 euros to help retroactively cover your costs for 2022. Any question you might have about submitting the application is answered (in German) here.
3. Cost of gas will go down
As the autumn and winter weather finally sets in the cost of gas will go down, according to Trading Hub Europe (THE). Two surcharges are set to be reduced to zero euros, which means the average family with an annual consumption of 20.000 kilowatt hours (kWh) will see a price reduction of around 5 percent (130 euros). Households of two with a consumption of 12.000 kWh are expected to save around 78 euros on their utilities.
However, don’t sit back and expect the discounts to roll in. These lower gas prices will not be passed on to customers automatically, but only to new customers, meaning a change of provider might make sense.
4. Credit card fees will be hiked
To banking - anyone who has a VISA or Mastercard credit card should expect higher fees from October onwards. The costs are actually going up for merchants, but are expected to be passed on to customers. So if you’re able to, it is best to pay with your EC / Giro or debit cards instead if you want to look after your pennies.
5. Student loan interest rates will go up
People who are studying in Germany and are partially or fully dependent on loans to cover the costs should be aware that interest rates for borrowing are about to go up. From October 1 the interest rate for student loans will increase from 7,55 percent to 8 percent.
The interest rate for student loans is adjusted every six months in Germany and is based on the Euribor rate, the price at which European banks lend each other money.
6. Deutsche Bahn wants your number
Deutsche Bahn is hoping to keep its passengers better informed and wants everyone’s mobile number in order to do so.
From October 1 you will only be able to purchase a savings ticket for long-distance trains in ticket offices if you also give die Bahn your phone number so they can inform you if there is a delay or train cancellation.
7. WhatsApp will stop working on your old phone
Another network that keeps Germany ticking along - WhatsApp - is also set to make things a little trickier for customers. From October, anyone who has an old-ish Android phone will no longer be able to use the messenger service.
If you have a phone that is running on anything older than OS 5 then you’ll have to upgrade to continue using the Meta-owned messenger.
8. More DB trains will arrive late in Zurich
Another episode in the unrequited love story of Deutsche Bahn trains in Switzerland. Timetable changes at the national rail provider mean that this autumn there will be more trains travelling between Stuttgart and Zurich, 13 each day instead of eight.
Deutsche Bahn will release a new timetable in December. Here’s to hoping the autumn traffic proves better than last year, when Swiss rail provider SBB cut DB trains to the alpine nation because of incessant delays.
9. Get ready to turn back time
It’s that time of year again already! The clocks are due to go back in Germany from 3am to 2am on Sunday 29 October. Brace yourself as darkness falls for what feels like five months straight! According to a 2021 survey, the majority of Germans are in favour of scrapping the tradition, like many other EU nations, so the days might be numbered for Daylight Savings.
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