2022 in Germany: All of the changes expats need to know about
A new year is just around the corner, and that means lots of new laws, rules and regulations. 2022 will see a lot of things changing in Germany. Here is an overview of the most important changes that are likely to affect you.
Changes affecting workers in Germany
There are a few changes you should know about for the coming year if you are currently working in Germany:
Tax-free allowance increases
The basic tax-free allowance for adults will increase on January 1, 2022 - by 204 euros. This means that single earners will pay no taxes on the first 9.984 euros of their income. For couples who are married or in a registered partnership, the amount is double.
In addition, the taxable component of pensions in Germany will be 82 percent in 2022, up from 81 percent previously. Only new pensioners are affected by the increase.
Minimum wage goes up
On January 1, 2022, the minimum wage in Germany will increase once again, to 9,82 euros per hour. It will then increase again on July 1, 2022, to 10,45 euros per hour.
Online unemployment registration
Anyone who loses their job in Germany is required to register with their local branch of the Employment Agency (BA) in order to receive unemployment benefits. From 2022 it will be possible to do this online as well as in person. To register as unemployed online, you’ll need a valid electronic proof of identity.
Compulsory COVID vaccinations for healthcare workers
As of December 12, 2021, the “facility-related” vaccination requirement has been in effect in Germany. This means that, by March 15, 2022, at the latest, all employees in German hospitals, nursing homes and similar institutions must present proof that they are either vaccinated against or have recovered from coronavirus.
Changes to social security in 2022
There are also plenty of changes affecting social security in Germany in 2022:
New social contribution thresholds
Every year, the German federal government adjusts the contribution assessment ceilings for social security. In 2022, due to negative wage development in 2021, most of the thresholds will remain static. Some are even going down.
Accordingly, the income threshold for contributions to statutory health insurance and long-term care insurance will remain the same in 2022: 4.837,50 euros per month. Any earnings above this limit are not subject to health insurance contributions.
The thresholds for pension insurance will develop differently across different federal states, as the government continues to smooth out the difference between pensions in eastern and western Germany. In (former) West Germany, the threshold will drop to 7.050 euros per month (down from 7.100 euros). In East Germany, it will rise slightly to 6.750 euros per month.
Compulsory insurance limit remains static
The compulsory insurance limit is remaining static at 64.350 euros per year. Anyone who earns more than this is entitled to take out private health insurance if they wish.
Retirement age increases again
As Germany moves slowly towards finally raising its retirement age to 67, the age limit for receiving one’s state pension will rise by a further month in 2022. Anyone who was born in 1956 or 1957 will reach retirement age at 65 years and 10 months or 65 years and 11 months, respectively.
Childless people to pay higher long-term care contributions
In order to finance a number of reforms in Germany’s long-term care system, contribution rates for long-term care insurance will be increased for childless people only in 2022 - with the justification that, without children to care for them, they are likely to cost the state more in their old age. Anyone aged 23 or over who does not have children will see their contributions rise by 0,1 percent to 3,4 percent of their gross salary.
Changes to benefits & allowances
If you receive any allowances or benefits in Germany, you’ll want to know about these key changes in 2022:
Hartz IV goes up
People receiving social assistance or unemployment benefit II (Hartz IV) will receive more money from January 2022: single adults will see their benefits increase by three euros to 449 euros per month. The standard rates for children and young people are also increasing.
More German households eligible for housing benefit
Starting from January 1, 2022, housing benefits in Germany will be automatically adjusted every two years according to rent and income developments, meaning that more low-income households will continue to remain eligible for the benefit.
More relief for those in need of care
Germany is also providing further relief to those in need of care, caregiver relatives, and care staff. People who receive care in their own homes will receive an extra supplement from their long-term care insurance from January 1, 2022, to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by rising care costs.
Child allowance & Maintenance advance increase
The supplementary child allowance (Kinderzuschlag) - an extra benefit that low-income households receive on top of their regular child benefit (Kindergeld) will increase in 2022, to a maximum of 209 euros per month.
The maintenance advance (Unterhaltsvorschuss) - which is given to single parents who receive no (or only irregular) maintenance payments from the other parent - will also increase in line with the rising minimum maintenance amount. From January 1, 2022, the maximum amount available is between 177 and 314 euros, depending on the age of the child.
Changes to healthcare
A few changes are being made to healthcare in Germany, as the country presses ahead with its mission to drag the industry into the digital age.
Digital sick notes to be sent directly to employers
Digital sick notes have been in use in Germany for some time now, but come July 1, 2022, the procedure will change slightly. Up until now, anyone signed off on sick leave by their doctor had to send a copy of the certificate to their employer. In future, however, digital copies will be sent to both the health insurer and the employer, without the employee having to do anything.
E-prescriptions (hopefully) coming
The changeover was due to take place in January 2022 but, due to technical difficulties, it has been delayed. The idea was to phase out the pink prescription forms used by doctors for prescribing medications.
Instead, the so-called e-prescription can be sent directly from the GP to the pharmacy, where the prescription can be picked up by the patient. The official start date for the new system has not yet been confirmed, but the Federal Health Ministry is insistent that it will be in 2022.
Online register for organ-donation
From March 2022, GPs in Germany will be asked to give patients more detailed information about organ donation options. A new online portal will go live to allow people to register online to donate their organs or withdraw their consent. From July 2022, an app will also be available.
EU digital certificate only valid for 9 months without booster
As was announced earlier in December, the European Commission has also decreed that, starting from February 1, 2022, digital COVID certificates will only be valid for nine months without a booster vaccination.
Changes to transport in Germany
No more paper tickets on Deutsche Bahn trains
From January 1, 2022, it will no longer be possible to purchase a paper ticket on Deutsche Bahn trains. Up until now, anyone who neglected to pay their fare before boarding could purchase a paper ticket from the conductor with a surcharge of 17 euros.
Instead, travellers will now need to purchase a digital ticket via the DB app or on the Bahn website. This can be done up to 10 minutes after departure. Disabled passengers can still purchase tickets on-board.
Anyone else who gets on a long-distance train without a ticket will have to pay a penalty fare of double the ticket price - at least 60 euros.
New vehicle insurance types
From 2022, Germany will introduce a new system for classifying vehicles for car insurance. The higher a vehicle ranks, the higher the cost of insurance will be. Around 4,3 million cars will likely benefit from a lower classification.
Easier to pay at e-charging stations
The German government wants to further encourage the switchover to electric vehicles by making paying at public e-charging stations easier and more user-friendly. A new law, which comes into force on January 1, 2022, stipulates that all charging stations put into operation after July 1, 2023, must enable contactless payments with common credit and debit cards.
Exchanging EU driving licences
A new regulation dictates that all driving licenses issued in the EU before January 19, 2013, must be exchanged for a new EU driver’s license by 2033. This is happening in stages, with the first one ending on January 19, 2022. All drivers in Germany who were born between 1953 and 1958 must apply to exchange their driving licences by this date. The new licence is in a credit card format and is valid for 15 years.
Changes affecting consumers
And finally, there are plenty of changes affecting consumers in Germany in 2022:
Deutsche Post puts up its prices
From January 1, 2022, Deutsche Post will increase the price of sending a letter in Germany. Postage costs will go up by 5 cents for standard, compact, large and maxi letters. Sending a postcard will cost 70 cents instead of 60 cents.
Pfand scheme extended
Germany is taking steps to expand its Pfand (deposit) system for bottles and cans next year. From January 1, 2022, all single-use plastic bottles and beverage cans will be subject to a deposit, including drinks like non-carbonated fruit juices for the first time. Milk and milk products will also be charged Pfand from 2024.
CO2 tax going up
The CO2 tax on climate-damaging emissions, which was introduced in January 2021, will rise in 2022 from 25 to 30 euros per ton. This will have a knock-on effect on consumers, meaning that the cost of petrol will rise by around 1,5 cents per litre, heating oil and diesel by 1,6 cents per litre, and natural gas by 0,1 cents per kilowatt-hour.
EEG surcharge to decrease significantly
The EEG surcharge (EEG-Umlage) - a green levy added onto the price of electricity in Germany - will drop significantly in 2022, to help provide relief for consumers with utility bills. It will fall from 6,5 to 3,723 cents per kilowatt-hour. The government plans to cover the shortfall with revenue from the newly-increased CO2 tax.
Plastic bags banned
In another move to crack down on single-use plastic, Germany will also ban retailers from giving out lightweight plastic bags to customers from January 1, 2022. Only so-called “shirt-bags”, which are offered for hygienic reasons or for fruit and vegetables, will still be allowed.
Smoking more expensive
Smoking in Germany will also get more expensive in 2022, with the tobacco tax for a pack of 20 cigarettes rising by an average of 10 cents. Manufacturers will likely pass the higher costs onto consumers.
From July 1, 2022, e-cigarettes will also be subject to tobacco taxation for the first time. 10 millilitres of vape liquid, which currently costs around 5 euros, will be subject to taxes totalling around 1,60 euros or more in 2022. This will rise to approximately 3,20 euros by 2026.
Retailers to take back old electronic devices
From January 1, 2022, a new regulation stipulates that retailers in Germany should offer consumers a way to return their old electronic devices for free. For small electronic devices, like mobile phones or torches, this offer must be made regardless. For larger devices like fridges and washing machines, retailers only have to take the old appliance if the customer is purchasing a new one. There is a transition period of six months before all retailers must comply.
Chick shredding and similar practices banned
Up until now, around 45 million male chickens have been killed every year in Germany because they do not lay eggs and are unsuitable for meat production. From January 1, 2022, Germany will become the first country in the world to ban chick shredding and other similar practices. Farmers will be forced to rely on other, more modern methods to weed out the male chicks before the eggs can hatch.
Census in 2022
Don’t forget that 2022 is also a census year in Germany. For the first time in 11 years, after the census was postponed last year due to the pandemic, a random selection of 10,2 million people will be asked about their living and working situations on May 15, 2022.
A new year is here
Unless otherwise stated, all of these new laws come into effect on January 1, 2022. Think we’ve missed a major change? Please let us know in the comments below. Happy New Year!