April 2019: 9 changes affecting expats in Germany
From plastic-free cucumbers and higher minimum wages to mothers’ pensions and revamped driving tests, there’s plenty of change afoot this April. Here are 9 important things affecting expats in Germany.
1. Animal welfare labelling system for meat
Multiple supermarkets in Germany, including Aldi, Lidl, Edeka, Rewe, Penny, Netto and Kaufland are introducing a standardised system of labelling for beef, pork and poultry that clearly identifies how the animal was kept and slaughtered. The rating system ranges from one (“Stallhaltung” (indoor-reared) - the legal minimum standard) to four (“premium” - equivalent to organic).
2. More money for temporary workers
Minimum wages for workers with temporary contracts will rise in the western federal states from 9,47 to 9,79 euros per hour. In the eastern states, where minimum wages already rose at the beginning of the year, salaries will stay the same.
3. Compensation for work-related relocations increases
Anyone who has to relocate for work-related reasons can benefit from more generous tax advantages. As well as costs for moving companies, travel and real estate agents, anyone who pays income tax is also allowed to deduct up to 811 euros of “special expenses” (1.622 euros for married couples) in their annual tax return.
4. No more plastic packaging on cucumbers
Another food-related change: both Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord have vowed to do away with the controversial plastic packaging on their cucumbers. From April, only loose cucumbers without plastic wrapping will be available in their stores. The change is expected to save 120 tonnes of plastic waste per year.
5. Diesel ban in Stuttgart
Although a ban on older diesel vehicles is already in place in Stuttgart, from April it will also include residents of the city. If your vehicle does not conform to the Euro 5 emissions standard, you will only be able to drive in Stuttgart under exceptional circumstances.
6. Registration obligation for apartments in Hamburg
Anyone in Hamburg who wants to rent out their apartment as a holiday home will require a special registration from April 1. This measure is intended to help alleviate the city’s housing crisis, which many feel is being exacerbated by landlords opting for lucrative short-term lets over renting places to fixed tenants. Anyone who lets their apartment without registering faces a fine of up to 500.000 euros.
7. Last chance for “mother’s pension”
If you are over the age of 65 and applying for a pension for the first time, you should make your application before the end of April. Otherwise you might lose out on payments due to you under the “mother’s pension” (Mütterrente) initiative. The scheme enables parents with children born before 1992 to count up to two and a half years of time taken out to raise a child towards their qualifying “contribution period”.
8. New driving test questions
If you’re learning to drive, pay attention: from April onwards the theory test question catalogue contains 32 new questions, including some new video and picture questions. 38 of the previous questions have also been altered.
9. No more 500-euro notes
They may have been phased out in 17 other countries, but up until now 500-euro notes have still been available in Austrian and German banks. However, the purple-coloured note’s days are numbered, as from April 26 it is due to be phased out entirely. If you’re lucky enough to have one in your possession, fear not - it will still be possible to use the notes currently in circulation after April 26.