October 2022: 12 changes affecting expats in Germany
A new month is here, and that means change is coming. From minimum wage and COVID status changes to the annual tax declaration and property tax submissions, there are a lot of things expats in Germany need to look out for as we head into October 2022.
1. Minimum wage in Germany goes up once again
2022 has been a good year for workers in Germany who receive minimum wage: after going up first in January, and then again in July, the minimum hourly wage will increase once more from October 1, 2022, from 10,45 to 12 euros per hour.
2. New COVID rules come into force
Germany’s new “October to Easter” COVID rules come into effect on October 1, 2022, and will remain in place until April 7, 2023. While also enabling federal states to implement their own restrictions where necessary, the new Infection Protection Act prescribes a number of nationwide measures to curb the spread of coronavirus during the autumn and winter, including:
- Masks on long-distance trains
- FFP2 masks in German hospitals and doctors’ practices
- Regular testing for visitors and staff at healthcare facilities
Masks will no longer be required in airports and on planes.
3. Changes to vaccination status rules
From October 1 the criteria according to which someone is defined as “fully vaccinated” is also changing slightly. In future, you are only considered fully vaccinated if one of the following applies:
- You have received three COVID jabs (the last one must have been given at least three months after the second).
- You have received two COVID jabs and tested positive for COVID on an antibody test before your first jab or have at any point tested positive for COVID on a PCR test.
4. Gas price cap comes into effect
The German government has announced that it will ditch plans for a controversial gas levy, which would have allowed energy providers to add a surcharge of 2,419 cents per kilowatt hour, and instead impose a gas price cap to reduce prices for people struggling with soaring utility bills. The government will make up the difference between the capped price and the prices that importers actually pay. It's not clear exactly where the cap will be set, but ministers have promised that the relief will be brought in as soon as possible.
5. VAT on gas reduced
It is certain, however, that the federal government will step in to relieve consumers in Germany by reducing VAT on gas from October. The tax on gas consumption will be lowered from 19 to 7 percent until March 2024 at least. The savings should be passed on to consumers directly.
6. Property tax declaration needs to be submitted
As Germany gears up to totally overhaul its system of property taxes from 2025, owners of land, houses and apartments have been asked to submit a property tax return to their state tax office by October 31, 2022. However, with the form proving rather complicated to complete and returns so far very low, it is widely expected that the Federal Ministry of Finance will extend this October deadline.
7. Annual tax return deadline
Usually, taxpayers who are obliged to submit an annual tax return need to do it by July 31 of the following year at the latest. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the tax office has decided to extend the deadline this year by three months, giving people until October 31, 2022 to complete their 2021 tax returns. If you use a tax advisor, the deadline is even later. If you want to complete voluntary tax returns (i.e. to try to get a refund), you need to get your 2018 return in by December 31, 2022.
8. Income limit for mini-jobs rises
To reflect changes to the minimum wage and to give people working in marginal employment more money and flexibility, the government is amending its earnings thresholds for so-called mini-job contracts (jobs that aren’t subject to taxation or social security). The new earnings limit is based on a minimum hourly wage of 12 euros and 10 weekly working hours, and has been increased from 450 to 520 euros per month. A higher limit of 1.300 to 1.600 euros will also apply to midi-jobbers.
9. Telekom charges for fixed phone line go up
From October 1, Telekom is charging an additional 2 euros for customers who have a fixed phone line. The change applies to both existing and new customers in the private and business sectors. Anyone who wants to change providers can do so free of charge within three months of being informed of the change.
10. New questions for driving theory test
The new month also spells a shakeup of the bank of questions for driving theory tests, with some old questions being revised and new ones being added. Anyone learning to drive in Germany has to answer 52 of these questions - and the exam is notoriously tricky! Only 70 percent of learners have passed in recent years.
11. Clocks go back
The weather outside is starting to feel autumnal, and October brings a change that really feels like the onset of winter: the clocks are going back on the night of Saturday, October 29 to Sunday, October 30, giving us an extra hour in bed. The evenings will suddenly appear a whole lot darker.
12. Hedge trimming allowed once again
And, finally, avid gardeners will be pleased to hear that they can once again go wild on pruning and trimming their hedges, shrubs and trees. The Federal Nature Conservation Act prohibits “excessive pruning” between the months of March and September to protect the habitats of birds and other animals, but outside of these months, you are free to shear to your heart’s content.