SEPA and GEZ – Changes for Germany

Have you noticed more postal mail recently? Your insurance company, your private retirement fund and heaven knows whoever else you are connected to via banking, is obligated to inform you of the coming changes. The changes are about SEPA (Single European Payments Area) as well as the GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale Köln).

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SEPA, the new unified European bank coding, requires your changeover to a unified bank account and bank number.

Starting February 2014, all companies have to switch from the current account + bank number system to the new unified number system with IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identifier Code).
If you have a standing bank order, you will receive a letter to confirm your new IBAN + BIC for this order. If you don’t do anything, the company withdrawing money from your bank account will assume the information is correct,  and change to these new numbers by February 2014.
As a private person, you may opt to continue using the current number system before you have to switch – no later than February 2016.

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GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale Köln) charges you a monthly fee for receiving German television and radio programs.
The payment conditions have changed.
In the past, you had to register with GEZ if you had a television or radio at home. Only when you registered, you received an invoice of 17,98 Euro per month.
Since 2013, the fee is a lump sum fee per household. So whether you are registered with GEZ or not, you have to pay the monthly fee.
Those of you who have received a notification and were not registered before, are now being asked to register. If you do not react, you get a reminder and finally will be registered automatically.

No way around this fee… even if you only watch/listen programs from abroad.

German Tax Information for Expats

This information was sent to us by the administration of Frankfurt International School and I found it very useful for expats living and working in Germany.

It contains a general explanation of the current tax situation. I am sure, not only newcomers to the German tax system will find this useful, but also current non-German employees such as my husband who frequently inquire about German tax terms and whether we have to act on it.

Edited e-mail version:

Within the next days and weeks, every German tax office (Finanzamt) will send letters to all registered employees in Germany.

The letter’s headline will read:

Information über die erstmals elektronisch gespeicherten Daten für den Lohnsteuerabzug (Elektronische Lohnsteuerabzugsmerkmale) – see explanation below.

This October, you will not receive a 2012 tax card from your town hall as your tax data 2012 is to be transferred electronically to the employer. Therefore, the Finanzamt is sending out this letter to have you double-check the information you have given previously. This letter is just for your information, and if the listed information is correct, it does not need to be handed to the employer, nor sent back to the Finanzamt.

Please check if your name and address are stated correctly.

Further please check the table with the headline Lohnsteuerabzugsmerkmale:

Steuerklasse (tax classification) should show one of the following:

“I” for singles or divorcees

“II” for singles with child/ren, raising child/ren without partner

“III” for married couples in which one earns considerably more than the spouse OR is the only one working

“IV” for married couples in which both are employed

“V” for married couples  in which one earns considerably less than the spouse

Kirchensteuermerkmal (church tax code) is only marked, if you have declared your membership to one of the official churches in Germany. If you have registered with a religious group, it will appear as follows:

“rk” catholic confession

“ev” protestant confession

“rk/ev” or “ev/rk” if you and your spouse have different confessions

Zahl der Kinderfreibeträge would show up if you have a child;

For example, 2,0 stands for 2 registered children.

If yours is marked with 0,5, this means that 0,5 child is counted towards your tax credit. The other half, for example, could be registered with a divorced partner.

Pauschbeträge für behinderte Menschen / Hinterbliebene  would only appear if you have applied for a tax credit due to a handicap/disability.

Report any changes/incorrect information to the Finanzamt. If there aren’t any, then just file it with your paperwork.

This does not apply to military spouses or consulate members.

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