2021 brings many changes

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Austria – The new year will be different – also and especially when it comes to the pandemic. Vaccination will bring life closer to the way it used to be, even if the virus will remain part of everyday life. But there will also be changes at work, in pensions, in the health sector and at school. Mobility in Austria could also change this year.

With the start of vaccination in retirement and nursing homes still in the old year, the circle of vaccinees will gradually expand in 2021. During the first quarter, vaccines will be available for people over 65, as well as for people in education, security, justice and critical infrastructure. Later, vaccination of wider segments of the population is planned. It will continue to be possible to report illness by telephone until at least the end of March. The electronic vaccination passport, which has been planned for a long time, is to be rolled out nationwide by the end of March at the latest.

Various family, economic and business assistance programs will also continue. Special childcare hours can still be claimed, and a legal entitlement to them has also been established for 2021. Employees who have to care for their children at home because school or kindergarten are closed are to be able to take up to four weeks off. Employers will be reimbursed 100 percent of the cost of pay.

One-time payments for children and energy
Among other things, the hardship fund for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the fixed cost allowance for entrepreneurs will also continue. It can be applied for until June. The loss compensation in an amount of up to three million euros can also be applied for in 2021. The family hardship fund has been increased by 50 million euros for 2021 and is available to families who have lost income due to short-time work or unemployment.

There are also innovations in childcare allowance. For the calculation of the income-dependent variant, the income of the year 2019 can be used as an exception, provided that this results in a higher daily rate. Otherwise, the childcare allowance will be calculated on the basis of the 2020 tax assessment, whichever is better for the family. This happens automatically.

In addition, for recipients of social assistance or minimum security, 100 euros will be paid out as a one-time payment for each child living in the same household and up to 100 euros as a one-time payment per household as an energy cost subsidy. For civil servants, the duration of early leave (“baby month”) is increased from 28 to up to 31 days.

Coronavirus short-time working will also be available in 2021. A job offensive already came into effect in the fall, and it too will now be continued with 426 million euros. The measure is intended to qualify people without jobs for the expected economic upswing this year and in 2022. Tax deferrals for companies have been extended at least until the end of March. Deferral interest and late payment surcharges will also not be due during this period. For the time being, support for non-profit associations (“NPO Fund”) will also continue.

The government announced a “protective shield” for event organizers. If an event is canceled due to CoV or can only take place to a limited extent, this can be used to reimburse non-cancelable expenses up to an amount of one million euros. This means that not only organizers are starting a better year, but events are also expected to be feasible again in a few months.

Plus for small pensions
Home office and short-time work, on the other hand, may still accompany many people through the new year. However, the commuter allowance will continue to be paid out. In addition, rent deferrals will be extended until the end of March 2021 and evictions due to unpaid apartment rents from this period will be postponed until mid-2022.

Wages and salaries will increase by 1.5 percent in 2021. Metalworkers and public employees will receive 1.45 percent, as will most pensioners. On the other hand, those receiving small pensions will receive more than double the inflation compensation next year: salaries of up to 1,000 euros will be raised by 3.5 percent. Up to 1,400 euros, the increase will fall linearly to 1.5 percent, and from 2,333 euros it will be capped at a fixed amount of 35 euros. Recipients of social assistance or minimum benefits also benefit from the increase in minimum pensions because their amount is based on the equalization supplement reference rate. This means that the minimum benefit or social assistance will also increase by 3.5 percent from 917.35 euros to 949.46 euros. The new automatic adjustment will apply to long-term care benefits. Also here there is plus 1.5 per cent.

Even though the 2020 pandemic year has resulted in high costs, only minor changes are pending in taxes for this year so far. One is the much-debated “tampon tax” on menstrual products. It will be reduced to ten percent, as will that on repair services. In hotels, catering and culture, the VAT rate will remain at five percent until the end of 2021 due to the pandemic.

For consumers ordering goods from abroad, customs duties will change: Until now, there has been no customs duty on parcels from abroad if the value of the goods is less than 22 euros. This exemption limit will be abolished throughout the EU on July 1. This means that in future, customs declarations will also have to be made by the post office and express services for goods with a value of less than 22 euros. The previous system was considered highly susceptible to fraud – either through false declarations or by splitting orders into small shipments with a correspondingly low value.

School starts again at a distance
Schoolchildren and students have had a difficult year, with contact restrictions, distance learning and a surprising surge in digitization. The year starts again with distance learning until January 15. At the schools, however, supervision will be offered as in the second lockdown, and high school students can also come to classes temporarily.

In the schools, 2021 will also bring inexpensive notebooks or tablets for fifth- and sixth-grade students each fall, as well as ethics classes for students who do not attend religious education classes, starting in the ninth grade. Parents must pay 25 percent of the purchase price, but the device becomes the property of the student. The devices are free of charge for families who receive a minimum income, equalization supplement or unemployment assistance, or who are exempt from paying broadcasting fees. Teachers are also provided with the mobile devices.

School in pandemic times: New year also starts in distance mode
In addition, there are new competence checks as well as again partly changed Matura rules. As in 2020, the Matura 2021 will be postponed: start of the written exams is on May 20. Unlike this year, however, there will be a compulsory oral Matura examination (from June 7). At universities, the new year will probably bring the introduction of a minimum study performance requirement for first-year students. Anyone starting a bachelor’s or diploma program from the winter semester of 2021/22, which begins on October 1, will have to manage at least 24 ECTS credits in this program in the first two years of study. This is one fifth of the specified standard period of study. The review period for the draft law ends on January 15.

News for bank customers and borrowers
A decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in September 2019 brings an implementation this year that affects borrowers. The reimbursement of costs in the case of early repayments of consumer loans will be newly regulated. Consumers must be reimbursed pro rata for both term-dependent and term-independent costs in the event of early repayment of loans.

There will also be new regulations for safe deposit boxes in banks. They will be included in the account register. From January 2021, this will affect safe-deposit boxes and safes at banks and at a total of around 100 private providers. The group of bodies that are allowed to query the account register, which was installed in 2016, will also be expanded. The aim is to prosecute criminal activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing.

A lot is in store for Austria’s motorists in the new year. The increase in the standard consumption tax (NoVA), which will make large cars more expensive, caused some discussion. All vehicles used to transport passengers and goods up to 3.5 tons are now subject to NoVA – and therefore also SUVs, pick-ups and vans, which are considered small trucks and are often registered as such by companies. Exempt from the NoVA are of the environmentally friendly companions now explicitly not only electric vehicles, but also, for example, with hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The CoV pandemic drove many people onto the bike paths last summer. Environmentally friendly mobility is to be rewarded in the future.
The digital driver’s license is to come as early as this spring. In the National Council, the legal conditions have already been created to enable further steps toward electronic proof of identity (E-ID). Starting in the spring, holders of citizen cards and cell phone signatures will be able to obtain digital versions of their driver’s licenses and registration certificates on their smartphones. A reorganization of parking management in Vienna is also imminent this year. Details are not yet known.

Bonus for “Öffi” users”
Concessions in various areas are available for the use of public transport or of trains and bicycles. From July 1, all public transport tickets paid for by the employer will be tax-free, with the exception of one-way tickets and day passes. However, the ticket must be valid at the place of residence or work. Previously, the tax exemption only applied to route or network tickets for travel between home and work.

Those who travel between home and work on a bike or e-bike provided by their employer do not lose any of their commuter allowance. In the case of rail, on the other hand, “green” traction current generated by rail companies themselves from renewable energy sources will be completely tax-free from July 1. The Austria part of the 1-2-3 ticket, i.e. the nationwide network ticket, is also to be introduced this year. A budget of 95 million euros has been earmarked for this.

— Source: orf.at/pictures: it-daily.net

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