Every day we receive new horror reports and restrictions due to the coronavirus. In addition to the health risks for all of us, there are considerable risks to the economy. With this special newsletter on the coronavirus we would like to inform you that we at Benefitax are currently offering our services as usual, but only online. You can reach us by e-mail, Skype or phone. Due to the risk of infection, we do not take part in conferences, seminars or external meetings with business partners at the moment, nor do we receive visitors in our office. Some of our employees work from home. In case it gets worse (e.g. quarantine, obligatory office closures for our business sector, curfew) we have taken the following precautions:
- Starting tomorrow all Benefitax employees will be able to work from their home office.
- As long as at least one employee still comes into the office, incoming mail will be scanned and made available electronically to the responsible person for further processing.
- Should we close the office and you wish to make a phone call, please send an e-mail to the responsible staff member with the request to call back. If possible and reasonable, he or she will contact you via Skype or telephone. If you are not in the office, please leave a number where we can reach you. If you cannot reach the responsible person, please contact us by e-mail at email@example.com.
Currently, the situation in Germany is serious but not as serious as in Italy or France. The problem for those who do not speak German is that almost all information on prohibitions and actions that can be taken is only available in German. Since things change so quickly almost no authority takes the time to publish translations. Therefore please find a summary of prohibitions and actions below. If you are our client and we can help you we will do so but some applications have to be filed by the companies themselves and for other information you may need to contact your German lawyer
The Hessian government has announced yesterday which businesses may be opened and which must remain closed under which conditions. The following shops may continue to open:
- Feed trade
- weekly markets
- Beverage markets
- Banks and savings banks
- collection and delivery services
- Medical supply stores
- Post offices
- Petrol stations
- Newspaper sale
- DIY, horticultural and pet supplies stores and wholesale.
These facilities are opened under conditions of hygiene, access control and avoidance of queues.
In addition, the ban on Sunday sales in these stores will be lifted. Restaurants within the meaning of the Hessian Restaurant Act as well as refectories and hotels may be operated under the following conditions:
Picking up food:
after prior telephone or electronic ordering, it is possible, if it is also ensured that
(a) the waiting areas are designed in such a way as to ensure a distance of at least 1,5 metres between guests
(b) appropriate hygiene measures are taken; and
(c) notices are posted on the necessary hygiene measures; or
for stays between 6:00 and 18:00 it is ensured that
(a) the number of visitors is limited to one third of the available places, but not more than 30 persons
(b) the seating arrangements are such that a distance of at least 1,5 metres is guaranteed between the passengers,
(c) appropriate hygiene measures are taken; and
(d) notices are posted on the necessary hygiene measures.
Accommodation is only permitted for necessary purposes. Overnight accommodation for tourist purposes is not permitted.
The following facilities, establishments, meeting places and offers shall be closed or closed down:
- dancing events, trade fairs, exhibitions, special and fairgrounds, amusement arcades, casinos, betting shops and similar establishments which are deemed to be commercial enterprises within the meaning of the Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act (Gewerbeordnung) in the version promulgated on 22 February 1999 (BGBl. I p. 202), last amended by the Act of 22 November 2019 (BGBl. I p. 1746),
- places of amusement within the meaning of the Baunutzungsverordnung (Federal Building Utilisation Ordinance) in the version published on 21 November 2017 (BGBl. I p. 3786), in particular bars, clubs, discotheques, pubs and similar establishments,
- leisure and animal parks and providers of leisure activities (indoor and outdoor),
- cultural institutions of any kind, irrespective of their respective sponsorship or ownership, in particular museums, theatres, open-air theatres, operas, theatres and concert halls, castles, libraries and similar institutions,
- the practice of sports on and in all public and private sports facilities, public and private swimming pools and fun pools, thermal baths, fitness studios and similar facilities
- prostitution facilities within the meaning of the Prostitute Protection Act of 21 October 2016 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 2372), as amended by the Act of 20 November 2019 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 1626), brothels, prostitution events within the meaning of the Prostitute Protection Act and similar establishments
- all other retail outlets not mentioned elsewhere in the Regulation, in particular factory outlets and manufacturers’ direct sales centres
Meetings in clubs and other sports and leisure facilities as well as the use of offers in adult education centres, music schools and other public and private educational institutions in the extracurricular sector as well as coach travel are prohibited. Meetings in churches, mosques, synagogues and the meetings of other religious communities are also prohibited. All religious communities are free to practise alternative forms of religious activity which are not connected with meetings of persons, for example, offers on the Internet. The buildings and rooms mentioned in sentence 3 may be kept open for the prayers of individuals.
On the following page you will find the regulation and current information in German.
Economic measures to help companies and employers affected by the coronavirus
In order to help German companies and emloyers the Federal Government has initiated some measures to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus. An overview on the measures in English on economic aids, tax-related liquidity assistance and cheap loans can be found here:
How can we at Benefitax help you?
1) Relief with tax payments
- Enforcement measures (e.g. account seizures) or late payment surcharges will be waived until 31 December 2020 as long as the debtor of a tax payment due is directly affected by the effects of the corona virus. If you are our client and are affected, please let us know so that we can submit the relevant application to the authorities.
- In the event of foreseeable profit losses, it may be worthwhile to apply for a reduction of the tax advance payments. We will be happy to do this for you if this is evident from your interim financial statements or if you give us plausible reasons. The tax offices are instructed to process these applications quickly.
- In the event of liquidity bottlenecks, an application can be made for deferral of tax prepayments due soon. We will be happy to do this for you if you provide us with the reasons or evidence (e.g. liquidity plan, impending payments in the event of a low account balance).
2) Labour law implications and application for reimbursement
- If, for example, deliveries are not made and the employees’ working hours have to be reduced as a result, short-time working compensation (Kurzarbeitergeld) should be applied for immediately. It has been announced that due to the coronavirus crises the conditions for obtaining this compensation will be reduced retroactively with effect from 1 March 2020. Details will follow in April. Benefits can only be granted after you have applied for them.We recommend obtaining the advice of a specialist lawyer for labor law. If you need assistance in filling out the application for short-time work compensation, we will be happy to help. However, the application must be submitted by the company itself.
- In the event of officially ordered closures of companies, please check whether you have taken out a business closure or business interruption insurance policy for this purpose and inform the company or your insurance broker immediately.
- In the event that your company is ordered to temporarily shut down its operations due to the Corona crisis or employees are quarantined by the public health department, you will be entitled to reimbursement of wages in accordance with the German Protection against Infection Act. Here the employer must first continue to pay the wage and has a reimbursement claim against the regional associations / the respective competent authority. Please note that reimbursement claims must be asserted immediately with the authorities, otherwise they may be forfeited.
3) Support instruments / financial aid / suspension of the obligation to file for insolvency:
- Measures have been adopted to facilitate the short-term supply of liquidity to companies. To this end KfW (bank owned by the government) will use existing loans for companies, the self-employed and freelancers and improve access and conditions there. Please note that these are not grants but loans that have to be repaid. Please contact your house bank to make an application.
In order to avoid that affected companies have to file for insolvency simply because liquidity aid does not reach them in time, the regular three-week insolvency filing obligation is to be suspended until 30 September 2020. The Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection is preparing a corresponding legal regulation to protect companies that get into financial difficulties as a result of the corona epicemic.
We hope that the state of emergency will soon be over and look forward to meeting you and all our business friends again personally afterwards. Keep going.