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A meta-guide for freelancers in Berlin to face the Corona lock-down

The German federal state and Berlin have taken unprecedented steps to help self-employed people during this crisis. The situation is evolving fast and it’s hard to keep an overview.

This post aims at providing as many resources as possible to let you sail through the storm. All the best and good luck.

Updated 31.03: to include Entschädigungen nach dem Infektionsschutzgesetz.

Updated 01.04: to include FAQs on Soforthilfe 2, and a poll i made to measure the success rate of applications. Please fill it in if you have made an application, only 5 easy questions, less than a min!

Updated 02.04: to include updated rules on Soforthilfe 2 stated by the IBB.

Updated 03.04: to include updates rules on Soforthilfe 2 and how the money can be used.

Updated 07.04: to include resources provided by the senate/city and updated information on ALG2.

Updated 08.04: Soforthilfe 2 is now called “Corona Zuschuss”.

Updated 10.04: Including infos about reducing Krankenkasse contributions with KSK, TK and others. Also including new contact info to IBB.

Updated 15.04: Including an handy “how-to” video to fill in the ALG2 application form.

Updated 19.04: Including link to a petition to remove restrictions on how Corona Zuschuss money can be used.

Updated 24.04: Including a special support program for live music artists and more crowdfunding options.

Updated 26.05: Visa holders may receive support money until September now, without worrying about their residence permits.

Staying informed on the evolution of the situation

The official Berlin portal now includes a dedicated page about all things corona, with updates everyday.

Securing support money right now:

The German government has mobilized 50 billions euros to support self-employed people around the country. This support money is then distributed at local level, where the amount and rules for the application are determined. For Berlin, these are the rules and conditions communicated by the Chamber of commerce and Investition Bank Berlin:

Corona Zuschuss (Soforthilfe 2) for Kleinunternehmen, Solo-Selbstständige und Freiberufler:

I’ve made an easy online poll for measure application success rate. If/when you apply, would you help me like i try to help you and fill it in? It’s only 5 easy questions and takes less than a minute. 🙂

Eligibility

Small companies up to 10 employees as a well as freelancers (Freiberufler + Gewerbe), especially those working in the following industries: health, commerce and services, youth and education, culture, art, social services, sport and tourism. You must be established/registered in Berlin

Amount of grant money

Applications made before 06.04.0202

Up to 5000€ can be used to cover running costs you may have (rental costs, financing costs for example). If you made your application before 06.04.2020, it can also be used to replace/cover payment of salaries, including your own for the next 6 months. The IBB page clearly stated that this was also meant to replace loss income and not only to cover business expenses (“Antragsteller mit bis zu 5 Beschäftigten können bis zu 5.000 EUR auch für die […] Unternehmer-/ Unternehmenseinkünften (bis zu 6 Monate für Soloselbständige und 3 Monate bei Unternehmen) ansetzen“).

For safety sake, i have included a screenshot of their FAQs stating this here:

An additional 9000€ to 15 000€ can be requested from federal funds to cover further business expenses.

Applications made from 06.04.2020 onwards

9000€ to 15000€ can be used for business expenses only.

This is maybe due to a switch from state funds (Berlin funds) to federal funds. Federal funds can’t be used for salaries.

If you think that is unfair, you can sign this petition asking those restrictions to be lifted.

Repayment conditions:

This grant is not subject to any repayments but it’s not tax free money. This will count for income tax, in your tax declaration.

Application process:

An online application process to be accessed via this page: https://www.ibb.de/de/foerderprogramme/corona-zuschuss.html

Since there is a massive demand, you will need to take a ticket and wait for your turn to fill in the application form. Only the following details will be needed additionally to the form.

  • Name and address
  • Legal form of your freelancing/Gewerbe
  • Start date of your freelancing/Gewerbe
  • Passport or ID card
  • Steuer-ID (NOT STEUERNUMMER)
  • Your banking details to collect the money (German IBAN)

How to fill in the form?

You can use the following guidelines here, here or/and check those here too, made by the trade association of artists in Berlin (Berufsverband bildender künstler*innen berlin). Please note that i just provide links to guide other made online, i cannot be held liable for them.

I also found this guide by ArtConnect Magazine which goes in greater details, step by step.

FAQ

This FAQ is based on comments and questions seen around the Berlin Freelancers FB group and IBB’s own FAQ section.

Residence permit: will applying for this impact my RP?

No. According to the Landeseinwanderungsamt/Ausländerbehörde’s own decree, even if your permit doesn’t allow it in the first place.

Can i use this money to support living expenses?

Only if you made your application before 06.04.2020. The IBB page (and even on twitter) clearly states this can be used to replace loss of income and thus be used as you would normally with your own money. This was also confirmed by the ministry of economy.

If you have made your application on or after 06.04.2020, you cannot use this money to support personal expenses.

Do i need to prove i need the grant in some way?

Not at this point. In the terms and conditions of the application, you only make an oath that you do need the money. No need to upload a document or anything.

Do i need to pay the money back? Will it count for my tax declaration next year?

To this date, no, you don’t need to repay the money back. It’s not a loan, it’s a grant. However, it’s liable for income tax. This means you will need to declare this as “regular income”. Don’t forget though: if you get audited and they find out that you didn’t really need the money after all, they will probably ask some or all of it back.

At this point, we don’t know if everybody will get audited or if it will be at random. Given the amount of applications, probably the second option.

Can i apply for support even though i only do freelancing as a side-gig?

There is still debate over this but the IBB FAQ section on the Zuschuss states that the grant is only meant for people doing freelancing as their main source of income. So if the bulk of your income comes from doing a food-on-the-table job (eg: call-center, cafe, cashier), you should probably not apply.

Sie dürfen die Hilfen nur beantragen, wenn Sie Ihre selbstständige Tätigkeit im Haupterwerb ausüben. Dies gilt nicht für Angestellte, Rentner, Studierende, Auszubildende, etc.

IBB FAQ section
Can i use a bank account located abroad to receive the grant?

No, you need to insert IBAN details to a German account.

I filled in the application wrong, can i make any corrections?

Yes, send your “Antrags-ID”, your name and the correction to be made via this online contact form.

Tax relief: Delaying or reducing tax prepayments

Securing a life-line for the next few months is not going to do you any good if all the money goes to prepayments. As a reminder, this is relevant only for people paying income tax, trade tax (Gewerbesteuer) or VAT on a monthly, quarterly basis.

You can request to your Finanzamt to redue or delay those prepayments during the crisis. This can be easily done via a letter. The guys at Kontist have made a little generator that does just that. Just fill in the details, and it will generate a PDF with the right wording for you to make this request.

https://kontist.com/offers/tax-relief

It also has been confirmed that fines for late prepayments may also be waived during that period.

Apply for compensation under the infection protection law (Entschädigungen nach dem Infektionsschutzgesetz)

This is another support mechanism put in place by the Berlin senate.

Eligibility:

if you are working in a sector that has been impacted by orders of quarantine decided by the city, there is a good chance you can apply for this. You need to have been impacted by a so called Tätigkeitsverbot (§§ 31 und 42 IfSG) or a Quarantäne (§ 30 IfSG) following the Infektionsschutzgesetzes (IfSG). If your usual place of work received the order to close and stop activities due to the current situation and you experience a loss of income because of this, you can apply.

Amount of support money

This will be calculated base your previous Einkommensteuerbescheid (probably the one of 2018, if you havent done 2019 yes). This yearly amount will be divided by 12 (monthly income).

How to apply:

Go download this form and provide the following documents too:

  • Copy of your last Einkommensteuerbescheid
  • Copy of your Krankenkasse contributions (in case you are privately insured, not needed if you are in public)
  • Copy of of the public statement/order (Anordnungsbescheids) that lead to the closure of your workplace and the quarantine.

Please note:

You won’t be able to receive Soforthilfe 2 and this compensation in full. If you apply for both and receive both compensations, you will have to repay some of it in the future.

Applying for Grundversicherung/ALG2

If you are really running out of options, you can also try to apply for ALG2/Grundversicherung, which is benefits designed for people that can’t pay basic bills or rent. This would be the very last safety net after exhausting all other options.

  • Your whole rent (including Nebenkosten and heating) would be paid, although maybe not after 6 months, if you rent is too high.
  • Your health insurance would be paid.
  • You would receive support money.

The rules have been relaxed for the 6 months period receiving the benefits: you can still be self-employed and claim the benefits, and keep your savings, with no further scrutiny from the job center during that time. However, past that first period, the job center will be closely investigating you, as for any ALG2 recipient.

How to apply for ALG2

You can apply directly with your local job center but make sure to understand all attached conditions with this FAQ first and a general intro here.

You can watch this video here that includes a step by step explanation on how to fill in the application form, courtesy of Red Tape Translation.

Apply for additional support money if you have kids

If you have kids, you probably know and already receive Kindergeld. In this case, you may also be aware of Kinderzuschlag. Conditions around the Kinderzuschlag have also been relaxed and you may be eligible for more money here too, even if you have already applied for it. You can read an FAQ on the matter here.

You can also easily check if you are eligible via their dedicated tool and a series of informative videos.

Securing child care:

Emergency care services are only provided to freelancers working in critical sectors such as:

  • Ernährung und Hygiene (Produktion, Groß- und Einzelhandel, inkl. Zulieferung und Logistik)
  • Finanzen (ggf. Bargeldversorgung, Sozialtransfers)
  • Gesundheit: Krankenhäuser, Rettungsdienst, niedergelassene Ärzte, Pflege, Eingliederungshilfe, Medizinproduktehersteller, Arzneimittelhersteller, Apotheken, Labore
  • Informationstechnik und Telekommunikation (insb. Einrichtung zur Entstörung und Aufrechterhaltung der Netze)
  • Lehrer und Pädagogen (soweit diese zur Aufrechterhaltung der Notbetreuung eingesetzt werden)
  • Logistik, Transport und Verkehr
  • Medien (insb. Risiko- und Krisenkommunikation)
  • Staat und Verwaltung: Kernaufgaben der öffentlichen Verwaltung (Regierung und Verwaltung, Parlament), Polizei, Feuerwehr, Katastrophenschutz, Justiz, Veterinärwesen, Küstenschutz
  • Wasser und Entsorgung

Reach to your Kita for more information or in case they are already in school, you can also call the dedicated hotline provided by the senate on that topic: 030 902227 6000 (Mon-Fri, 9 -16 30 Uhr)

Paying less for health insurance

If you are an artist paying your contributions through KSK, it is possible to preemptively reduce your monthly payments by letting them know about your loss of income because of the crisis. You may do this by filling in and sending this form.

Researching a bit more, i found out that other Krankenkassen will also let you do that so look this up for your own. Example for TK here.

Knowing your rights: no eviction is possible until at least September.

Since 24.03.2020, the Berlin senate has voted that no tenant could be evicted out of their place until at least September. Also note that no electricity or gas service can be interrupted during this time as well. There are talks to extend this protective measure until 2021, at federal level as well.

You can read the full Bundesgesetzblatt here.

Dealing with residence permit extensions/applications during this time:

I suggest you read the dedicated FAQ on the Immigration office website directly. It contains a lot of different cases, one of them is probably yours.

As expected, although the office is still open, appointments will be possible for urgent matters only. Most other things will be dealt with in writing. In general though, if your visa was about to expire (between 17.03.2020 and 17.06.2020, it is now automatically been extended by another 3 months, without any further action to take on your end.

Running a café/restaurant/club/theater: you can get help this way too


There are platforms that lets people buy vouchers for their favorite place in order to bring them enough cashflow to survive through the crisis. The voucher can then be redeemed in the future, when the situation is back to normal.

If you have a large social media following, that might add a little safety net on top of everything else.

If you are a performing artist living from live shows:

You can apply for this support program here. If you had at least 5 live shows planned between 13/03/2020 and 31/04/2020, and there were all cancelled, you can get 1000€. Read the FAQ carefully for more details on how to apply.

Look at crowdfunding options:

Startnext is trying to facilitate the crowdfunding options for anybody in need in the creative community with their special project. Other options include:

I have a specific legal/regulatory questions linked to my situation, who can i call about this?

Some legal teams have decided to host free hotlines to answer questions you may have during those times. For example, if you work in culture, sports, gastronomy, clubs or events, you may send an email about your problem to this team, and they will call you back to try to explain your options.

I will try to keep this guide updated as time passes by. Feel free to suggest any more resources in the comments. Please note that this guide does not represent legal advice and i cannot be held accountable if false information is listed here, since the situation changes almost every day.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Aiko 12/05/2020 at 09:48

    Hello! I cannot find the FAQ page screenshot you posted regarding to “Applications made before 06.04.0202”? I would love to have this for sake of safety as well, it’s for the use of 5000€ received before 06.04.2020.

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/05/2020 at 15:26

      Hey Aiko. You can also get assurance of this through other ways. The confirmation email you received/will receive contains this piece of information. The Rechtsbelehrung says: “Sie werden die Mittel zweckmäßig verwenden; d.h. einen Zuschussbetrag über 5000 EUR hinaus nutzen Sie ausschließlich zur Begleichung Ihrer fortlaufenden betrieblichen Ausgaben. . That basically translates to, any funds over 5000e can only be used for business expenses.

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