COVID19 Berlin: What Freelance Photographers Should Know to Secure their Business

Berlin is home to many freelance photographers that end up facing a severe loss of income with the current global economic crisis due to coronavirus outbreak.

Aiming to help the freelance photographers in Berlin due to the COVID19 crisis, we have shortlisted the essential points photographers should know to secure their business in this situation. In Germany, researches estimate that there are about 332.014 people registered as self-employed in the field of arts, with the city of Berlin having the highest number of freelance workers in the country.

The outbreak of this pandemic has led to uncontrollable economic struggles, especially for the self-employed community. Among these people, we know that artists face the consequences directly — postponed concerts, canceled photoshoots.

Being a foreigner and a Germany-based photographer might put you on a backend with the lack of language knowledge. To help you through it, we have prepared an all English list of all you should know as a freelance photographer to secure your income, keep your business standing strong, or getting immediate help in this time of crisis.

Computer, camera lens and cellphone, illustrating the routine of a freelance photographer.
Photo by Goran Ivos on Unsplash

As the situation is changing rapidly, it is necessary to stay informed. There are several official sites where hotlines have been set up to inform about the current situation. Here are some condensed but not exhaustive information and tips on what photographers should have in mind.

This is judged by the regulations of the German states (Bundesländer), which implement the agreement between the federal government and the states. As an example, the Berlin regulation of 17th March 2020 is linked here.

According to this regulation, photographers are not covered by the prohibition to continue working. However, gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited, so that many of the numerous events for photographers are likely to be omitted.

If self-employed photographers are sorted out (i.e., quarantined) as “suspected infectious” individuals, they are entitled to compensation in accordance with the Infection Protection Act (§56 Infektionsschutzgesetz/IFSG). The prerequisite, however, is that the quarantine is officially imposed by the authorities.

In the event of an officially imposed quarantine, independent photographers whose photographic business is suspended during this period are entitled to compensation calculated based on loss of earnings (§ 56 Para. 2 S. 1 IFSG)

If the existence of the company is threatened, additional expenses can also be reimbursed on the application, such as, to an appropriate extent, reimbursement of the continuing uncovered operating expenses (Section 56 (4) IFSG).

Claims for compensation must be submitted to the competent state authorities within a period of three months after the end of the separation (§ 54 IFSG).

As a main rule, the health authorities are responsible, under certain circumstances, also the pension offices.

The Federal Ministry of Finance has decided on the following immediate tax measures to improve the liquidity of companies and to protect the economy from liquidity problems:

  • Tax authorities should be made easier to grant deferments of tax liabilities. Overall, companies are to be granted the possibility of tax deferrals in the billions. The Federal Ministry of Finance has initiated the necessary coordination with the Bundesländer.
  • If companies are directly affected by the coronavirus, the tax authorities want to waive enforcement measures and late payment surcharges by the end of 2020.
  • The possibilities for reducing advance payments will be improved.
  • With regard to taxes administered by the customs administration (e.g., energy tax and air transport tax), the General Customs Directorate has been instructed to accommodate taxpayers. The same applies to the Federal Central Tax Office, which is responsible for insurance tax and value-added tax and should proceed accordingly.

What to do? Affected companies are advised to contact their responsible tax authorities. In this way, ongoing advance payments for income tax or corporate income tax can be reduced or suspended on application. Tax payments due can be deferred; late payments can be waived.

At the federal level, unlimited loans are granted by the government-owned Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). In particular, the conditions for the KfW Entrepreneur Loan (for existing business customers) and ERP-Gründerkredit-Universell (for young companies under 5 years of age) are being relaxed. Further information is available from the KfW hotline between 08:00–18:00 on 0800–5399–001.

In response to the dynamic spread of the coronavirus and the associated economic consequences, the State of Berlin is supporting the Berlin economy with various measures.

The combined application for state and federal funding is available from 27.03.2020.

The following businesses are eligible to apply:

  • Commercial solo self-employed persons and micro-enterprises with up to 5 employees (full-time equivalents) with a permanent establishment in Berlin as well as members of the liberal professions with headquarters in Berlin.
  • For the federal level funding, small enterprises with up to 10 employees (full-time equivalents) with a permanent establishment in Berlin.

The amount of emergency aid shall be:

  • For companies with up to 5 employees EUR 5,000 from state funds and up to EUR 9,000 from federal funds for companies with up to 10 employees, up to EUR 15,000 from federal funds.

Please keep in mind that the funds may be requested for:

  • On the state level: operating costs and personnel costs (own salary and salaries for employees),
  • On the federal level: rents, loans for operating premises, leasing installments, etc. excluding current operating costs.

You can submit your application directly on the website of the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB), here. New registrations to the queue are possible at any time. Your queue number will be kept overnight, as well as the order of the queue numbers.

The IBB will inform those who have registered by e-mail when they can submit their applications. The system is jam-packed at the moment, so please be patient. Do not forget to log out after submitting your request so the next one in the queue can proceed.

And one last thing: don’t worry, the IBB has confirmed that there are sufficient funds available for everyone.

Naturally, what the world is currently living through is an exceptional phase, where things change every minute. As soon as there are new developments on this topic, we will update this article.

This text is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact a lawyer or tax advisor of your choice, he/she will be more suited to help.

Be aware that the government is working hard to help the economy pertain through this time. Therefore, keep your eyes open with all the necessary information and aid that are granted for your support.

We wish you a safe, healthy, and sound time.

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