Artisan bonus: new version with €300 million for 2024 and 2025 (PK0376/04/17/2024)

VIENNA (PK) – The artisan bonus will be reintroduced in 2024 and 2025. The coalition parties' initiative proposal is part of the federal government's current construction and housing package and was approved in the National Council today with the votes of the ÖVP, SPÖ, FPÖ and the Greens. As part of the Craftsmen's Bonus, jobs by skilled craftspeople for private living and living areas are to be encouraged in Germany. A maximum of one funding application can be submitted per financial year. There is a funding rate of 20% of eligible costs, up to €2,000 in 2024 (up to a maximum of €10,000 of costs). For 2025, the maximum funding amount is €1,500 (from costs up to a maximum of €7,500), as determined by the amendment submitted by the Coalition Parties today. A total of €300 million will be available for 2024 and 2025.

With the amendment, in addition to some clarifications by the ÖVP and the Greens, the artisan bonus already applies to eligible invoices of €250 or more, resulting in a minimum funding rate of €50. 20%. The original proposal had a minimum cost of €500. It was previously planned to provide the same funding amount of €2,000 for both years, which has now been changed to the aforementioned €1,500 for 2025. Despite approving the package as a whole, the SPÖ rejected the amendment in a separate vote on second reading.

Permissible performance period for services of artisans for recognition should be set retrospectively from March 1, 2024 to December 31, 2025. According to the application, the idea behind it is to use the artisans' bonus to strengthen the economic performance of the construction industry, improve employment in the construction industry, and provide growth and economic stimulus. Due to time constraints, the legislative initiative was negotiated directly in plenary session without preliminary discussions in committee.

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Opposition parties criticized the initiative on various grounds. The SPÖ and FPÖ complained that because the artisans' bonus could only be applied for online, people who were elderly or lacked access to smartphones and the internet were discriminated against or excluded. However, the motions for resolutions presented at the meeting were in the minority of the SPÖ and FPÖ, which saw the artisans' bonus as an “election prize” and instead argued for a “substantial reduction in excessive increases”. Non-Wage Labor Costs”.

ÖVP and green: The construction industry and the craftsman bonus as a motivation for renovation

Peter Haubner (ÖVP) stressed that the new, innovative craftsman's bonus reflects the impetus for the construction industry and has two winners: consumers and craft businesses. There will also be positive side effects such as protecting jobs and stimulating regions. Results can be submitted from 15th July and 1st March. Digital submission enables quick and unbureaucratic completion. Hoppner responded to criticisms such as Laurens Boettinger (ÖVP) and Christoph Stark (ÖVP) by saying that third parties, such as relatives, communities or craft industries, could also support submission. This ensures that everyone can avail the bonus and no one is discriminated against. At the same time, the craftsman bonus will create an incentive for renovation in the residential area, said Laurence Boettinger and Martina Kaufmann (ÖVP) and Elisabeth Götze (Greens). The current new version is €300 million more than the previous model, Götze emphasized. This year, the funding will be up to €2,000 to provide an incentive to use artisan services. Submitting online is the easiest way for many people. It is facilitated for those who are struggling and anyone else to submit it.

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Opposition Criticism From “Electoral Gifts” to Discrimination Through Online Processing

According to Gerald Loker (NEOS), NEOS is “courageous” to appear “against populist gifts” even in pre-election periods. The artisan bonus has already been criticized, for example for having little economic effect. Additionally, more and more artisans are being converted into financial institutions. Like Joseph Schellhorn (NEOS), Locker advocated lowering taxes on labor so that the craftsman's hours of work could be reclaimed, after which they could no longer be supported. According to Schellhorn, artisans' bonuses should not be redistributed through a “water can”, but rather taxes on the labor cost factor should first be reduced.

Christoph Mattsnetter (SPÖ) described it as “cynicism” to have to ask “grandchildren” or neighbors to submit an online application. Regarding the amendment, he questioned why the benefit would be reduced for the year 2025, and the matter had worsened before it was decided. Michaela Schmidt (SPÖ) said the craftsmen's bonus was supported by the SPÖ, but that it represented only a “drop in the ocean”, insisting that the bonus would “in no way” help those who could not afford housing costs, a rent cap and an interest rate cap on variable loans for “home builders”. In their view, this could be counter-financed by banks' excess profits. The fact that the application at IT-Austria is only possible online alienates a large part of society and is “respectable”.

Axel Kassegger (FPÖ) signaled his approval of the artisans' bonus, especially since in his view it could have a favorable effect on local companies and citizens and lead to less undeclared work and deadweight effects. However, it does not address essential matters, for example, energy policy and “bureaucratic madness” for companies, the tax rate for work, or the lack of incentives to work more. Peter Wurm (FPÖ) is particularly prominent in online implementation. Instead, what is needed overall is an “analogue attack” for the elderly, but also for those who “don't want to participate” in digitization. The FPÖ will present an opinion to this effect, said Wurm, who could envisage a “third complaint” to the Constitutional Court on the issue. (Continuation of National Council) mbu

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Note: Meetings of the National Council and Federal Council can also be followed via live stream and are available as video-on-demand at the Parliamentary Media Library.

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