Tuesday, May 28, 2024

German bureaucracy, or: things going downhill, part 1 of n

[Update at end]

I've been working in university research now for quite some time, and one of the great things about it is international cooperation. The sciences live and breathe via cooperation visits, seminar invitations, ... One of the fixtures at probably nearly every university is the faculty colloquium, where each week, covering a wide range of topics, a renowned expert is invited to speak. Then there are locally organized conferences, regular seminars connected to research programs...  And "invited" is the real word here; while typically no remuneration is paid to the speakers, the travel expenses from tickets to hotel costs are reimbursed (within reasonable limits given by guidelines and rules), and of course we strive to make the visit as easy and pleasant for the guest as possible.

Enter Germany, or in this case more precisely Bavaria. Starting 1 January 2024, travel expenses can only be reimbursed to persons with a German tax id number ("Steueridentifikationsnummer"). How about international guests, not German citizens, not living in Germany, you may ask? Well, obviously, they most likely don't have one. So they need to get one! This involves sending a filled-out form with personal data and passport copies by paper mail to our local tax office well in advance, after all processing and assigning this life-long id (and adding them to the German tax register) can take up to 4 weeks. Seriously, I am ashamed to ask this of our international guests who don't intend to stay here long or take up employment here, just so they can get their plane tickets reimbursed, and can fully understand if someone is not happy about it.

And then, once you got over that, you realize that you can't even pre-book some arrangements since the university still has no credit card and thus can't do online bookings.

It's getting worse year by year. Blargh.

Update. So I've been informed in the meantime that here the faculty administration can take care of it (during the visit of the guest? unclear), that it is a matter of 10min and no problem, and that I should not worry about it. (?) Also, it's apparently due to some EU regulation (?) and Berlin is apparently already doing the same as Bavaria. ?!?