Typically, at the end of one year, the press offers a forecast of the changes that will take place in the year to come.

No-one at the end of 2019 could have predicted what 2020 would become. But we haven’t learned our lesson. Here are some of the changes planned for 2021.

• Smoking: The cost of a packet of cigarettes continues to increase, this time from €6.80 for a pack of 20 to €7.50. A pack of rolling tobacco goes up from €9.70 to €11.17.
Also from 1.1.21, the exceptions to the rules on tobacco advertising come to an end, including any indication of a tobacco brand, including for e-cigarettes, on posters or window advertising.

• Business: British shareholders in low-cost airline Ryanair will lose their voting rights, as the company aims to retain its European shareholding. British nationals may hold on to their holding, but may not buy any more shares.

• Cash for Cars: The cash-for-cars system that allowed car owners to give up their company vehicle in return for a payment of up to €700 a month comes to an end. The measure was introduced by the government of Charles Michel as a way of reducing traffic congestion, but was struck down by the Constitutional Court early in 2020.

• Cross-Channel shopping: New duty-free restrictions come into force for personal shopping between the EU and the UK for the first time in decades.

• Parental leave: Parental leave for parents or co-parents goes up from January from 10 to 15 days (or 30 half-days), to be taken during the four months following the birth of the child. Another five days will be added to the total in 2023.

• Benefits: Unemployment benefits are increased by 1.125%, on 1 January 2021 and subsequent years of this government’s term of office, not counting indexation or the effect of inflation. For a head of family the increase of €15.10 a month brings the total to €1,357.22. For a single person the increase of €12.37 brings the total to €1,111.90.

• Pensions: The minimum pension for a full career will see the first of four annual increases aimed at a target of €1,500 a month by 2024. The increase will affect 706,000 people.

• ‘The price of love’: The so-called ‘price of love’ disappears, which means that people with a disability will no longer see their benefits reduced as a result of their co-habiting with a partner. At present, the disabled in a line-in relationship have their benefits cut in relation to the income of the partner. That discrimination ends on Friday.

• Company cars: Cars provided to an employee by their employer and available for use of private use or travel to and from work are to be taxed more heavily, as a function of their CO2 emissions and the age of the vehicle.

• Brussels speed limit: Roads in the Brussels region, with few exceptions, become a general Zone 30 from 1 January.

• Mattresses: From 1 January, anyone purchasing a new mattress will pay an environmental surcharge depending on size and type, which will allow the mattress to be disposed of free of charge at a recycling centre at the end of the product’s lifetime.

• Postage stamps: The ordinary non-priority postage stamp goes up in price to €1.07 each for a sheet of ten, or €1.10 for a single stamp. A priority stamp goes to €1.57 each for ten, to €1.60 for a single stamp.

• Gas and electricity: The social tariffs for gas and electricity go up in the New Year, by 10% for electricity and 15% for gas.


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