As the end of the year is drawing nearer, let’s review the changes in legislation ahead of us to see what kind of preparations may be necessary or expedient to make before the year is out.
As the end of the year is drawing nearer, the time has come to take stock and to tie up loose ends. What new laws are in store for us next year? What still needs to be done, or is advisable to do, this year? What preparations must be made for 2021?
When do amendments to laws come into force?
According to the amended Act on the Collection of Laws, new laws supposedly ought to come into force on one of two fixed dates (1 January or 1 July); this should have been the case for all of 2020 already. While it is true that the lawmaker has been observing the rule for a number of major amendments which are slated to come into force next year, a number of laws will actually become effective on other dates throughout 2021, because of an exemption for those bills which on 31 December 2019 had already been submitted. In addition, exemptions will always be made also for new bills, provided that there exist serious reasons. The current state of emergency obviously qualifies as such a serious reason. Consequently, laws which were passed or amended due to the COVID pandemic (or will be passed or amended by the government for the same reason in the future) are likely to come into force outside of the two above-mentioned reference dates.
Amendment to the Corporations Act
Most of the provisions of this amendment will come into force as at 1 January 2021. It comprises both small adjustments and major changes, concerning e.g. the decision-making process at companies and by members of the corporate bodies (and their liability for such decisions), the distribution of profit and other equity funds, etc. Businesses ought to have made up their mind by now which of these changes affect them, and what new opportunities afforded under the amendment they might want to make use of. We have looked into this amendment to the Corporations Act in more detail elsewhere, be sure to have a look here.
Amendment to the Labor Code
The major amendment to the Labor Code, which was years in the making, was finally written into law this year, and several of its provisions have already come into force. Among the new concepts are a different way of calculating employees’ vacation entitlement, job sharing, and clearer rules for the passage of rights and obligations in labor-law relationships. Some of the provisions (among them the aforementioned formula for calculating vacation claims) only come into force at the beginning of 2021. Ohledně novely viz článek OTE, ohledně výpočtu dovolené viz článek ASU.
The central change in 2021 in this area is the amendment to the General Fiscal Code, seeking to modernize tax proceedings. At the heart of the proposed changes are the support for electronic proceedings, the simplification of tax audit procedures, the redesign of the tax penalty system, and the input tax return. Více v našem článku (Lenka Zachardová).
Property transfer tax will no longer be assessed as of 2021, and the obligation of businesses to electronically report their sales (using a system known as EET) will be suspended until the end of 2022.
Also slated for promulgation as of 1 January 2021 is an amendment to the Income Tax Act which would introduce a flat tax for tradespeople. However, the bill has still some way to go before it is written into law; the Senate is expected to debate the bill in November.
One final change in the area of taxes planned for 2021 is the "government tax package", which among other things introduces a flat-rate meal allowance (viz náš článek). The bill has got stuck in the House of Deputies; it remains to be seen whether it can be passed by the end of the year and thus come into force already in 2021.
Building permitting procedures
The government has been preparing an all-new Building Act which promises a substantially faster and more straightforward permitting procedure. However, work has been protracted and slow, so that the bill has made it into parliament only earlier this month; one must assume that it will not come into force any earlier than as at 1 July 2023. Hopefully, the sector will at least draw some relief from Act No. 403/2020 Coll., on the amendment of Act No. 416/2009 Coll. on the accelerated development of transportation, water, energy, and electronic communications infrastructure. This amendment seeks to streamline the preparation and the permitting procedures for major linear infrastructure.
Among the laws which had to be passed in response to the current pandemic, LEX COVID remains relevant also in 2021. Among other things, it changes the Insolvency Act: businesses affected by the mandatory quarantine may seek temporary protection from their creditors, in the form of an extraordinary moratorium. The amendment extends the protection period until 30 June 2021. It has just now been returned to the House of Deputies by the Senate, along with a number of proposals for modifications.
Several "Antivirus" programs were put into place to provide urgent ad hoc assistance so as to rescue jobs. In future years, more formalized government support is expected to build on them, such as the concept of kurzarbeit, to be implemented by way of a government decree, which however in turn requires an amendment to the Employment Act. This amendment is already on the docket in the House of Deputies, but has been put on the back burner because the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs newly gives greater importance to an immediate extension of Antivirus A and B until the end of this year.
As at 1 January 2021, a part of new Act No. 12/2020 Coll., on the right to digital services, will come into force. This law gives citizens the right to communicate digitally with public authorities, and requires the latter to use digital means to resolve the concerns of the former. Also, public officials will no longer be allowed to demand information from petitioners which they could have retrieved themselves from the public records available to them. Nor will it be necessary to produce various kinds of ID, as long as the authority of the given individual to act (or their discharge of a certain duty) can be established by the public authorities themselves.
For the future, this act moreover anticipates the certification of signatures in electronic form. This is related to the amendment to the Act on Banks which was passed earlier this year (Act No. 49/2020 Coll., on changes to the Act on Banks No. 21/1992 Coll. and to the AML Act No. 253/2008 Coll.). The amendment is creating the conditions for what has been termed "bank IDentity" – a straightforward and free way of access to both e-government services and online services offered by the private sector for all those citizens who use internet banking.