End year tips

What a year it has been! I think this year will be remembered as the year of Corona for a long time. We are all ready to bid good-bye to 2020, but I am here to remind you of few things to be taken care of before you close-off the year in style (at home unfortunately!!)

  1. Health Insurance: This is the only time of the year when you can switch your health insurance for the following calendar year. Check out this blog explaining how you can choose one!
  1. Tax deductions: If you are one of those rich people 😊 (earn more than 68,507 Euros per year) and you have tax deductible items like mortgage interest deduction, donations etc., this is for you. On such items, the tax deduction is lower in 2021 than in 2020. Meaning, you will get back less from the belastingdienst (Dutch tax authorities). What can you do about this? Bring your payments forward into this year rather than in 2021. Example: If you want to make a donation, make it now rather than in January and you will get a better benefit. Read more about this on the belastingdienst website.
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  1. Buying your first house: We talked about the rich people, now let’s talk about young people (younger than 35 years in 2021). If you are planning to buy your first home and satisfy a few conditions, you don’t have to pay the Overdrachtsbelasting (Transfer tax). Read about it here. What can you do about this? Wait till 2021 to do your official paperwork.
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  1. Saving on wealth tax: In the Netherlands, the assets you have as of 1st January is used to calculate the wealth tax for that year. Every year, the belastingdienst sets a tax-free limit. Assets (capital) below this limit are exempt from the wealth tax. What can you do about this? You could reduce your assets and in turn the wealth tax on them by making smart choices now in December:
    • Paying your bills and taxes: This is quite simple. Pay all your pending bills, taxes, that speeding ticket you got when you were zipping around Amsterdam etc. These are payments which you cannot avoid, so pay them now and reduce your capital rather than wait till January.
    • Extra payments to your house: After all your bills, you still have money left above the tax-free limit. If you have a mortgage on your house, consider making extra payments to the bank. Most banks accept extra payments up to 10% of the mortgage value without a penalty. This has an added benefit that your monthly payments to the bank will come down. Check with your bank on the possibilities.
  1. Take your vacation days: The way this year has been, we could not travel much, and we could take those vacation days. Most employers have policies that say a certain number of your vacation days will expire if not taken. Check your company policies and take those vacation days before they lapse.
  1. 30% ruling: For many of us impacted by the abrupt ending of the 30% ruling, this December may be the last month when this still applies. What can you do about this? Enjoy the feeling while you can and maybe set aside some money until you get used to the new normal. I know this is not really a tip, but I had to include this!

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Health Insurance

Dutch healthcare system

Dutch people are generally healthy, but you still need a healthcare system 😉.

The Dutch healthcare system is supposed to be top ranked in Europe. Basic Health Insurance is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. This covers your basic needs like doctor visits and hospital visits. This could be different from the way things work in your home country.

Registering with a General Practitioner

If you are new to the Netherlands or recently moved to a new home, this is one of the first tasks you need to do – register with a General Practitioner (huisarts) in your area of residence. You can search this website for huisarts in your area. In the Netherlands, a huisarts is your first point of contact for any health issues. If you have to reach out to a specialist, your huisarts can refer you to one of them. So, do not forget to do this very important step!

Health Insurance

Basic Health Insurance (Basisverzekering) is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. Children up to 18 years are covered under the parents policy. Health insurers are obliged to accept everyone irrespective of their age, pre-existing health conditions, gender etc. The Basic health insurance covers your everyday needs like huisarts visits, hospital stay, medicines etc. If you are healthy and do not expect to go to the doctor very often, then this is sufficient.

However, everything is not covered. This is where supplementary insurance (aanvullende zorgverzekering) comes into play. Examples are dental care for adults, physiotherapy etc. Insurers are not obliged to accept everyone; they can charge you extra based on your age or your pre-existing health condition.

Types of Basisverzekering

  • Naturapolis: This is the type where the insurer concludes a contract with most healthcare providers. However, the insurer may not conclude a contract with ALL healthcare providers. This is where insurers differ in terms of what they offer. If you visit a healthcare provider who is not contracted, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself.
  • Restitutiepolis: You have the freedom to choose any healthcare provider of your liking and you will get fully reimbursed for your costs by the insurer. The premiums for these policies are more expensive than the Naturapolis (extra freedom of choice you see…..)
  • Combinatiepolis: This is a combination policy which claims to combine the benefits of the Naturapolis and the Restitutiepolis. But in my experience, I have not seen this truly happen because what the insurers can offer in this can vary widely. Most insurers have those annoying star marks* on these policies with respect to reimbursement for non-contracted healthcare providers. Do compare every detail before you decide to choose one. This is also usually more expensive than the Naturapolis.
  • Budgetpolis: Just like airlines, health insurers also provide a budget alternative. This is the low-cost no-frills variant of the Naturapolis. You have a limited choice of healthcare providers and just like the Naturapolis, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself if you visit a non-contracted healthcare provider.

*conditions which are hard to find, read and understand (unike this one 😊)

Costs

You pay a premium (premie) for your insurance. This is usually monthly. If you choose to pay annually, many insurers offer a discount (upto 2%).

Own risk (eigen risico) is the deductible for your insurance. This is the healthcare cost you must pay yourself. The insurer pays for the costs only after this. For the Basic insurance, the government decides the amount every year. For 2021, it is 385 Euro. Here is an opportunity for another discount 😊 -> if you feel healthy and don’t expect to incur a lot of healthcare expenses, you can opt for a Voluntary deductible (vrijwillig eigen risico). This will increase your deductible by a certain amount and in return you get a discount on your premium.

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How to choose an insurance?

Firstly, think about what health related expenses you anticipate? You cannot obviously expect emergencies to happen, but you may have ‘known expenses’ – think of these. An example is a dental treatment which has been long pending – you may need aanvullende zorgverzekering for this.

Do you want complete freedom of choice with respect to healthcare providers and don’t mind a higher premium? Then go for a Restitutiepolis.

Would you rather pay a lower premium? Then think about a hospital/clinic/any other healthcare provider you are likely to visit. This is most likely in your neighborhood. Then choose a Naturapolis. Check the insurers website to see if they have a contract with this health care provider.

Ask yourself this – “Do you expect to have very less healthcare expenses?”. If the answer is yes, you should probably go for a Budgetpolis because these are the cheapest and you don’t mind their limited choice of healthcare providers. You may also opt for a vrijwillig eigen risico which will give you a discount on your premium.

You can compare different insurances on websites like independer and consumentenbond.

When can you switch?

You choose your health insurance for an entire calendar year. Every year between mid-November to end of December, all insurers make their premiums known for the following calendar year. This is the time for you to switch if you wish to.

Here’s wishing you a healthy life and hope you will never need to use your insurance 😊

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