Response Categories
Q.At a recent draw-down meeting, the C&I representative made comment that BREXIT may affect the tax free status of personnel in BFG.
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As you have previously stated, the status of members in BFG is granted under the SOFA and not the UK’s membership in the EU. This Agreement will remain unchanged following our departure from the EU. Please can clarity on this important issue be made as the worry of receiving a tax bill for £1000's for a vehicle is potentially undue.
A.

I can confirm that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) will remain unchanged following the UK’s exit from the European Union. However, it is not just the SOFA that is relevant when it comes to importing goods to the UK.  In those circumstances UK customs regulations are also relevant. These are agreed and implemented independently of the SOFA, and it is these rules that could result in tax liabilities in the event of a no-deal BREXIT.  

HQ BFG have provided some information on how a no-deal BREXIT could affect individuals which I would strongly encourage you to review.

Eu_and_You.pdf

Q.I recently attended a Drawdown meeting during which it was announced that from March 2019 the number of Tax-Free ‘chits’ an individual can hold at any one time will be reduced from five to one.
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I have since sought the reasoning behind this decision from those involved and received a variety of responses none of which has convinced me that this is not an unnecessary retrograde step. I feel that this decision is in direct contradiction of your regular assurances that Firm Base support will be maintained for as long as practicably possible and is another premature nail in the coffin of BFG. Can I ask is this restriction going to be imposed on the Enduring Force at Sennelager and our ISODET’s?
A.

I can confirm that changes to the process of purchasing local purchase orders are due to the drawdown of BFG and will ensure that all tax-free forms are accounted for upon closure. Whilst you believe that this is at odds with my assurance that firm base will remain, I would argue that I also always state that “it will just be delivered differently”! I would also gently remind you that the provision of the MwSt benefits is not an entitlement, but rather something BFG offers to make your life easier.

In this case, we have gone from 4 forms valid for 6 month each, to 5 forms valid for one month each – this will drive down the number of valid forms in existence.  I have also personally ensured that if a form is about to run out of date, if you bring it back into the MwSt office, then it can be renewed for free. I appreciate that this may be slightly less convenient than the previous process however, I feel that this is a necessary step to ensure that MwSt offices are able to prepare for closure whilst maintaining service provision to the population. As I said above, you are getting the service, it’s just in a different way – for good reasons.  

The future management of the tax-free system is a matter for the Germany Enabling Office (GEO) when it is established later this year – I can assure you that there will be a provision but we are yet to determine how.

Q.I work with two retired MOD Veterans who eat at JB's regularly and pay the same price as civilians.
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Why can veterans not get the same benefits as serving personnel considering the amount of veterans who are employed within BFG who are still dedicated to the services, I think it would be a nice gesture and a small sign of gratitude to their service.
A.

We are governed by central Catering, Retail and Leisure Management policy which set out clear and specific rules for entitled and non-entitled personnel. These state that the only people that pay discounted or 'entitled' rates are Serving Personnel or UKBCs on detached duty away from their duty station.

Therefore, although I agree this would be a nice gesture, there is no scope within the rules for BFG to take this forward.

Q.I would like to ask why the German no claims is not recognised by the UK insurance industry?
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It seems unfair that soldiers and their families are penalised for being posted in Germany, especially if they have been here a long time. I understand that the Relocation Move monies are supposed to help with these kinds of costs and it's personal choice when it comes to insurance but it only goes so far. Surely this kind of prejudcie is against the Armed Forces Covanant? - Susie Asimba
A.

Not all German insurance companies use a no-claims system for calculating premiums in the way that we are familiar with in the UK.  As a result, UK insurers are sometimes reluctant to give a no-claims discount based a period of insurance cover with a German insurer. The choice of insurance company is down to an individual’s own personal preference; however, it is possible to find UK-based companies that will insure a BFG registered vehicle and maintain an individual’s no-claims history.

Q.Could I please ask why the post office offers no cash facility on the Saturdays?
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it now opens on Saturday and I would like to be able to put some of my German wage into my English account but due to my work hours (I finish at 3pm and only have half hour lunch which is not enough to time to travel from Normandy barracks to the post office and back) I am unable to get to the post office during their opening times mon-fri. - Name and Address Supplied
A.

The Saturday opening of Forces Post Office 16 is a 4 month trial providing a mail only service as has been widely advertised. We are unable to provide cash services on a Saturday and there is no plan to do so in the future.

Q.Can some one please explain the disparity in prices/post services when sending post from the UK to BFG and from BFG back to the UK?
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Posting from BFG back to the UK, I can use either first or second class postal services, however posting from the UK to BFG I can only use first class postage. This is clearly exemplified on the Royal Mail website and seems totally incongruous, as well as unfair for our families in the UK who are not allowed to post items to us in BFG via a second class post. - Name and Address Supplied
A.

The current Forces Mail Settlement agreement with Royal Mail is based on an outbound 1st class service only as it was not deemed viable for Royal Mail to offer a 2nd class service from the UK.

1st and 2nd class services are available from Forces Post Offices in Germany however, although all post is dispatched simultaneously, when it reaches the UK, the items are separated and moved by Royal Mail using the requisite service.

Although 2nd class from the UK is not available due to the BFPO contract with the Royal Mail, the cost of sending a standard letter by 1st class post using a BFPO address is still considerably cheaper than sending it to a Germany address (the cheapest equivalent Royal Mail service to Europe is £1.57) or using any other comparable courier service.

Q.On posting back to the UK, why do we not have the option to pay our UK road tax by direct debit, as offered to U.K. residents?
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Surely this is against the spirit of the Military Covenant? – Name and Address Supplied
A.

I have looked into this but regretfully we are unable to offer this service in Germany. 

Q.On the theme of quick wins to small inconveniences raised during the quarterly brief, would it be possible to have a facility on Rochdale Bks to issue MwSt forms to personnel based there?
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Admin staff working for an existing Rochdale Bks organisation could be used to act as a satellite office to the main facilities office. Removing the inconvenience of travelling to Catterick Bks would benefit personnel/organisations of the camp as less work time would be lost by performing this function locally. - Name and Address Supplied.
A.

As you may be aware, following customer feedback, we have recently reviewed the MwSt system, and have amended the process so that individuals can now obtain forms from any MwSt office in the Garrison. 

Adding a satellite office at Rochdale Bks (and other BFG locations) would result in an increase to the administration costs and regretfully, there are insufficient funds from the revenue generated from this service to be able to facilitate this.

Q.Is it possible to introduce more flexibility and review COLA rates to coincide with the changes in FFR (as LOA) instead of being set in stone at twice a year?
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This would enable COLA to fulfil the task it was designed for as stated in the relevant policy document.
010316 reduced COLA rates introduced, 010416 FFR reduced resulting in -€150 purchasing power. 5 months until next review means a min of €750 net pay less (example is my circumstance). This will affect all UKBC’s, irrespective of grade. – Name and Address Supplied.
A.

COLA is managed across the Civil Service by an external company – Employment Conditions Abroad (ECA), consequently it would not be appropriate for a small element of the Ministry of Defence, such as British Forces Germany, to seek to implement different arrangements.

A mechanism already exists to allow COLA rates to be reviewed and updated between the biannual reviews, should a large and sustained change in the exchange rates occur.  You will have noted the substantial increase in COLA payments which were implemented on 1st September; this is, in part, as a consequence of the recent exchange rate fluctuations.

Q.How is it that the NAAFI continue to advertise prices in GBP when it is impossible to ever pay that price at the till?
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For instance, I went to the NAAFI today and saw a packet of crisps advertised for sale at £1 (using a conversion rate of 1.29), on taking this item to the till and attempting to pay by debit card the GBP price was £1.14, so they are falsely advertising in GBP. Why they are allowed to advertise in pounds now is beyond me when ultimately we have to pay in euros! – James Wilkes
A.

Having engaged with NAAFI, they have confirmed that following customer feedback, including yours, all prices are now displayed in Euros throughout NAAFI stores in Germany, converted from Sterling at the current Forces Fixed Rate.

The ability to pay in sterling using a UK credit card in Germany is not a free service and many card providers apply both a conversion rate and processing fee for foreign transactions.  NAAFI incur bank charges when processing UK card payments and therefore convert payments to Sterling using the Sterling Conversion Rate (SCR), to offset these additional costs.  The SCR is clearly displayed at the point of payment and is updated weekly using market exchange rates.  Payments made on these cards are then classed as Sterling transactions and customers are not charged any additional fees by card providers.  Customers who do not wish to have payments processed using the SCR can pay by German debit card, which is free, or cash, so there are a variety of payment methods available to customers.