Ask the Commander - Responses
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.
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 I have also personally ensured that if a form is about to run out of date, if you bring it back into the MwSt office, then it can be renewed for free.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have looked into this but regretfully we are unable to offer this service in Germany.
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.
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.
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.
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.