As the COVID-19 crisis continues, countries around Europe have been announcing measures to shore up their economies and cope with the impact of this unprecedented public health emergency.
Member associations have begun to actively highlight the need for measures to safeguard freelancers who are their members, particularly so for interpreters who were immediately hit by conference and event cancellations.
FIT Europe has started gathering together information about how freelance translators and interpreters are covered by the existing measures or the measures that are now being announced by governments in response to the crisis. We hope this serves as a useful resource for our Member Associations as they lobby governments to ensure that translators and interpreters impacted by the crisis receive the support they need.
For example, Norway has announced temporary income protection equivalent to 80% of a freelancer’s average pay over the past three years, which becomes payble from day 17 after loss of income. Sweden has announced similar measures.
We don’t have a clear picture of what is happening in every country around Europe yet, so if your association has information about the situation in your country please let us know so we can update the map and add country-specific information to this rolling blogpost.
Answering the questions in this document will help us do this more easily.
Please send the completed documents to our Board member, Gabriella Suzanne Vanzan at firstname.lastname@example.org
In these difficult times, it is more important than ever to come together as a community. With that in mind, we encourage you to act in solidarity and whenever possible to extend to other member associations whatever initiatives you are taking and to exchange information on any solidarity initiatives (such as free webinars, etc.) you know about.
20 March 2020: Based on the responses we’ve received so far, we’ve prepared some overviews and simple infographics about the measures in support of freelancers, including translators and interpreters.
Our French member, SFT, reports that the French government has put in place measures for freelancers, including translators and interpreters. There will be a monthly income replacement and comprehensive support for freelancers who have mortgages or rent to pay. There will also be a one-off EUR 1,500 allowance for all freelancers for March which could be extended depending on the COVID-19 crisis.
Payment of electricity, water and gas bills can be deferred for all freelancers, so translators and interpreters included in that.
There is also talk about offering bank loans of up to 25% of freelancers’ turnover guaranteed by the State.
Our Czech member, JTP, reports that while the government there has enacted measures to support freelancers, including translators and interpreters, so far the measures are limited in scale and scope.
No monthly income replacements or one-off allowances are foreseen, at the time of writing, though payments of taxes can be deferred for the nexxt 6 months. No fines will be imposed for filing tax returns late or for not paying taxes on time. Upon request, stamp duty payments can be deferred.
No measures have yet been announced for freelancers who have mortgage repayments or rent to pay.
SMEs are being offered business loans to help them cope with the crisis.
There is a minimum income for parents who have to take care of children while schools remain closed.
JTP has combined forces with ASKOT, another member of FIT Europe from the Czech Republic, and the Chamber of Court Interpreters and other colleagues, to author a letter to the Czech Chamber of Commerce and various Ministries expressing concern that the measures taken will not be suficient to solve the problem of the massive loss of income of translators and interpreters under the current measures. The lettter (in Czech) appears below:
Belgium (updated 3/4/2020)
Our Belgian member, CBTI, reports that the country has put in the place a package to support the self-employed in general, though it does not specifically name freelance interpreters and translators among the beneficiaries.
There will be monthly income replacements in the form of a ‘crisis bridging allowance’ after at least 7 consecutive days of full business interruption in a month during the crisis. It will be EUR 1,291.69 per month (or EUR 1,614.10 for heads of families) per month but is currently only being offered for March and April 2020. It may be extended if the crisis continues.
A lump-sum allowance is payable in the Flemish region, but not yet in the Walloon or Brussels region. The amount is EUR 3,000 for those with a 60% decrease in sales year-on-year between 14 March 2020 and 30 April 2020.
When it comes to freelancers with a mortgage, it is possible to deferf instalments or spread them out over a period of 6 months for ‘viable’ companies, without any additional cost The situation with freelancers facing difficulties with rent payments is that landlords may allow deferrals or extensions in paymetn but it at their own discretion.
Taxes (withholding tax, VAT, income tax and corporate tax) can be paid in instalments. No interest will be charged on taxes paid late nor will fines be imposed. VAT refunds will be made faster in some cases. Social security contributions can either be deferred or paid in instalments or in cases of extreme financial difficulties, exemption from payment may be granted.
Businesses and the self-employed, like interpreters and translators, facing financial difficulties can get government-backed bridging credit for 12 month. There will also be more flexibility (no fines) for late deliveries to federal authorities due to COVID-19.
The Flemish government has extended their guarantee for those who cannot pay specific invoices (but this does not apply to banks)
For more detailed info visit the CBTI webpage specifically on this topic: https://www.cbti-bkvt.org/fr/news/318-mesures-de-soutien-dans-le-cadre-du-coronavirus-covid-19
Our Austrian member Universitas reports that the Austrian government has announced a €38 billion economic assistance programme for the entire country.
The measures shown in the infographic below are for businesses located in the province/city of Vienna, but it is assumed that measures for other provinces will be similar.
The government has opted to provide monthly income replacements rather than one-off allowances. Non-repayable income replacement is available if the lost income is more than 75% of the usual income as a result of coronavirus but at the present this is limited to five months and capped at EUR 1,000 per month. It is available for income lost between March and July 2020. Applications must be received by 31 December 2020.
While no announcements have been made yet about help with mortgage payments, for those freelance translators and interpreters who live in rented accommodation, there will be non-repayable rent assistance for those who lose between 50% and 74% of their business earnings. At the time of writing the assistance will be limited to five months and capped at EUR 100 per month for home-based businesses and EUR 600 per month when renting an office space.
Freelance translators and interpreters will be able to defer tax and social security contributions.
Interest-free loans will be available for SMEs generally speaking (no specific mention was made of translators and interpreters) and there are also government guarantees for loans.
Mandatory fees payable to the Chamber of Commerce will not be charged for now.
Our Bulgarian member, BTU, informs us that at the time of writing, the Bulgarian government does not intend to compensate freelancers for losses suffered because of the COVID-19 crisis, meaning that the infographic contains No in response to all the questions. If the situation changes we will update this section of the rolling blogpost.
Our member, SCIT, reports that a new Slovene government passed a package of laws on 13 March 2020 to support various categories including the self-employed. The bundle of measures includes partial monthly income replacement as well as a monthly allowance.
Banks are discussing deferring mortgage liablities for the self-employed. Loans to SMEs are also being offered at low interest rates.
Currently there is no assistance for freelancers who have rents to pay.
To support the self-employed so far the government has allowed social contribution payments to be deferred for the next three months by up to two years. DSFTP, the Slovenian Association of Film and Television Translators, although not a member of FIT, contacted us and confirms the information about the deferral of social security contributions.
The government has also issued a decree reducing electricity prices for households and small businesses by about 20% for the next three months.
Our members, PEEMPIP and SYDISE, report that Greece has enacted a series of measures in support of freelancers, with translators and interpreters included among the official list of professions severely impacted by the crisis. According to the government’s decision taken on 20 March 2020, the affected freelancers will receive a one-off allowance of EUR 800 for the period 15 March – 30 April, to be reviewed as necessary. This amount cannot be confiscated by banks and tax authorities against debts, it cannot be offset against other debts, and it is tax-free. This financial support will be given to both employees in the private sector and to freelancers affected by the coronavirus measures, including translators and interpreters.
There will be help with mortgage payments (monthly loan payments are suspended for 3 months) and for all those who are entitled to the financial support of EUR 800 , there will be partial cover of their rent (40%) for March and April (in other words, they will have to pay 60%). This includes businesses.
Tax payments of any kind for March are to be deferred for 4 months; this applies to both companies, freelancers, and single person enterprises affected by the measures, including translators and interpreters. Tax refund payments will be made faster than usual.
For all those who are entitled to the financial support, the government is going to cover social security expenses in full based on their nominal earnings, and social security entitlements will not be affected
There is special purpose leave for various categories of employees in the private and public sector, inc. for those with children of any age attending any school grade.
Loans on favourable terms for SMEs have been announced. This concerns businesses with no access to banks. Furthermore, an interest rate subsidy on loans shall be provided for 3 months.
24 March 2020:
Heatmap of measures announced in support of translators and interpreters around Europe in response to the COVID-19 crisis
The higher the figure / the darker the colour in the heatmap, the more comprehensive support national governments are offering to freelance translators and interpreters. Grey indicates zero data provided so far.
Heatmap of measures announced in support of translators and interpreters around Europe in response to the COVID-19 crisis (as at 25/3/2020)
The higher the figure / the darker the colour in the heatmap, the more comprehensive support national governments are offering to freelance translators and interpreters. Grey indicates zero data provided so far.
Our member, NGTV, reports that the government, has put in place a series of measures to support freelancers, including translators and interpreters. Those facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus crisis can receive financial support from 1 March 2020 to 1 June 2020, though this may be extended. Income support is available for up to 3 months (up to EUR 1,500) and normal tests are not applicable.
Tax payments can also be deferred for 3 months. Business loans are also available to cope with the effects of the crisis: the rate is lower; the loan must be repaid, though payment deferrals can be requested.
Our member, ITIA, reports that Ireland has enacted measures to support freelancers, including translators and interpreters,. There is income replacement (EUR 350 a week fro up to 6 weeks). A 3-month mortgage holiday is also offered and there is also a rent freeze and ban on evictions
Our member, AIT, reports, that Switzerland has put in place measures for freelancers, including translators and interpreters though these may vary from canton to canton. Monthly income replacement is available subject to conditions. If freelancers are quarantined they can receive a one-off allowance (10 days at 80% of income) upon presentation of a medical certificate.
At present there are no arrangements in place to help freelancers with mortgages. Negotiations are under way to help with rent payments and individuals may be able to negotiate something with their landlords.
It is possible to negotiate better payment terms for tax payments, payment by instalments etc. Interest on tax payments are suspended to the end of 2020 and the deadline for filing tax returns has been extended. Similarly, it is possible to negotiate a payment plan for social security contributions and interest charges for late payments have been suspended.
Freelancers with children who are forced to stay at home to care for children aged under 12 receive a daily allowance.
Debt recovery proceedings have been suspened and in various cantons long-term loans of up to 7 years are being offered to persons operating via registered companies. The Canton of Geneva has also set up chatbots and helplines to respond to queries and questions.
The European Commission posted this infographic of permissions it has given to EU Member States for the aid schemes they have put in place to help businesses and freelancers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis:
source: Twitter. See too: https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response/economy_en#state-aid-actions
Luxembourg: updated 3/4/2020
Our Luxembourgish member, ALTI, reports that while Luxembourg has enacted some measures to support freelancers in response to the crisis, there is at present no income replacement or one-off allowance for freelancers whose business has been hit. While businesses forced to shut down are covered, it does not cover freelance interpreters and translators. There are currently proposals before Parliament for special aid (in the form of a recoverable advance payment) but it has not yet been enacted. Updates will be provided when they become available.
Any parents who have to care for children aged under 13 receive special parental leave.
Deadlines for filing tax returns have been extended, tax payments can be deferred (income tax and communal business tax), VAT refunds will be made faster by the govenment, and there will be no penalties for late VAT filings. The deadlines for social security contribution payments have been extended and no penalties for late payment will be applied.
While there is no assistance for mortgage payments and rent, certain banks are freezing loan repayments.
Below is a letter (in French) from ALTI to the Ministry of Economy concerning the current economic situation of freelance translators and interpreters:
Romania: (updated 3/4/2020)
While FIT Europe currently has no member from Romania, we have some news that measures are also being taken there to support freelancers.
TranslateCluj, which organises translation-related events, has provided us with more details and reports that there are some measures that might apply to freelance translators (like the ones mentioned above) but only provided they are not sworn translators incorporated under a specific law. Sadly, most Romanian freelance translators/interpreters are incorporated as sworn translators and this specific situation makes it almost practically impossible for them to get any kind of financial/tax support.
TranslateCluj also reported at the start of April that as far as its knows, emergency income replacement will be offered monthly, for the entire duration of the state of emergency, for the month prior to the month freelancers submit the request for. Freelancers will have to submit a statement that they did not have any activity at all in the month prior to the date of the request and an official request for state aid. The gross amount is, supposedly, approx. EUR 850, but the fiscal burden on freelancers (social contributions, health insurance, income tax) is nearly 40%, so the actual amount will be nearly half.
We will update the infographic when we have firmer details of the measures.
Our Italian member, Assointerpreti, reports that Italy has put in place some measures to safeguard freelancers impacted by the crisis. The conference interpreting sector in the country has been particularly hard hit and the government will offer a EUR 600 one-off allowance for the month of March to be paid by the end of April. No monthly income replacement scheme has been put in place.
Mortgage payments can be suspended for up to 18 months; a “first home solidarity fund” covers 50% of the interest accruing during that period. At present, no assistance has been provided to cover rent payments.
Parental leave of up to 15 days is available, or a so-called “babysitting bonus” to hire a babysitter.
At present there are no VAT, income tax or social security contribution deferrals. The deadline for payment VAT for Q1 was simply deferred by 4 days.
The Goverment has announced, though, that more measures will be forthcoming.
The Spanish Council of Translators, Interpreters and Proofreaders (Red Vértice), which consists of 19 associations including our member associations ASETRAD and APTIC, has published a letter highlighting the fact that measures in Spain do not cover all freelance translators and interpreters and calling on the government to simplify the rules to ensure they cover everyone.
ACE Traductores, Spain, which is a member of Red Vértice but not our member, protects the interests of book translators in Spain. It reports that the country has indeed enacted some measures in support of freelancers but they do not cover everyone. However, a monthly income replacement is only available to freelancers with a 75% loss of income in relation to the last 6 months (in case of general freelancers) or 12 months (in case of cultural freelancers).
Mortgage payment deferrals are available under the same conditions. Tax deferrals are available and social security contribution deferrals are available under the same conditions as above.
Freelancers with a 75% loss of income in relation to the last 6 months (in case of general freelancers) or 12 months (in case of cultural freelancers) have access to a reduction in the electricity bill of between 25 and 50%.
Cultural freelancers have received specific help, but book translators cannot benefit from them because the Spanish tax agency does not consider book translators as cultural agents. So, book translators have to prove a 75% income loss in relation to the last 6 months, while other authors or cultural workers have to do so in relation to the last 12 months. This distinction leaves most book translators unable to benefit from the Spanish Government help.
Our member, CBTI, released the following detailed information today (6/4/2020) about the measures available in support of translators and interpreters in Belgium (in FR and NL):
In an update received today (9/4/2020) our Slovenian member DZTPS, reports that in Slovenia 70% of the net monthly minimum salary is now available as a form of monthly universal income. One-off allowances are available under certain conditions.
Mortgage payments can be deferred but currently there is no assistance for rent payments.
Tax and social security contributions deferrals continue to be available. The prepayment of corporate income tax and the payment of self-employment income tax is suspended.
Those self-employed persons who will declare themselves affected by the crisis using a special electronic application will receive EUR 350 for March if they prove that their income has declined by at least 25% compared to February 2020, and will receive EUR 700 for April and May 2020 if they can prove that their income has declined by at least 50% compared to February 2020. At the same time, the state will also cover all related social security contributions.
In an update received today (9/4/2020) our French member, SFT, reports that while France has enacted measures in response to COVID-19, “it is still not completely clear how the allowance adopted by government will actually extend to independent translators/interpreters. The allowance will be based on the revenues appearing in the bank account (as opposed to invoiced) in March, and therefore for interpreters and translators whose do not collect monies immediately upon invoicing, the revenues that will appear in their bank account from the previous month(s) will be taken into account, and of course will not be reflectve of the actual loss in activity over March (and invoiced in March). The SFT and the translator/interpreter community more broadly have asked the French government to take this into account but we have no positive answer so far”.
Czech Republic (updated):
In an update received today (9/4/2020) our Czech member, JTP, reports that in a change to the previous situation in the Czech Republic, there is now a one-off allowance though we don’t have details of what it entails. A further change is that mortgage and rent payments can now be deferred.
Heatmap of measures announced in support of translators and interpreters around Europe in response to the COVID-19 crisis (as at 9/4/2020)