Anyone who receives citizen’s benefit has certain obligations to cooperate. Violations could result in cuts. How high these are and what those affected can do if the reductions are unlawful.

What used to be Hartz IV is now citizen’s money. Anyone who is able to work and cannot finance their living with their own income is entitled to this state benefit. Citizens’ benefit is basic security for job seekers.

But in order to get paid the amount they are entitled to, they have to do a few things. If those entitled fail to do so, they will face sanctions: the money will be reduced. Answers to important questions.

Anyone who works at least three hours a day but is still unable to support themselves with their own income receives citizen’s benefit because it means they remain below the subsistence level. Also required: you are at least 15 years old and have not yet reached the standard retirement age. You also live in Germany and have your center of life here.

Your own assets also play a role. If it exceeds certain limits, there is no citizen’s money until the money has shrunk below these limits. In the first reference year, the so-called waiting period, the limit for single applicants is 40,000 euros. If there are other people living in the household, such as life partners or children, they can each have an additional 15,000 euros. After the waiting period has expired, the allowance also drops to 15,000 euros for applicants.

Assets include all usable items – such as cash, vehicles, jewelry, life insurance or real estate property.

The standard citizen’s benefit rate has been 563 euros for single people since the beginning of 2024. Partners living together are each entitled to 506 euros. If there are also children living in the household, there is between 357 and 471 euros on top – per child, depending on their age. The job center also covers the costs of rent and heating at an appropriate level.

“There are reductions in benefits for citizens’ benefit if there are breaches of duty and failure to register,” says Irmgard Pirkl from the headquarters of the Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg. A breach of duty occurs, for example, if recipients of citizens’ benefit do not comply with requests for the agreements made in the cooperation plan or necessary acts of cooperation.

The same applies if they refuse to take up or continue reasonable work, training or a sponsored employment relationship offered to them or prevent this from coming about through their behavior. Even if they do not take up a reasonable measure for integration into work, abandon it or give reason for abandoning it, recipients of citizens’ benefit must expect cuts.

There is also a risk of a reduction if people entitled to benefits do not comply with a request to report to their job center in person or to appear at a medical or psychological examination appointment.

According to a recent decision by the legislature, those who permanently refuse reasonable work can have their entire citizen’s allowance canceled for up to two months. This means: The job center suspends payment of the standard rate.

Otherwise, the following applies: In the event of a first breach of duty – for example if the recipient does not comply with the request for agreements – there is a risk of a reduction of ten percent of the standard rate for one month. For the second breach of duty within a year of the last reduction, you are entitled to 20 percent for two months. For each further breach of duty, the citizen’s benefit can be reduced by 30 percent for three months. In the event of failure to report, the reduction in benefits is ten percent of the standard requirement for one month.

The following applies to all cuts: Rent and heating payments remain unaffected. A reduction will take place promptly in the month following the reduction notice. If someone found out about the reduction in writing on June 10th, from July 1st there will only be the reduced rate.

By the way: The sanction rate has fallen steadily in recent years. “The job centers are by no means making widespread use of reductions in performance,” says Irmgard Pirkl.

After the reduction period of one to three months has expired, the sanction is automatically lifted. “If no new sanction is imposed, the full benefit entitlement must be paid out again,” says Michaela Engelmeier, Chairwoman of the German Social Association (SoVD).

Before the job center imposes a sanction, those affected must be heard. They can explain why the sanction is unjustified. “This can be the case, for example, if you miss an appointment with the employment agency because of an emergency or if you have terminated employment because of bullying,” says Engelmeier.

The reasons presented must be checked by the job center. If there is an important reason or exceptional hardship, the reduction in performance is completely eliminated. This means that the citizen’s benefit will not be reduced.

Important to know: If a sanction has been wrongly imposed, those affected can lodge an objection – with the option of subsequently filing a complaint with the social court. Both procedures are usually free of charge. Those affected can seek advice on this. One point of contact could be the SoVD.