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Home NATIONALNew Year sees new laws coming into force
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Fri, 01 Jan, 2016 03:28:30 AM
FTimes- STT Report, Jan 1
File Photo Lehtikuva.
The year 2016 will see a series of legislative amendments and reforms passed by parliament coming into force.
It will see the interest deduction on mortgage slide further. In 2016, 55 per cent of mortgage interest is tax deductible. 
The deductibility of mortgage interest will be further curtailed in the coming years so that in 2019 the deductibility on mortgage will be 25 per cent.
The YLE tax will also be phased out from the beginning of this year for approximately 300,000 low-income people. The minimum amount of the tax levied will rise from 51 euros to 70.
Taxation on tobacco products will increase steadily. The rise will be implemented in four phases over a period of two years. The first hike will set in at the beginning of 2016, the second in July 2016, the third in the beginning of 2017, and the last in July 2017. 
File Photo Lehtikuva.
At all the stages, the increment will be no more than cents. As a result, according to a Ministry of Finance estimate, the price of cigarettes would rise by an average of 19.2 per cent.
The tax on vehicles with low or medium emissions will be lowered in 2016-2019. The tax cuts are targeted particularly at vehicles with low emissions and, according to the finance ministry, the tax could be reduced by 5.4 per cent depending on the emission levels by 2019.
The base tax for passenger cars and vans will increase by 36.50 euros a year. The hike will, however, not apply until the beginning of 2017.
Provisions related to witnesses giving evidence in court proceedings will see many changes at the turn of the year. 
The court may conceal the identity of the witness, if the trial involves serious criminal charges and the need to ensure the safety of the witness and persons close to the witness may require protection of their identities. This may apply to cases such as murder trials, aggravated drug crimes or human trafficking.
Witness protection may be needed also in cases involving police officers on undercover tasks or bystanders who by chance witnessed events related to organised crime. 
File Photo Lehtikuva.
The medical staff prohibited to give evidence will extend to doctors, dentists, nurses and psychotherapists, among others.
In the future, a broader use of video conferencing may be used in legal proceedings. Swearing by God’s name in courts will be abandoned and all the testimonies will be heard on religion-neutral basis. Until now, a witness has been able to choose any of the options provided.
The acknowledgment of paternity will become easier at the beginning of the year, when the Paternity Act reform comes into force. When two parents are, for example, cohabiting, paternity can be acknowledged by at a clinic before the birth of the child. A pre-acknowledged paternity may be withdrawn within 30 days of the birth of the child, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said. 
In the paternity acknowledgment, they will use a blood test, instead of a sample of cells from the mouth to speed up the results.
The mother’s right to oppose the father’s paternity verification has been abandoned, and the father’s right of appeal has been extended. The general rule will continue that those outside the family may not seek annulment of paternity results.
Medical reimbursement by the national social insurance institution Kela for pharmaceuticals will change early next year. Medicinal products which only warrant occasional or one-time use may be subjected to reduced Kela compensation in the future. Customers will be required to pay up to 50 euros for prescription drugs, and only after the euro-50 mark will Kela compensation begin to take effect. The decision does not apply to minors.
Job alternation leave conditions are going to be more stringent at the turn of the year. An employee may take job alternation when one has worked for a total of at least 20 years while the maximum duration of the leave will reduce to 180 calendar days.
Furthermore, the changes will result to job alternation leave being taken all at once, while in the past it was possible to divide the leave in several periods. At the same time, higher compensation for employees with long working history will be scrapped and all employees will be eligible for job alternation compensation amounting to 70 per cent of unemployment benefit. The government aims to allot 50 million euros for the scheme. Parliament has already approved the bill.
The New Year will also bring changes to regulations on driving licences. The authority to grant driving licences will be transferred from the police to the Transport Safety Agency Trafi. In practice, matters related to driving permits will be handled by Ajovarma service points.
The reform also applies to, for instance, application for duplicates of driving licences, driving training permits, motorcycle driving training permits as well as parking cards for people with disabilities.
At the same time, the cost of driving licences will decrease. The cost of the first driving licence will drop from 60 euros to 40. The cost of a duplicate of a driving licence will decrease to 30 euros. Starting next year, the application for a duplicate driving licence can be done electronically.
Furthermore, short-term driving licences will no longer be issued. After the completion of the basic stage of driving training, a person will automatically receive a long-term driving licence valid for 15 years. For drivers of heavy duty vehicles, the licence will be valid for five years.
File Photo Lehtikuva.
Currently, short-term licences are issued after the initial phase of completion of driving test and are valid for two years. One was eligible for long-term driving licence after the completion of the advanced stage of the driving test.
The legislation on fishing provides simplified licensing system for fishing enthusiasts. Under the new law, fisheries management and fishing will be combined into a single fishing fee, payable by every person between the ages of 18 and 64 engaged in fishing other than angling and ice fishing. The fee has been set at 39 euros a year, 12 euros a week and five euros a day with a provision which gives the right to fish with single bait throughout the country.
Four municipality mergers will be realised in the New Year. The Ostrobothnia municipality of Jalasjärvi will be merged with Kurikka, while the Satakunta municipalities of Säkylä and Köyliö will be merged into the municipality of Säkylä.
In Päijät-Häme, Hämeenkoski will merge with Hollola, and Lahti and Nastola will merge into a new municipality – the city of Lahti.
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