Who needs a data box in Czechia? The government is changing the rules

It will no longer be compulsory for millions to use an online portal for government communication.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 18.10.2022 19:30:00 (updated on 30.10.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

Data boxes, or "datové schránky", are an electronic archival system that facilitates communications between citizens, businesses, and public administration bodies in the Czechia. In short, it's an inbox that lets you send official documents to public authorities electronically and free of charge.

Data boxes are in the news a lot lately as part of a push to digitize the public’s communication with administrative bodies. The government had previously ruled that “all natural persons running a business, as well as every legal entity that does not yet have [a data box]” and citizens using electronic verification via the Citizen Identity portal for the first time would be required to get – and use – one from January 2023.

But last Friday, the government announced a U-turn on its proposal to make so-called data boxes – a digitized and centralized method of communicating with different government authorities – mandatory for citizens in Czechia. Here's what you need to know.

What are data boxes good for?

Data boxes aim to streamline communication between an individual or company and various administrative branches by omitting paperwork and e-mail exchanges. They allow for quicker communication with administrative bodies, free postage to state bodies, cheaper postage to companies, a secure online system, and no in-person queuing or physical language barriers. Czechs use them to communicate with tax offices, driver’s license centers, and cadastral offices.

Things you can do with a data box

  • File tax returns
  • Access your criminal record
  • Apply for, or change, a driver’s license
  • Get an extract from your trade register
  • Communicate with courts
  • Track changes in the real estate cadastre
  • Communicate with social security offices
  • View and receive documents relating to your health insurance

Proponents of the data boxes claim that it simplifies and greatly speeds up public-government communication, cutting out unpleasant experiences at various administrative buildings (an aspect that some expats will be no strangers to). An online-based communication system also reduces postal costs, the government website writes.

The law that approves the use of data boxes, which was signed by President Miloš Zeman in June 2021, aims to ensure that citizens do not have to repeatedly provide the same data to state institutions and was created to accelerate the digitization of state administration. 

Are there any downsides to using one?

The proposal to make data boxes mandatory has been met with opposition. One central worry is miscommunication and missing important messages on the portal.

A document sent to the data box is considered to have been delivered the moment a user logs into their online box, even if they did not open the document. The message would also be marked as delivered 10 days after being sent, even if the user had not accessed the box at any moment during that period, as outlined in iDnes.cz.

"If you don't check the data box regularly, you may miss important messages, such as the notification from the tax office about the start of a tax audit," summarizes Martin Bortlík, partner of consulting company PKF Apogeo in TN.cz

The downside of data boxes

  • Correspondence labeled as delivered - even if you haven't signed in
  • Unfamiliar and difficult system for technologically illiterate
  • Messages deleted automatically after 90 days
  • Increased chances of fraud and identity theft

Why is the government backtracking?

Expressing worries about “forcing” citizens into something they may not be ready for - or want - Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan has reneged on governmental plans to make the adoption of the data boxes mandatory for millions of Czech citizens. 

"Data mailboxes are a safe and modern way of communication by the state. However, we do not want to force anyone to use them. That is why we are canceling the obligation to use data mailboxes for natural persons from the beginning of next year," Rakušan wrote last week in a Twitter post.

The Interior Minister noted that “positive encouragement” is the best method to tempt people to adopt the data boxes and that “many of them [citizens] would not understand" using the new technology. 

More time is thus needed to introduce the public to the data boxes - Rakušan has stated that the government “will launch a big campaign that will be informative” and that letters will be written directly to individual entrepreneurs, so “that everyone can enter the system without problems".

In the meantime, who needs a data box?

Self-employed people (in Czech, "osoba samostatně výdělečně činná"; OSVČ) will still be obliged to set up and use a data box by the end of March 2023, in order to submit their tax reports electronically.

Those who already have a trade license will be registered automatically and receive the login details in the post by March 2023 at the latest. You can read more details about where, when, and how to apply for a data box on the government's dedicated data boxes website.

Do you have a data box?

Yes 41 %
No 59 %
150 readers voted on this poll. Voting is open

The Czech government aims to increase "electronification" as the years go on: from 2025, it should be possible for police officers to verify a driver's data online without needing their driver's license, while Czech banks are soon planning to support money transfers via mobile phones. The Czech Post announced on Tuesday that it plans to serve 100,000 by the end of the year.

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