If you have recently moved to Germany and registered at an address (Anmeldung) you will likely receive a puzzling letter from the Beitragsservice (contribution service) regarding a TV and radio tax. And yes, these Rundfunkbeitrag or Rundfunkgebühren (radio fees) apply even if you don’t own a TV or a radio. But there is a good reason why (almost) everyone in Germany contributes to the national broadcasting services. Here is everything you need to know about the German radio and TV tax, how to pay it and how to avoid getting into trouble with the Beitragsservice!
- Why is there a radio and TV tax in Germany?
- Who pays the radio and TV tax?
- How to pay the German radio and TV tax
Why is there a radio and TV tax?
As mentioned, the body responsible for the collection of the radio and TV tax is the Beitragsservice, which was known as GEZ or Gebühreneinzugszentrale (fee collection center) until 2013. They collect these Rundfunkgebühren (broadcast license fees) to finance the public broadcasters ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio as well as dozens of regional services, which are very popular in Germany.
These funds go directly to the public broadcasting services rather than the government revenue office, ensuring a degree of independence and separation from government influence. So strictly speaking, Rundfunkgebühren are not taxes. This public broadcasting infrastructure was introduced in the wake of the Second World War as a democratic precaution against the use of propaganda by the state government as the Nazi regime had done. Instead, a totally independent media supported by citizens was conceived.
Who pays the radio and TV tax?
The radio and TV tax is charged on the basis of a flat rate per household, regardless of the actual usage of the media provided. The reason for this is based on a solidarity model: to guarantee that as many people as possible have access to high-quality, diverse public broadcasting services.
You may be able to apply for an exemption (this page is available in German only) from the TV and radio tax if you are able to prove that you are without a source of income, are an asylum seeker in Germany or if you are a recipient of social security benefits or student funding. You may also have your fee reduced to one-third if you are deaf or hard of hearing.
You will need to sign up with the Beitragsservice shortly after registering at your new address. They’ll send you a letter requesting that you do so and you can send a completed form back to them or simply fill in their online form (available in German only)
If you move into a shared home and someone in your new household is already paying the radio and TV tax, you can inform the Beitragsservice via this online form (available in German only).
How to pay the German radio and TV tax
As of Autumn 2022, the fee was €18.36 per month though this is subject to change.
In the past you would receive quarterly reminder letters from the Beitragsservice to pay your fees, however, this was discontinued in 2022. So try to be proactive in paying your Rundfunkgebühren to avoid any fees for late payment or damage to your SCHUFA (Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditsicherung – General Credit Protection Agency) credit score.
There are two methods of paying your TV and radio tax. The first option would be to grant direct debit authorization via the Rundfunkbeitrag website.
The second option is to establish a standing order to wire the fees from your bank account, with your customer reference number quoted. You will find this in your initial letter from the Beitragsservice.
Finally, if you are leaving Germany, don’t forget to deregister on the Rundfunkbeitrag website.
While the radio and TV tax may be the source of much grumbling throughout Germany, keep in mind that it funds a great public service. Listening to German language radio or watching German TV shows is a great way to practice and improve your German while keeping up to date with current affairs and global issues. With that in mind, you can be glad to contribute so that the services the Rundfunkgebühr pays for are equally available to all!
Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.