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Do you have to pay the radio and TV license fees in Germany? How and who can avoid paying the fees?

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Hardly anyone can avoid paying the radio and TV license fees in Germany. Even Expats!

Since January 2013, German citizens have no longer paid a GEZ fee to finance public broadcasting, but rather a broadcasting fee. The main difference: only those who owned a television or radio had to pay the old GEZ fee. Every household has to pay the radio and TV license fees, regardless of whether there is actually a television, radio or computer and no matter how many people live there.

A quick look at radio and TV license fees in Germany

radio and TV license fees
  • The broadcast fee has risen from 17.50 euros to 18.36 euros per month – since August 2021. According to a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court, the increase is an interim solution until a new state media treaty comes into force.
  • The fee for public broadcasting – is charged per household. No matter how many people live in the apartment.
  • For social or health reasons, contributors can be exempted from the fee or apply for a discount. You don’t have to pay extra for a second home either.

How much is the radio and TV license fee?

The license fee has increased from 17.50 euros to 18.36 euros per month since August 2021 .

The Federal Constitutional Court decides on an increase

Originally, the increase come as early as January 1, 2021. This was decided by the German State Minister’s Conference in March 2020. However, the State Media Treaty did not come into force, as Saxony-Anhalt was the only federal state to refuse its approval and thus blocked the increase in the contribution. The broadcasters of ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio then lodged a constitutional complaint.

New: An interim solution came into effect in July 20, 2021. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Saxony-Anhalt violated the freedom of broadcasting because it refused to approve the State Treaty for no reasonable reason. In order to ensure that public broadcasting can be financed, the license fee increased temporarily by 86 cents – but not retrospectively from January 1, 2021, but from August 2021.

Broadcasting fee per household

There is only ever one contribution to be paid per household. Families and shared apartments also only pay one contribution, regardless of how many televisions, radios or computers are in the apartment.

You usually pay quarterly in the middle of three months. However, you can also pay in advance for a quarter, half a year, or a full year. The easiest way to pay is via Sepa direct debit. So you always pay on time. You can also transfer the fee. So far that was 52.50 euros. 

The premium adjustment is automatically taken into account for contribution payers who take part in the direct debit procedure – the three-month amount after the increase is 55.08 euros . If you pay with a standing order, you have to adjust your order accordingly.

TIP: Make sure that the license fee for an apartment is not paid twice. If necessary, children living in the household with an income, grandparents and flatmates can unsubscribe. The corresponding ” Unsubscribe ” form can be found on the website of the contribution service.

No additional charge for the car radio in the private car

The radio in your car is also covered by the radio license fee. You don’t have to pay separately for this.

It looks different in the commercial sector. Car rental companies must pay contributions for the radios in the rental cars. This duty is also constitutional, ruled the Federal Constitutional Court ( Az. 1 BvR 1675/16 et al.).

Don’t forget to register after moving!

In emotional commotion when moving out of the parental home or at a separation followed by moving to a new home, you should not forget your new apartment within a month to register . Don’t wait until you get mail from the post service. The fees can accumulate. It can get quite expensive then.

radio and TV license fees

What counts for the radio license fee as an apartment?

The fee is charged by the same authority as before 2013, only that it has a new name. The fee collection center (“Gebühreneinzugszentrale” – GEZ) is now called ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contribution Service. The GEZ investigators who rang the doorbell to find out whether there was a radio in the household no longer exist.

The apartment as a starting point for the radio license fee is defined as follows: An apartment is a fixed, structurally self-contained unit that

  • is suitable or used for living or sleeping,
  • has its own entrance and
  • is not only accessible via another apartment.

Post free are rooms or apartments in accommodation such as boarding schools or barracks. There is also no charge for arbors in allotment gardens where no one is allowed to spend the night.

Some citizens found the new license fee unjust and have sued against it. The constitutional judges decided: The broadcasting fee obligation is compatible with the Basic Law (BVerfG, judgment of July 18, 2018, Az. 1 BvR 1675/16 etc. ). It is true that single people are more burdened than families or shared apartments, but that is justified and acceptable, according to the judges.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) also declared the German license fee to be permissible. It is not illegal state aid (ECJ, judgment of December 13, 2018, Az. C-492/17).

Who doesn’t have to pay a contribution for the second home?

Until July 2018, second and secondary homes as well as privately used holiday apartments were also subject to contributions. Following a judgment of the Bun-of-ver-fas-sung-ge-Richts (FCC) is, however, incompatible with the Basic Law (July 18, 2018, Az. 1 BvR 1675/16, among others ).

The federal states implemented the ruling on November 1, 2019: 23rd Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RÄStV) . Since then, spouses and registered partners can also apply for an exemption from the obligation to pay contributions for their secondary apartments if they also live with their partner in a joint main apartment. This is the new rule:

 “ For their secondary residences, a natural person is exempted from the obligation to pay contributions according to Section 2 (1) upon application if they, their spouse or registered partner pays the license fee for the main residence to the responsible state broadcaster. The same applies if she, her spouse or registered partner pays the license fee for one of her secondary apartments, not for the main residence. 

This is how you can free your second home

You can fill out the online application ” Exemption from secondary residence “. The prerequisite is that you are registered as the applicant with a main and secondary residence at the residents’ registration office.

Important: In addition to the owner of the main and secondary residence, the spouse and registered partner are also entitled to an exemption. It does not matter which of the two partners the main residence is registered for with the contribution service.

For gazebos and dachas You also do not have to pay extra if you already are paying for for your main residence. You can get exempt from broadcasting fees with the ” Secondary apartment ” form.

The exemption for owners of secondary apartments applies since the new regulation in November 2019 from the month in which the application is submitted or up to three months before this point in time, provided that the requirements for the exemption have been met during this time.

Do visually and hearing impaired people have to pay license fees?

Deaf-blind people and recipients of assistance for the blind can be completely exempted from broadcasting fees. Residents of nursing homes who are fully inpatient are also exempt .

If you lived in your own apartment before, you should deregister the old apartment from the contribution service. You can use the ” Deregistration ” form for this purpose .

Anyone who has a severely handicapped ID with the RF indicator only has to pay a reduced fee. These include people who are unable to attend public events due to their disabilities, as well as the visually impaired and the hearing impaired.

This group was exempt from license fees until the end of 2012. Since then, a third of the regular contribution rate has been due for them: since April 2015 it has been 70 euros per year.

Who can get an exemption from paying the fees social reasons?

1. If you get unemployment benefits

If you receive certain social benefits such as basic security or unemployment benefit II, you can be exempted from the broadcasting fee. The following applies to married couples and registered partnerships: If one of the partners is exempt from the license fee, the other does not have to pay either.

2. If you are a student getting Bafög

Even those who receive Bafög or vocational training allowance can be exempted from the broadcasting fee. If a resident in a shared apartment is exempt from the fee because he receives student loans, then another, non-exempt roommate must pay the broadcasting fee .

If you are entitled to an exemption from the license fee or a reduction in the license fee, you can fill out the “ Apply for exemption or reduction ” form on the website of the fee service.

Then you have to print out the completed application and send it with proof to the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contribution Service, 50656 Cologne.

What happens if you don’t pay the radio and TV license fees in Germany?

radio and TV license fees

If you refuse to pay, you will receive a contribution notice with a late payment penalty. The late payment surcharge is 1 percent of the contribution owed, but at least 8 euros ( Section 9, Paragraph 2, Clause 1, No. 5 RBStV in conjunction with Section 11 of the respective statutes of the state broadcasting corporations on the procedure for paying broadcasting fees). You don’t get a special reminder.

It happens again and again that fraudsters send fake requests for payment as direct mail. The letters are usually deceptively real based on the actual letters from the contribution service. The forgeries can be recognized by these features:

  • An exact address is missing. In one forgery, the address field only read: To all private households in the contribution area Germany.
  • The same article number was used in all letters.
  • The criminals had specified a different bank account than that of the contribution service.

When you receive a payment request from the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio contribution service, check that your address and contribution number are correct. If you have any doubts about the authenticity, call the post service and clarify whether the letter actually came from there. This is the service telephone number of the contribution service: 01806 999 555 10 . A call costs 20 cents from the German landline network, 60 cents from the German mobile networks.


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Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany
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