What is Rundfunkbeitrag?

Since the establishment of the Federal Republic, there has been public service broadcasting. Since then, the broadcasting fee has increased from two D-Mark to €17.50 currently.

The GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale: fee collection center of public-law broadcasting institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany) was abolished from 31 December 2012. Since 1 January 2013, the former Rundfunkgebühr (television and radio license fee) is now called Rundfunkbeitrag (broadcast contribution).

In 2009, the license fee amounted to €17.98. After the reform, the contribution from April 2015 was lowered for the first time to €17.50. However, starting from 2021, the contribution will increase by 86 cent, which means each household will have to pay 18,36 Euro for the broadcast fee.

While the fee is still compulsory, who uses how many devices for what purpose doesn’t matter anymore: one apartment equals one contribution. It doesn’t matter how many people live in the apartment or how many TVs, radio and computers are in it. The fee is the same for students, residents, expats, and natives – everyone pays the same amount. You can choose the payment rhythm to pay €52.50 quarterly every three months, €105 half-yearly or €210 yearly.

How to make the most of your Rundfunkbeitrag

There is much disagreement about whether Rundfunkbeitrag is truly necessary – after all nobody likes an extra fee. While some argue that the fee is mandatory even for people who don’t own a TV or watch or listen to public broadcasting, others stress how Rundfunkbeitrag supports quality journalism that mostly remains ad-free. In the end, unfortunately it’s not a choice, so we recommend you make the most of it: Listen to or watch public programming in German to improve your German language skills and get a deeper understanding of what moves the country.

Here are some helpful online sources and programmes to get you started:

Don’t have a TV?

No worries, you can watch public programming for free online.

For example at ZDF’s online Mediathek. Many young people enjoy a late night satire show called NEOMAGAZIN ROYALE – maybe you want to give it a try? If you’re more of a documentary buff, another programme called Terra X has got you covered.

Watch both of them here: https://www.zdf.de

You prefer listening over watching?

Deutschlandfunk Nova is targeted at young people as well and covers all kinds of topics from media and politics to music and science. They also have a lot of podcast formats. Listen to them here: https://www.deutschlandfunknova.de

Want to stay on top of German news?

ARD offers the Tagesschau app for free with the latest news from worldwide topics to local news tailored to the federal state you live in. You can download it here for iPhones: https://apps.apple.com/de/app/tagesschau/id401644893 And here for Android phones: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=de.tagesschau&hl=de

You’re a beginner learning German?

There are many online learning resources for you as a foeigner. For more information, you are welcome to read another article of EDUBAO:

How is Rundfunkbeitrag paid?

No additional charge for car radio in private cars

The broadcast contribution also covers the radio in your car. You do not have to pay separately.

In the commercial sector, things are different. Car rental companies have to pay contributions for the radios in their rental cars. This obligation was confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court.

Do visually impaired and hearing-impaired people have to pay a broadcast contribution?

Deafblind persons and the recipient of blindness aid are completely released from the charge. Full-time residents of nursing homes are also exempt.

If you own a disabled person's pass with the RF indicator, you’re fee will be reduced. This includes people who cannot attend public events due to their disability, as well as visually and hearing-impaired persons. This group was exempt from the license fee until the end of 2012. Since April 2015, they are charged one-third of the regular contribution fee: €5.83/month or €70/year.

Who is exempt from the contribution for social reasons?

If you receive certain social benefits such as basic security benefits for job seekers (Grundsicherung) or unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld II), you can be exempted from the broadcast contribution. You can complete the application for exemption or apply for a reduction on the Contributor Service website: https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/buergerinnenundbuerger/formulare/befreiungoderermaessigungbeantragen/indexger.html

Then you have to print the completed application and send it with proof to:

ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragservice 50656 Cologne

For married couples and registered partnerships: If one of the partners is exempt from the license fee, the other does not have to pay.

Even those who receive student loans (BAföG = Federal Law on Support in Education) or vocational training grants can be exempted from the broadcast contribution.

If you live in an apartment with someone who is exempt from the contribution fee because he or she receives BaföG, the fee must be paid by the other non-exempt flat mates.

How do you pay?

As mentioned above, the fee is charged per household, so if you’re in student accommodation living with eight people it’s smart to split the bill.

Been living in Germany for a few months and haven’t received a letter yet? Perhaps you don’t speak German too well yet?

Follow these steps precisely to get everything sorted:

Step 1: Follow this link to the Rundfunkbeitrag homepage - https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/

Step 2: Select “Wohnung anmelden” (Register an accommodation)

Step 3: Fill out all your details in the form (Name, address, date of birth, contact details)

Step 4: Tick “Nein” (No) where it says "Sie sind bereits mit einer Wohnung angemeldet?" (Are you already registered with an apartment?)

Step 5: Click “Weiter” (Continue)

Step 6: Tick „Nein“ (No) where it says “abweichende Adresse” (different address)

Step 7: Fill out in „Anmeldung zu“ (register from) with the month and year you’re registering the apartment for

Step 8: Define your payment frequency.

  • On the 15th, every three months
  • On the 1st, every three months (1st January, 1st April, 1st July, 1st October)
  • On the 1st, every six months (1st January, 1st July)
  • On the 1st, every year (1st January)

Step 9: Whichever you choose, the total amount will be the same. However, it is up to you if you want to pay in more or fewer installments throughout the year.

Step 10: Then you select how you want to pay.

  • You can pay by direct debit (Lastschrift). This is by far the easiest way. To pay by debit input your bank details and a recurring payment will be set up for the appropriate times.
  • You can pay by bank transfer (Überweisung). For this option, you also have to enter your bank details - although you will have to transfer the money every X months manually.

Step 11: Click “Weiter” (Continue)

Step 12: Check the confirmation page thoroughly. Ensure all the information you have entered is correct.

Step 13: Tick “Datenschutz” (Data protection) and solve the Captcha (Random numbers you see in the picture)

Step 14: Click “Anmelden” (Register)

And you’re all done! Now collect that money from your roommates and get watching!

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Is your landlord paying fees?

If you’re staying in a temporary situation like AirBnB and you have a landlord that is handling your service fees, then you shouldn’t have anything to pay. The broadcast contribution is per household not per person.

However, you may have to prove that this is your current situation. You will need to get the Beitragsnummer(contribution number)of your landlord. This document will prove that you’re living in an apartment in which the owner is already paying the fee.

You can link to where you have to submit the proof here: https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/buergerinnenundbuerger/formulare/abmelden/index_ger.html

In case of moving out of your parents' home or moving to another place, do not forget to register your new apartment within one month.

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What happens if you don’t pay?

It is essential to understand that missed payments are not forgotten. If and when you receive letters for missing payments, it will include the full total amount you have to pay.

Firstly you will get numerous reminders to register in the mail. This will eventually lead to you being forcibly registered and a case number attached to your household. Then the registration letters will switch to demand letters. Typically these will also include late fees which increase the longer payments are missed.

Next, your case will be passed to a collection agency who will pursue the payment on their behalf.

The final step, and hopefully it never reaches this stage, is to send the bailiffs round. After which it is possible for your bank accounts to be frozen and the agency will take whatever is owed - with the addition of administration fees that they have gone through to collect the money.

If you’re planning on staying in Germany or living here after your studies then it is best to pay in all cases. Payment is mandatory for all residents, and if someone finds out you have not been paying it can affect your SCHUFA rating (https://www.schufa.de/en/corporate-customers/credit-rating/), which in turn will affect your ability to apply for credit cards and bank loans.

How to stop paying the broadcasting fee

It is important to remember to de-register when you leave Germany, so you are off the hook for the services you use. De-register (Abmelden), and you will no longer have to pay the broadcast contribution after you leave. What’s the issue? If you’re leaving the country, of course, you don’t have to pay any more, right?

Well, it is not unheard of for people to leave Germany without de-registering first, then they come back after a few years to find out they are on the hook for all the payments they missed.

You can de-register online from here:

https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/buergerinnenundbuerger/formulare/abmelden/index_ger.html