TV & Radio Tax in Germany [Complete Guide 2023]

Famously called the TV Tax / Radio Tax in Germany, the Rundfunkbeitrag should actually be referred to as a license fee or broadcast contribution and is not officially considered as tax in Germany, even though it looks like one!

In response to the lawsuits filed by various people who opposed the license fee, there’s a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, the highest court in Germany) dated back in 2018 clarifying that Rundfunkbeitrag was legally not a tax and was fundamentally agreeable by the German Constitutional Law.

What is Rundfunkbeitrag / ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice?

The TV Radio Tax in Germany (Rundfunkbeitrag) is a broadcasting license fee to fund the public broadcasting German TV and Radio networks which hosts a bunch of channels in the areas of news, entertainment, sport, kids, lifestyle, etc. 

Collection of the TV/Radio Tax aka contribution license fee is the responsibility of the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice or in short Beitragsservice was earlier called as GEZ-Gebühren (Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) which translates to Fee Collection Center of the Public Broadcasting Companies in the Federal Republic of Germany until 2013.

Why do we have TV & Radio Tax in Germany?

Beitragsservice calls the Radio Tax in Germany as a legally prescribed contribution for citizens, companies and institutions to fund public broadcasting services. The Television and Radio license fee was first introduced to establish free and fair media that’s completely supported by the citizens. All fees will be collected directly by Beitragsservice and not to the government to ensure independence for producing the content for public radio, television and internet services without any influence by the government.

How much is the TV & Radio Tax in Germany?

The TV and Radio tax in Germany costs 18.36 Euros per month per household effective August 2021 (the broadcast fee was increased by 0.86 euros which earlier used to be € 17,50). The TV tax is applicable for each household irrespective of the number of people living in it, if you are living with other people you can decide who needs to pay for it and the rest need to inform Rundfunkbeitrag for an exemption.

What Channels Can I Watch for Free in Germany?

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The ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice offers about 21 TV stations and 73 radio stations as part of the public service broadcasting programs in Germany, please refer to Wiki for an exhaustive list of TV Channels, Media Libraries & Radio Programs and the major network of channels include: 

  • ARD
    • Bayerische Rundfunk (BR)
    • Westdeutsche Rundfunk Köln (WDR)
    • Hessische Rundfunk (HR)
    • Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR)
    • Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR)
    • Radio Bremen
    • Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB)
    • Saarländische Rundfunk (SR)
    • Südwestrundfunk (SWR)
  • Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF)
  • Deutschlandradio (DLR)
  • ARTE
  • KiKA
  • ONE
  • Phoenix
  • 3Sat

When should you pay German TV Broadcast License Fee?

The ARD broadcast license fees needs paid on quarterly basis which is €55,08 as a default option by law,  however one is free to choose among the following four options

  • The default by law is to pay in the middle of three months 55.08 euros (as of the 15th)
  • Quarterly in advance on the first of a quarter for three months EUR 55.08 (January/April/July/October)
  • Half yearly in advance in the first half of the year for six months EUR 110.16 (Jan./Jul.)
  • Annually in advance on the first of each year for twelve months 220.32 euros (01.Jan)

How to Pay ARD ZDF TV / Radio Tax in Germany?

Every quarter you will be notified by ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice with an invoice along with the details of payment information, however you will not be notified if you choose to pay through direct debit automatically.

The payment should be paid to Beitragsservice either by doing a bank transfer directly from your bank account or by direct debit from your account.

Direct Transfer / SEPA Transfer / Standing Instruction from your Bank Account

Figure out the bank IBAN details applicable for your state of residence and you need to transfer money like you usually do and in the reference message field enter your Beitragsnummer followed by RF30X, for example if your Beitragsnummer is 123456789 you need to enter RF30X123456789 as your payment reference number. You can find out the 9 digit Beitragsnummer from the letters from Beitragsservice.

Each German State has different account details for ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice to make the payments, however you can pay your contributions to the central Beitragsservice bank account (effective 01. Jan. 2023) and the following are the details.

Recipient: Rundfunk ARD, ZD, DRadio

IBAN: DE07 5005 0000 0000 3456 78


Kunden-Referenznummer / message: RF30X123456789 (replace the last 9 digits with your Beitragsnummer)

Auto Debit / SEPA Direct Debit / Pay Automatically

  • This is the easiest way and takes a few minutes of your time to fill out the form online on Rundfunkbeitrag.
  • Fill out your account information details that include Beitragsnummer, your name, address, etc, on the Rundfunkbeitrag website to change and update the payment details.
  • In the next section select the frequency you would like to pay under Zahlungsrhythmus (payment frequency) and select durch Lastschrift von meinem/unserem Konto (by direct debit from my/our account) under Zahlungsart (payment type).
  • Enter your German Bank Account IBAN details and submit the form. 

Alternatively you can also download the SEPA-Mandate application form and send it by post to ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio, Beitragsservice, 50656 Köln for direct debit of TV Taxes from your German Bank Account.

Is it mandatory to pay Radio Tax In Germany?

Yes it is mandatory to pay the TV Radio Tax in Germany per household and it’s irrelevant whether you avail the public broadcasting services or not, however there were few exceptions applicable for some categories where they don’t need to pay or can apply reduction in the contribution fees. 

Do You Need to Pay Radio Tax if you don’t have a TV or Radio?

Alas, you still have to pay the broadcasting contribution fee. As iterated, it is mandatory to pay the fee per household even if you don’t own or have a TV or Radio and don’t watch ARD or ZDF Media. 

Until 2013 it wasn’t the case and people could file exemptions if they don’t have any TV or Radio and it’s not possible for the GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale) to enter their premises to check and lot of people have used that as an option and had avoided paying the fee. So the German Authorities have changed the rules and to make it fair for everyone they have imposed it per household.

How to register for the TV Broadcast Fee in Germany?  

Unless you want to be proactive and apply you don’t need to register yourself for TV / Radio Tax in Germany, as soon as you have done your Anmeldung (register your address), the Bürgeramt (citizen office) will intimate the Beitragsservice, and you will receive a letter from the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice to collect the TV Tax.

However you can be proactive and apply yourself online on the official website of ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice or if you prefer the old school method of sending out an application by post you can download the application for registration of your apartment with Beitragsservice in Germany, fill out your details and send it by post to ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio, Beitragsservice, 50656 Köln.

What Exemptions & Reductions do you have for Radio Tax in Germany?

The German law entitles some reductions and exemptions to Radio Tax and allows you to pay less TV Tax for the following cases and sections of people. 

Secondary Residence

If you have a second residence (Nebenwohnung), you don’t need to pay taxes twice and can file for an exemption to pay the ARD ZDF Radio Tax.

People with Disabilities

You will be entitled to pay one-third of the broadcast contribution fee, i.e. 6.12 euros per month if you have RF code RF in your differently-abled person pass (Schwerbehindertenausweis)

Severe Disability (Blind/Deaf)

Exemption of broadcasting contributions are applicable for those who have severe physical limitations such as blind and deaf people or if you get blind aid in accordance with the Social Security Code (SGB).

Guaranteed Minimum Pension & ALG II

You don’t need to pay TV tax if you are entitled to receive social benefits such as guaranteed minimum pension or ALG II (commonly referred to as Arbeitslosengeld II or Hartz IV).

Students & Apprentices

You don’t pay TV Tax, if you are a student getting the financial aid BAföG (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) from the government or if you are an apprentice (Azubis) who needs to work as part of your studies (not to be confused as working students (Werkstudents)).

Asylum Seekers

If you are an Asylum Seeker, you don’t have to pay the contribution fees for broadcasting in Germany. 

Help for Care: As per SGB XII (7th chapter) you don’t need to pay broadcasting contribution fee as a benefit for being a war victim. 

Senior Citizens

Senior citizens who moved to nursing homes or entitled to receive nursing allowance as per the applicable state regulations don’t need to pay the TV Tax.

How to file exemption for TV Broadcast / Radio Tax in Germany?

If you fall under any of the exempted categories as defined above, you will be eligible to request  for exemption towards TV & Radio Tax in Germany, you can file an application for exemption or reduction at Rundfunkbeitrag and print out the forms and send it across along with necessary documentation as a supplement to your application to Beitragsservice. 

For Application for exemption from the obligation to pay Radio Tax in Germany for a secondary residence you can fill out the application online or you can download the form and send it by mail to the registered address ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio, Beitragsservice, 50656 Köln. Please do note that the applicant has to be registered with the citizen’s registration office (Bürgeramt) with both primary and secondary residence.

How to Avoid Radio Tax, when You Share Your Flat?

If you are staying or moving to a shared accommodation where one of the residents is already paying the TV tax you can file for an exemption by filing an application online with the Beitragsnummer details of the person who’s already paying the radio tax and your Meldebescheinigung from your Anmeldung (apartment registration certificate) to avoid paying it twice.

What happens if you don’t Pay Radio Tax in Germany?

Paying the Radio Tax is mandatory in Germany unless you file and receive an eligible exemption, in case of failure or delayed payment a late fee will be levied for the period of delay and the amounts will start piling up and may get you into legal hassles.

The Beitragsservice will also inform the SCHUFA (independent credit institution) that maintains your credit score in Germany and it will impact your credit score making it hard for you to get loans or mortgage in Germany and in extreme cases you might get yourself in trouble with police and may even land up in jail for avoiding to pay the broadcast fee.

At the end the TV & Radio broadcasting license fee exists for some good reasons and you will still have to make the payments irrespective of your reasons along with applicable fines, so with all due respect we recommend you to pay the ARD Radio Tax without fail.

How to Cancel / Stop Paying for Radio Tax in Germany?

Don’t forget to inform Beitragsservice via an online form if you are leaving Germany permanently for good along with your Abmeldung (de-register your apartment) details from the Bürgeramt. If you forget to de-register yourselves from contribution service, the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice will still continue to charge you for the contribution fees.

How to update your address for German TV Tax?

Your Radio Tax in Germany is usually linked with your city registration, as soon as you change your apartment and done with your new Anmeldung (home address registration) at Bürgeramt, Beitragsservice will be notified of the changes, however it is recommended to directly update your address details online on Rundfunkbeitrag website so that you don’t miss out on the communication mails and payment reminders from them.

How to get the best out of ARD ZDF Broadcasting Fee?

While it’s hard to say if you get any value out of the services provided for the amount you pay for the TV and Radio Tax in Germany, it’s important to keep in mind that it funds a great public service and helps in maintaining an independent stance for public broadcasting in Germany. 

Instead we suggest to consider this to be one of your avenues to learn German while you enjoy your holidays in Germany and start making use of these services by watching German TV programs and movies or by listening to German language radio to improve your Deutsch language skills that could you help you in better job opportunities in Germany and to keep up to date with current and global affairs. Happy Viewing & Learning!

Don’t get confused with various ways and terms the Beitragsservice was referred to as at the end of the day however you call it,  it’s all the same. TV Tax, Radio Tax, Broadcast License Fee, Broadcasting Contribution, ARD Tax, ARD Radio Tax, etc and etc. 

If you have any further questions and need clarifications please feel free to comment or contact us directly and we will try to do our best to help you with the details.

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