Understanding and Paying the Rundfunkbeitrag
One of the more obscure yet easy to solve topics is the Rundfunkbeitrag, or TV Tax. Below is a quick guide to understanding and paying the Rundfunkbeitrag while you’re living in Germany.
What is the Rundfunkbeitrag?
The Rundfunkbeitrag is a contribution supporting public service news sources in Germany, including the ARD, ZDF, and several public radio stations. Around 8 billion Euros is collected each year and distributed toward these news sources to promote the availability of non-commercially and -politically influenced news and media.
Both businesses and private households pay this fee; about 90% of the total contributions come from private households.
Do I have to pay this? How much is it?
The fee is EUR 17.50 per month per household (raising to EUR 18.50 in 2020). If you live in a shared apartment, still only one fee is due for the entire household. It’s due no matter if you own a television set, a radio, a computer, or if you utilize the news sources at all. Even if you don’t speak German.
If it’s not paid regularly and on time, you will be legally liable to pay the full amount eventually. Don’t let this slip your mind, or you will face a big bill at some point!
There are some cases where you would not have to pay, or would be eligible for a reduced payment.
A) Receiving Arbeitslosengeld II
B) Student receiving grants and not living with parents
C) Members of a foreign military stationed in Germany
D) Disabled persons may be eligible for a reduced payment
In all these cases the exemption or reduction is not given automatically – it must be properly requested.
How should I register and pay?
After you register yourself at your address, you can register online on the service portal. Fill in your personal and household information and you will get your Beitragsnummer. This number is valid for your whole household; in case you get a roommate, he or she would inform them that he or she is covered by your registration for the household. You might want to negotiate that your new roommate pays for a portion of the service!
You might get a letter from the Rundfunkbeitrag telling you to sign up for the payments when you are newly registered; don’t depend on that letter! Proactively register yourself online to prevent headaches – you are liable for the payments whether they tell you or not.
If you change your address, just inform them again, through the portal, that your address is changed. You will need to continue paying the same amount.
You can make a manual transfer each month via your bank account, or you can authorize an automatic deduction on a monthly or quarterly basis. Payment is only possible by transfer, not via cash or in person.
If you plan to leave Germany permanently, you can stop paying this! But you will have to inform them specifically that you’re leaving, otherwise you’ll still be liable for the costs. Your “Abmeldung” will not automatically inform them.
If you are living in two cities simultaneously then one of your addresses would be your “Hauptwohnung” (Main address) and one will be your “Nebenwohnung” (secondary address). You only have to pay for one. Make sure your registration corresponds correctly.
If you are subletting from the main tenant, he or she should already be paying this fee. Make sure that you register on the website and provide the Beitragsnummer from the main tenant.
If one member of your household is exempt (disabled, etc) from paying, then you must pay anyway. Their exemption does not cover you.
You might have an unusual situation which needs direct support; you can contact the Rundfunkbeitrag admin team to sort it out through this contact form.
You might feel annoyed or frustrated about having to pay this fee for services that you might not be able to use due to a language barrier. It might be comforting to know that a lot of other people are in the same boat as you are. The resources from the free media are a good source of information about Germany and you might want to use them to practice your listening and reading skills in German.
If you have questions about this guide to understanding and paying the Rundfunkbeitrag in Berlin, let us know! We’ll happily advise or point you in the right direction!