Rundfunkbeitrag: Radio Tax Germany [Complete 2023 English Guide]
Updated: Apr 7
Radio and TV tax is a broadcasting fee that every resident in Germany must pay. Learn everything about German radio tax in this guide.
Every household in Germany pays a radio tax of 18.36 € per month.
The "ARD ZDF contribution service" charges a radio tax per household, regardless of how many people live in it and whether they use public radio or tv broadcaster services.
You can be exempted from radio tax payments or apply for a reduction for social or health reasons.
You don't have to pay the broadcasting fee for your second home if you already pay the radio tax for your primary residence.
This is how you do it
Do you pay radio license fees for a second home? Then apply for an exemption. To do this, use the online application "Exempt a secondary residence."
If you are over 18 and moving into your own apartment, you must register with the ARD ZDF contribution service. You can register by filling out the "Register apartment" form online.
If you move into a new home, you must inform the ARD ZDF contribution service. You can use the "Change contribution account" form to do this.
You can apply for an exemption from paying the radio tax if you receive social benefits such as unemployment benefits II or student loans. You can do it online on the ARD ZDF contribution service's website.
Table of Contents
Radio Tax Germany
Since January 2013, German citizens no longer pay a GEZ fee (GEZ-Gebühr in German) but instead a broadcasting fee (Rundfunkbeitrag in German).
The main difference between the two is people who owned a television or radio paid the old GEZ fee. But now everyone must pay the broadcasting fee even if they have neither tv, radio, or internet access.
Moreover, the German tv and radio tax collection center (GEZ) is now called ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contribution Service.
ARD ZDF contribution service is regulated by public law. Hence, ensuring unbiased media coverage and distribution.
How much is the tv and radio tax in Germany?
As of August 2021, private households in Germany must pay a broadcasting license fee of 18.36 € per month or 55.08 € per quarter.
You pay the broadcasting fee per household in Germany.
The number of electronic devices you use in the household doesn't change the tv and radio tax you must pay.
Resistance to increasing the radio tax in Germany
In March 2020, the Prime Ministers' Conference increased the contribution from 17.50 € to 18.36 € from January 1, 2021.
But the media state treaty did not come into force from January 1, 2021.
The reason was that Saxony-Anhalt, a federal state in Germany, refused to approve the tv and radio tax increase. Hence, blocking the media state treaty of increasing the radio tax.
Constitutional complaint by the German broadcasters
The obstruction of raising the radio tax forced the ARD broadcasters, ZDF, and Deutschlandradio to lodge a constitutional complaint.
The German Federal Constitutional Court ruled that Saxony-Anhalt violated the freedom of broadcasting by refusing to approve the media state treaty without valid reasons.
The German Federal court set up an interim solution of temporarily increasing the broadcasting fees by 86 cents, effective July 20, 2021.
But the court didn't apply the temporary increase in the radio tax retroactively from January 1, 2021.
A look at the neighbors: France abolished the radio tax of 11.50 € per month to relieve the financial burden on its citizens. In the future, France will fund the operations of public broadcasting companies via VAT.
Payment of Broadcasting Fee in Germany
As of August 2021, each household in Germany must pay a radio tax of 18.36 € per month or 55.08 € per quarter.
Typically, citizens pay the radio tax in Germany quarterly. But you can also pay the radio and tv tax in advance for half a year (110.16 €) or a whole year (220.32 €).
How can you pay radio and tv tax in Germany?
The most convenient way to pay radio tax in Germany is via SEPA direct debit authorization (SEPA Lastschriftverfahren in German).
Under SEPA direct debit, the "ARD ZDF contribution service" automatically deducts the radio tax from your bank account.
Hence, SEPA direct debit ensures timely and accurate payments, even after a fee increase.
Alternatively, you can pay tv tax via bank transfer or standing order. However, you must adjust your standing order whenever the broadcasting fees change.
NOTE: The public broadcasting service does not send any reminders to inform the citizens about a change in the monthly fee.
As a result, many people don't know about the increase in the radio tax. Hence, do not change their standing order.
Thus, it leads to several people defaulting on paying the radio tax.
The consequence is the issue of a notice of assessment by the public broadcasters if you don't pay the outstanding radio tax amount.
On top of it, the public broadcasting companies add a late payment surcharge to the outstanding amount.
The late payment surcharge in Germany is 1% of the outstanding radio tax, but at least 8 euros.
NOTE: Paying "tv and radio tax" in cash is not possible.
How to avoid double payment of radio tax in Germany?
Always confirm with the people living in the shared household if they are already paying the broadcasting fee to avoid double payment of radio tax.
Contribution service considers you live in a shared residence if people other than you registered at the same address.
So, suppose someone in the household is already paying radio tax, and you receive a letter from the public broadcasting channels. In that case, you can deregister yourself by filling out an online form.
Can I get back the radio tax in case of double payment?
Suppose you are unaware that someone in your household is already paying radio tax, and you have paid radio tax for several months.
In this case, you can apply to the ARD ZDF contribution service online to return the paid radio tax and stop deducting it in the future.
Good to know about radio tax in Germany
Deregister yourself from paying radio tax: Children with income living in a household with grandparents or roommates can deregister themselves to avoid paying twice.
The radio tax on the car radio: The radio tax you pay for your household covers your car radio also. Hence, you don't need a separate payment for it.
The radio tax on rental cars: As per the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court (Az. 1 BvR 1675/16 et al.), car rental companies must pay radio tax for the radios in their rental cars.
Register within a month to avoid penalties: Individuals who move out of their parental home to a new place must register their new home within a month.
You can register your new address in 2 mins on Rundfunk's website.
NOTE: Failure to register on time can result in additional fees.
Living in a shared apartment: You don't have to pay radio tax again if you move into a shared apartment where someone else already pays the German tv and radio tax.
However, you should inform the broadcasting service (Rundfunkbeitrag) to avoid getting charged twice. You can do so by filling out the online form on their website.
Is radio tax legal in Germany?
Yes, paying radio tax is a legally prescribed contribution in Germany.
But some citizens in Germany found the broadcasting fee unfair and complained about it.
To which the German constitutional court ruled: The obligation to pay broadcasting fees is compatible with the Basic Law (BVerfG, judgment of July 18, 2018, Az. 1 BvR 1675/16 and others ).
Of course, the burden of paying radio tax is more for people living alone than families or people living in shared apartments. But according to the German constitutional court, it is justified and acceptable.
Moreover, the European Court of Justice (Europäische Gerichtshof (EuGH)) also declared the German broadcasting fee to be permissible and not an illegal state aid (EuGH, the judgment of December 13, 2018, case no. C-492/17 ).
What counts as an apartment for tv and radio tax authorities?
The same authority, "Gebühreneinzugszentrale (GEZ)," collects the broadcasting fee as before 2013, only with a new name.
The German tv and radio tax collection center (GEZ) is now called ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contribution Service.
The "ARD ZDF contribution service" charge the broadcasting fee based on the apartment as a unit.
German television and radio services define an apartment as a stationary, structurally self-contained unit that is
suitable or used for living or sleeping,
has its own entrance,
And cannot be accessed via another apartment.
Communal accommodations like boarding schools or barracks and arbors in allotment gardens where overnight stays are not allowed are exempt from the broadcasting fee.
No radio tax on your second home
No broadcasting fee for your second home in Germany
Until July 2018, second homes and privately used holiday homes were subject to broadcasting contributions.
But the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) ruled that it is incompatible with the Basic Law (July 18, 2018, Az. 1 BvR 1675/16 and others).
Thus, the federal states implemented the ruling on November 1, 2019, allowing people to stop paying radio tax for their secondary residences.
How to stop paying radio and tv tax for your second home?
There are two ways to apply for the exemption from paying radio tax on your second home.
By submitting an application online.
By sending a letter to the ARD ZDF contribution service.
Prerequisite to the exemption from paying radio tax on your second house
The only prerequisite is registering your primary and secondary residence at the residents' registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt in German).
NOTE: Your spouse or registered partner is also exempt from paying radio tax on the main and secondary residences if you already pay the radio tax on one of the residences.
Informing broadcasting services via a letter
You can inform the "ARD ZDF contribution service" about your second home via letter.
In the letter, mention that you are paying the radio and tv tax for your first home. And enclose proof of your first and secondary residence.
Public broadcasting services accept the following documents as proof.
The registration certificate (Einwohnermeldebescheinigung in German) of the primary and secondary residences from the residents' registration office.
Or the tax assessment of the second house.
NOTE: Since November 2019, the exemption from paying radio tax on secondary residences applies from the month in which the application is submitted or up to three months before this point in time. Assuming you met the radio tax exemption requirements.
Exemption from paying radio tax
Who doesn't have to pay radio tax in Germany?
The "ARD ZDF contribution service" exempted the following people from paying broadcasting contributions.
People suffering from severe physical limitations like deaf-blind people and recipients of assistance for blind people.
Residents of nursing homes who are cared for on a full-time basis.
People with severely handicapped IDs (Schwerbehindertenausweis) with the RF indicator pay a reduced broadcasting fee of 73.44 yearly.
Timeline of change in radio tax for severely handicapped people
Until 2012: Severely handicapped people were completely exempt from paying radio tax.
From 2013: They paid one-third of the regular contribution rate.
Since August 2021: The broadcasting contribution fee has been 73.44 € per annum.
Radio tax exemption for social reasons
You don't pay the ARD ZDF broadcasting fee if you receive certain social security benefits ( § 4 Para. 1 RBStV ).
Basic security (Grundsicherung in German) in old age
Social assistance (Sozialhilfe in German)
Unemployment benefit II (Bürgergeld or Arbeitslosengeld in German).
NOTE: Pensioners entitled to social assistance but not applying for it cannot be exempted from the broadcasting fee. Receiving financial aid in the form of social benefits is a prerequisite for the exemption from paying radio tax (VG Koblenz, the judgment of October 19, 2021, Az. 5 K 557/21.KO).
Married couple: If you or your partner is exempt from the broadcasting fee for social reasons, the other does not have to pay either.
Student loans: Those who receive student loans or vocational training grants are exempted from the broadcasting fee obligation.
Flat sharing: If a resident of a flat-sharing community is exempt from paying the radio tax because they are receiving student loans, then their non-exempt flatmate must pay the radio tax.
Asylum seekers: People living in residences for asylum seekers do not pay radio tax.
How to apply for radio tax exemption due to social reasons?
Fill out the "Apply for exemption or reduction" form (Befreiung oder Ermäßigung beantragen in German) on the ARD ZDF contribution service's website.
Print out the completed application.
Send it with supporting documents to the "ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contribution Service, 50656 Cologne."
What happens if you don't pay the radio and tv tax?
You will receive a contribution notice (Beitragsbescheid in German) with a late payment penalty if you don't pay the radio tax.
The late payment penalty is 1 percent of the unpaid contribution fee, but at least 8 €.
NOTE: You will not receive any special radio tax payment reminder. Hence, clarify the situation by contacting the "ARD ZDF contribution service" before things escalate and you receive a court's notice.
You can contact the contribution service via
phone: 01806 999 555 10 (costs 20 cents from a German network)
post: ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice, 50656 Köln
Fake broadcasting fee requests
There are many cases of fraud related to ARD ZDF contribution fee payment.
The fraudsters send fake payment requests as bulk mail. On top of it, they ensure that the letters look similar to the original letters from the "ARD ZDF contribution service."
So, ensure that your address and contribution number (Beitragsnummer in German) are correct when you receive a payment request from the "ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contribution Service."
If you have doubts about the letter's authenticity, contact the "ARD ZDF contribution service" to ensure it came from them.
Frequently asked questions about radio tax in Germany
Can I deregister myself to stop paying tv and radio taxes in Germany?
Yes, you can deregister yourself from paying radio tax in Germany in the following scenarios.
You are paying radio tax for your main residence and want to deregister for your second home.
Do I have to pay a radio tax for the radio in my car?
Private car owners do not pay radio tax for the radio in their cars. But rental car companies must pay radio tax on their rental cars' radios.
By when must I register my new household with the "ARD ZDF contribution service"?
To avoid penalty, you must register your new household with the "ARD ZDF contribution service" within a month.
How can I stop paying the radio tax when I leave Germany permanently?
If you are leaving Germany and are no longer a German resident, you can stop radio tax payments by filling out an online form on the ARD ZDF contribution service's website.
Canceling the radio tax payments via phone or email is not possible.
Do international students have to pay radio and tv tax in Germany?
Yes, everyone who is a resident of Germany must pay radio tax. It doesn't matter if Germany is not your home country.
Do students living in the student residence must pay radio tax in Germany?
Yes, students living in student residences must pay radio tax.
It doesn't matter if your student residence is a single room. As long as it is reachable via an accessible corridor, the contribution service considers it an apartment.
And as you know, each apartment must pay the broadcasting contribution fee.
Of course, you can exempt yourself from paying the radio tax on your second residence, if any. You can learn more about it here.
Where can I find my contribution number (Beitragsnummer)?
You find your contribution number on:
Letter from the "ARD ZDF contribution service."
In your SEPA direct debit transaction details.
By contacting the "ARD ZDF contribution service."