German TV tax – What to do about the Rundfunkbeitrag letter?

When you thought just had it all under control, the German administration has a way to remind you who is the boss. This reminder might take the form of an innocent ARD ZDF letter letting you know about the TV & radio broadcasting fees in Germany, otherwise known at the Rundfunkbeitrag.

This is no less than a German TV tax that each household ought to pay in order to finance the production and the broadcasting of content by public channels.

Rundfunkbeitrag letter german TV tax

Put your anti-bore suit on and learn here why it’s important to take care of this and fast.

Why and how did you receive this Rundfunkbeitrag letter at home?

This German TV tax has been issued by the government in 2013 to replace an older rule that stated that only owners of radio and TV sets should pay any kind of fees. This older rule was hard to apply since it was practically very difficult to check whether or not it was the case for any given individual. Many people lied and got away with it since agents were not legally allowed to come into your home.

Arguably, consumption of public content can now happen with tablets, computers and phones, which everybody has nowdays. As a result, this flat fee was decided and each household in Germany has to pay 17,50€ monthly (since 2015). The institution in charge of collecting TV & radio broadcasting fees in Germany is called “Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio”, or simply “Beitragsservice”. It replaces the older institution called GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale), which is why you might see this name in forums sometimes.

The reason why you received this Rundfunkbeitrag letter is simple:

The Beitragsservice is a public institution with access to public resources. When registering yourself at the Bürgeramt with the Anmeldung, it was able to access your data and send you a letter.

Which courses of action can you take?

Pay up

The most obvious decision is submit to what is after all an institutionalized TV tax in Germany. A law has been passed and it applies to all citizens. You can register or submit your account details online on the official website.

Apply for exemptions or reductions

Of course, if your vision or your hearing is impaired, you can let the Beitraggservice know about it to reduce or avoid altogether the fee. Recipient of social welfare benefits (Arbeitslosengeld II, Sozialgeld or Grundsicherung im Alter) or grants (BAföG, Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe or Ausbildungsgeld) are also exempted. It makes sense: no need to pass public money around. If you are not German-speaking, i’m afraid this doesn’t count. You still have to pay.

If you are not German-speaking, i’m afraid this doesn’t count. You still have to pay.

Prove someone already pays it for you

This case is particularly relevant for people living in shared flats or other communities. The flat fee of 17,50€ apply to one household and not to each person living within it. This means that if your flat mate already pays for it, simply let them know about it and they will leave you alone.

Ignore the letters

Now there are very well documented cases of people simply staying put and hoping the Beitragsservice letters will go away after a while. After initial reminders, their response will gradually increase in severity. Although this can earn you some time to think about it, the Beitragsservice can use legal actions to obtain their money. Eventually, you will receive a letter from your Finanzamt asking you to pay this on their behalf. Even if this happens only after a year or two, you will have to pay hundreds of euros for all the time you didn’t reply. (17,50€ per month remember?). Additional fees will also occur for sending reminders and being late. More info about this in German here.

Take part to a boycott

There are a certain number of people who think it’s quite unfair to pay a TV tax in Germany when they are never watching any of the programs on public channels. This might seem even more absurd when they can’t speak the language. If you agree, you can take part to boycott movements at your own risks. It is by nature illegal. This website is a good place to start.

Beware, it is by nature illegal.

How to notify you are leaving the country and stop paying the German TV tax?

This is an issue that is all too often forgotten by foreigners moving back to their country. It won’t be enough to notify the Bürgeramt you are leaving the country. An additional notification to the Beitragsservice will be necessary so they remove you from their databases. It is recommended to do it a bit in advance via their website. If you don’t do that and come back to Germany; they will look for you, they will find you, they will make you pay.

Thankfully, Liam Neeson is not in charge of collection

Although it is quite frustrating to be obligated to pay this Rundfunkbeitrag, you might as well give public programs a shot. It’s good for your German skills after all. ARTE is my personal favorite.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

 

275 Comments

  • Reply Rahman 17/08/2019 at 16:57

    Hi,
    I received letter for to pay about €500.
    Can i pay this step by step?
    Thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/08/2019 at 09:55

      Hey Rahman. Get in touch with them directly to negotiate installments.

  • Reply Alex 18/07/2019 at 21:55

    Hi, thanks for the article. I’ve been living in my flat for about 5 years and I did my Anmeldung as soon as I moved in. Until very recently, I had NEVER received a letter from ARD. I have proof of the first letter they sent me asking my entry date in the apartment few months ago. They are now asking me for more than €900 for the last years. I think it’s quite unfair since it was not my mistake but they simply forgot me. I would have been fine paying the monthly amount but a chunk of €900 is painful. Do you know if I have the right to appeal?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/07/2019 at 14:19

      Hey Alex. This is going into legal territory now, so i would not give you bad advice. It’s best to ask a professional about this.

    • Reply Goran 13/08/2019 at 08:07

      The same happen to me. They simply didn’t send me any bills even though I am registered. As i don’t watch TV or listen to a radio or even speak German, this never came to my mind. When they found out that I exist, they hit me with a bill of more then 700,00. Criminals! I have paid, as this people are not humans, they exist to steal your money,

  • Reply Demet S 17/07/2019 at 14:03

    Hello, first of all, thank you so much for the information.
    I was an Erasmus Student for almost 1 year and I was paying my fee in 3 months always. On 01.07 they took 52 Euros from me. But, I will go back to my country on 26.07, so they took more money than they should. I want to take my money back, do you know what I need to do and also how many days does it take to get the money back? Because I want to close my bank account actually as soon as possible.
    Thank you so much.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/07/2019 at 14:11

      Hey Demet. The only thing i can think of is that you can send them your Abmeldung Bestätigung from the Standesamt when your are gone, and claim the money back for the time you weren’t in the country anymore.

  • Reply Manish 14/07/2019 at 14:28

    Hi There,
    We moved into a sublet apartment for 3 months about 3 weeks ago, and on friday we received the letter to pay the TV/Radio tax both in my name and in the name of my wife.
    Do we need to pay it if the main tenants are already paying it?
    If they are paying to which office should we reach out to?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/07/2019 at 09:49

      Hey Manish. One person per household needs to pay it indeed. Get in touch with the main tenants to see what’s up. You don’t need to pay it if they do.

      • Reply Manish 23/07/2019 at 14:27

        Hi Bastien,
        Thanks for the reply. In case the main tenants are already paying, to which office should I reach out to let them know that it is already paid by the main tenants.

        Thanks,
        Manish

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/07/2019 at 20:45

          Hey Manish. Just use of their contact forms on the Rundfunkbeitrag website.

          • Manish 24/07/2019 at 14:08

            Ok, thank you.

  • Reply Sue 11/07/2019 at 15:38

    Hello, I suppose if you are an ID Card holder you are exempt from having to pay GEZ. At least all my ID Card Holding friends are all not paying. Sending in a copy of the ID Card would suffice?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/07/2019 at 21:55

      Hey Sue. I have no idea what you are talking about. This is flat-out wrong.

  • Reply Ed 01/07/2019 at 15:58

    Hi, thanks for this (and the fact you are still responding to new questions!)

    For a short period I signed the rental lease on a new property whilst still living at a previous property which was covered by the landlords license.

    I.e. I paid rent on two properties from mid-April, but did not take up residence in my new property until the 1st of May. Their claim is that I owe them money for April even though I was living in a flat covered by another license.

    …thinking a bit further your article does state every household has to pay regardless how many people live in it. But is it really a household if there is no one living in it?

    Many thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/07/2019 at 22:43

      Hey Ed. You can get in touch with them on this page to clarify your situation. If no one is registered in the flat, then no fees can apply.

  • Reply Sabari 01/07/2019 at 14:28

    I live in Kamp-Lintfort. Every three months, 52 euros gets deducted from my account. I have left my earlier accommodation in February and for the new accommodation, it has been already paid by my roommate as it is a shared flat. But still, they are charging me. How do I contact them for this issue?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/07/2019 at 22:39

      Hey Sabari. You can use the contact forms available on this page.

  • Reply Jelena 27/06/2019 at 18:02

    Hi, thank you for this useful article.
    I have never received a Rundfunkbeitrag letter, and I’ve been living in Berlin for almost a year now. What should I do?
    Do I have to contact my rental agency, but it doesn’t make sense to me if Rundfunkbeitrag letter is addressed on me?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/06/2019 at 22:23

      Hey Jelena. You can either wait for the letter to arrive and pay a lump sum for the time in between, or get in touch with them proactively.

      • Reply Jelena Hadziomerovic 01/07/2019 at 21:45

        Many thanks, Bastien!

  • Reply Lynne 13/06/2019 at 16:34

    Hello I received a bill for 696 euros in my name for my place for the past two years. I rent from my friend who is the main person on the rental contract. He refuses to pay them so they have come after ne. I have no problem paying them every three months but not for the time when it was not my debt. Any suggestions? HELP (I only make about 500 a month!)

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/06/2019 at 10:38

      Hey Lynne. You can use your subtenant/rental contract start date to show that you were not living there during that whole time for example.

  • Reply Naghmeh Torabi 13/05/2019 at 10:00

    Hi there,

    I am a new student here and living in a student accommodation. I have registered my address two weeks ago. I am aware that I have to pay for a German TV tax. Considering I have not received any mail up to now, Should I wait for it?
    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/05/2019 at 14:11

      Hey Naghmeh. You can both wait or register right away proactively.

  • Reply matteo 18/04/2019 at 12:42

    Hello Bastien,

    can I ask something about the online procedure?

    For many people, especially from abroad, fill the form or the online form is not easy, because is in German language.

    Do you know where can I find some suggestions about it or info in Berlin? I translated all the online form, I probably make it but I don’t want make some mistake.

    Thanks

    Matteo

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/04/2019 at 20:09

      Hey Matteo. Which form do you mean now? They have many ^^

  • Reply Eslam 18/04/2019 at 11:57

    Hello,
    I live in a shared flat and the landlord is paying for that, what actions do I need to take to prove it to the Tax Authorities?
    He told me to give them his name and telephone number, but I don’t even know how to contact them.
    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/04/2019 at 20:08

      Hey Eslam. Why would you give this information to the Finanzamt?

  • Reply Madde 17/04/2019 at 17:45

    Hello!
    I am in a strange situation. I was living in a shared flat and with the owner and they said they are paying already so I ignored it. But I had to move from that place. Once I registered at the new address, I got started getting letters from them that I am due around 100 euros or something. I realised the previous owner had been lying. I don’t know what to do about that. But to make things more complex, I received another letter, only now I was due around 150 euros. I have been living in the new place for 2 and a half months now, I don’t understand why they are adding the amount to the previous balance since my new owner is paying for the current place. What can I do? I am a student and don’t speak German that well.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:27

      Hey Madde. There is no other solution than to get in touch with them, i’m afraid. Maybe a German speaking friend would help you?

    • Reply Uday 23/04/2019 at 18:36

      Just send them a letter by post to their address in Köln, explaining them the facts . Your request will be accepted even in English. The postage stamp will not cost you more than 70 Euro Cents.
      In case need arises, make sure you are ready with written proofs in the previous and present rental contracts, about your landlords paying the charges.

  • Reply Amy 15/04/2019 at 21:15

    Hi there,
    I was wondering if you could tell me – when I move apartment and change my Anmeldung, does it automatically update the address for your Rundfunkbeitrag or do I need to do this separately? Many thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:57

      Hey Amy. You need to do this separately.

  • Reply Matthew Kendrick 08/04/2019 at 13:25

    Hello and thank you so much for the informative article!

    I’m living in a sublet flat. The main tenant informs me that he’s already paid the Rundfunkbeitrag, and he sent me his Beitragsnummer. Problem is that it has 14 digits, while on the form I have to fill out it says that it should be 9 numbers only. What he sent me looks like this: RE30X264970546. Did he give me the wrong code or should I just use the last 9 numbers of it?

    Kind regards,
    Matt

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/04/2019 at 10:08

      Hey Matthew, the Beitragsnummer is 9 digit. Are you sure he gave you the right ref?

      • Reply Matt 09/04/2019 at 16:32

        Thanks for your reply! Yeah I was hoping that maybe the 9 last numbers of my 14 digit one could be what I’m looking for, but if noone has seen it in that format then he must have given me the wrong one. Hope I can get a hold of him before the payment deadline as he’s traveling, I’ve written to the GEZ too to ask.

    • Reply may 19/05/2019 at 14:23

      I think they seem to be able to trace you down when you move. I moved from one place to another and registered my new address.. not long after I received the TV tax letter to my new address which is already being paid for by my current housemate. So I have to now inform them that the house is already registered and being paid for which I have done online by filling in the form on “Questions about my contribution” and left them with my housemates Beitragsnummer. I hope that will work.

  • Reply Fred 27/03/2019 at 22:01

    Hi, I moved to Germany in the middle of the week but they charged the full fee of the first calendar month. Can I get some money back for my first calendar month

    • Reply Fred 27/03/2019 at 22:02

      sorry, a typo: …moved to Germany in the middle of a calendar month…

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/03/2019 at 20:15

      Hey Fred. Get in touch with them-

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