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 via this form. 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

How do i let them know that somebody else in already paying it in my flat/house?

In the case you are moving in somewhere, it’s quite likely somebody else is already paying it. In this case, you can let them know about that via this form, and you won’t need to pay anything further. You will need to provide name, first name and “Beitragsnummer” of that person.

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

385 Comments

  • Reply MARINA 06/04/2020 at 10:35

    HEY! I moved to Munich and I have to register for paying this tv tax. My landlord pays it on our behalf so she give me a number, I guess the Beitragsnummer. Now I am suppose to register myself and I wanna do it online but I cannot find the correct formulary. Could you help me? (Sending the exact link of the formulary)

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/04/2020 at 20:30

      Hey Marina. Go there and pick “auf eine schriftliche Anfrage zur Beitragspflicht antworten.”

  • Reply Mike 04/04/2020 at 16:29

    Hi Bastien!
    First thank you very much for helping people this way, it is great to see someone help with the bureaucracy that can indeed get pretty difficult! Then the story and questions, which I tried to make short, but without leaving important details away it’s somewhat long anyway.
    I have lived some years now in Germany, first in a student residence with a roommate where I paid half of the 17.5€ monthly as my roommate paid the other half. Now living alone I have paid the full 17.5€ ever since. Some time ago, the ard zdf threatened me with a court case if I didn’t pay the other half from my time in the dormitory, although my roommate had already paid that part. The lawyer of theirs (external) said I should have paid in full and let them know the ID of my roommate so he wouldn’t have to pay, or I’d paid nothing and my roommate would have paid it full.
    I’ve contacted ard zdf with the formulas on their website multiple times, but never have I received any sort of answer. When I have tried calling them, they refuse to speak English but sometimes offer to transfer (and wait again 10, 15 minutes) to another colleague who should speak English, only to be refused service again in English.
    After some months I thought it’s probably easier just to pay the other half again and get rid of the problem, so I did.

    Now they are still anyway continuing sending me letters and demanding to pay even more and claiming often that I haven’t paid, also for example all 3 months of this year, although I’ve paid it monthly.
    What can I do against such blackmailing and extortion?
    How can I get them pay back what I have paid extra and the costs I’ve had trying to solve this problem?
    Lawyers might get expensive pretty quickly if I need one and then lose the case. Also the lawyer of theirs whom I spoke with, just says they can’t help me.
    I’ve tried contacting them multiple times multiple ways with no avail and just keep getting these letters, no matter how I have tried to solve this problem they’re ignoring every contact, and it’s costing already much time and money.
    What options are there left to try and what do You think would solve the case?

    Thank you and best regards,
    Mike

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/04/2020 at 20:20

      Hey Mike. Sorry to hear about your case. I don’t really have a great answer to be honest: maybe use a German speaking friend to call on behalf of you to clear this up. Also, you may want to send those lawyers a confirmation that your case has now been resolved, from the Rundfunkbeitrag directly?

  • Reply Lucas 01/04/2020 at 15:10

    Hey Bastien! I moved out of Berlin in March – did the Abmeldung with the Burgeramt but not with Rundfunk (just did it online). They just charged me with the €52, do you know what I need to do to get the refund? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2020 at 20:57

      Hey Lucas. Get in touch with this form here, and send them your Abmeldungbestätigung as proof you don’t live in the country anymore, and ask for a refund.

  • Reply Khaled 31/03/2020 at 11:39

    Hi!
    I moved to a new apartment and left my previous one permanently. The contract for my previous apartment will end by 01.04.2020. Yesterday I found out that 52.5 Euros were withdrawn from my bank account for the next three months by ARD-ZDF Deutschlandradio. What should I do to retrieve my money and how can I inform them that I am not living in that apartment anymore?
    Thanks alot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2020 at 20:52

      Hey Khaled. You can use the contact form there.

  • Reply Max 31/03/2020 at 01:31

    Hi, I was in an exchange in Germany for six months. I never received any letter, and now that I am back in my country and already did the “Abmeldung”. I don’t know what to do. Is there a way to pay them the 105 Euro online (without postmail)? I really don’t want any trouble if I decide later to go back to Germany. Should I just forget it?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2020 at 20:50

      Hey Max. I cant say for sure so that is just an opinion: if you never received a letter, then you might be just fine.

  • Reply Anna 29/03/2020 at 12:24

    Hi All,
    I would like to ask do you know how much do I have to pay as a fee if I’m 1-2 week late with sending back by post the Antwortbogen?
    Thank you
    Best regards
    Anna

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 21:05

      Hey Anna. there should not be a problem with so little delay.

      • Reply Anna 30/03/2020 at 11:35

        thank you very much for your quick reply! I would like to ask that do you know, usually, what is the amount of time after they give you a fine, is it one month? And do you know that what is the cost of it? Thank you
        Anna

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/04/2020 at 20:43

          Hey Anna. I cant possibly tell. It’s their own internal rules.

  • Reply Manish Hande 29/03/2020 at 11:27

    Hi,
    Thank you for all this important information. Well, in my case, I am currently living in my apartment since Sept. 2019 and recently I paid radio fees for a year, i.e. 210 EUR. Now I have received another letter stating that I have to pay 70 EUR more. I don’t understand what that is for. Because I probably will be shifting to a new apartment in a new city after completion of the contract period. Can you please help me with it? I don’t know whom to talk with as my German skills are not really good.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 21:05

      Hey Manish. I also cant help you on so little details. The best way is to find a friend or a colleague that could sort this out for you.

  • Reply Martins 25/03/2020 at 15:08

    Hi Joe,
    are non-EU students in Germany exempted from the radio tax?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 20:58

      Hey Martins. No.

  • Reply Varun Gupta 24/03/2020 at 21:44

    I have moved to the germany and to the new apartment on 24 Jan 2020 but the letter i received says that i have to pay from 1st jan.how to get the correction done as i have registered myself on 24 Jan

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 20:54

      Hey Varun. Get in touch with them via one of the contact forms.

  • Reply Akshit Bhatia 23/03/2020 at 19:04

    Hello,
    I came to Germany in October 2019 and stays at student dorms of Paderborn. Since then, all of my friends have received the letter for Radio Tax payment except me. Do I need to make any move myself like registering for it online or notifying someone?
    Will they charge any fine on me later? And Can they make a case against me stating why didnt I register for it sooner?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 20:51

      Hey Akshit. You can either proactively get in touch or wait for their letter. Either way, you will need to pay for the amount due counting from your moving-in date.

  • Reply Caleb 19/03/2020 at 11:04

    If i was out of the country for three months, do I still need to pay for these three months?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/03/2020 at 21:53

      Hey Caleb.Yes.

  • Reply Vishu Bhatnagar 01/03/2020 at 13:08

    Hi Bastian,

    I have moved in a house from 1st November 2019 and my landlord paying the radio tax. Meanwhile, I am also paying the radio tax continously since the time I am living in Germany. My question is, How can I link my account to my landlord account number as I cannot find any form online to link the account, do I need to write a letter to them ?. Also, as I have a proof of city registration that I am living with my landlord, can I claim money which I already paid till now ?. Also, it would be great if you could post the link where we can connect our account with landlord account. Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/03/2020 at 23:27

      Hey Vishu. you can’t really connect accounts. You can only notify them that your landlord is already paying it all. This is the form to use.

  • Reply Mihir Sharma 24/02/2020 at 13:38

    Hello Bastien ,
    I have my landlords Beitragnummer. How do I let the ARD know that he already pays the tax. Is there any particular form or link that I need to fill. Thanks in advance for the help

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2020 at 21:45

      Hey Mihir. Yes, you can use the general contact form on their website.

        • Reply Bryan 26/03/2020 at 20:04

          Hi i just want to ask where i exactly can fill up a online form to declare someone is paying for me
          Is this the one?

          Ich möchte eine Wohnung abmelden, weil… ich zu einem anderen beitragszahler ziehe… oder??

          There are many option on the link previously post. Thanks

          • Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2020 at 21:01

            Yes it is.

  • Reply Aivin James 17/02/2020 at 17:58

    Hi,
    Thank You so much for the article. Actually I’m living in a shared apartment, for all of us one of our room mate is paying the TV Tax. So how could I inform them that my room mate is paying the same for me? One of my room mate already got a letter from ARD.
    Thank You

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/02/2020 at 17:47

      Hey Aivin. As mentioned already, get in touch with them and communicate the Beitragsnummer of your flatmate.

  • Reply Gnana 14/02/2020 at 09:50

    How to pay online?

  • Reply Joe 11/02/2020 at 17:33

    Hey! I moved to Berlin and registered in my apartment in April 2019. I will be moving abroad in March 2020 .I never received anything from them about paying this tax. Am I safe to just forget about it as long as they don’t contact me before de-registering and moving abroad?
    Cheers!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/02/2020 at 09:52

      Hey Joe. Your guess is as good as mine but it might come back to bite you in the ass if you decide to return to Germany at some point.

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