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Radio Tax in Germany

Written by
Janine El-Saghir
Every household in Germany is obliged to pay a radio tax (broadcasting fee) for public broadcasting. Even as an expat, you are not exempt from this. Exemptions from the radio and TV tax are only possible in exceptional cases for social or health reasons. To pay the license fee, you have to register with the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice.
At a glance...
  • The radio tax in Germany is a license fee to support public German TV and radio. It shall guarantee the independence of public broadcasters and their programs.
  • The license fee is levied per household and not per person. How many people live in a home, whether they use the public broadcasters and how many devices they possess, is irrelevant.
  • The radio and TV tax is collected by the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice (contribution service). The amount of the contribution is currently €18.36 per month. It is expected to rise to €18.94 in 2025.
  • The license fee is not a subscription that can be cancelled, but a legally prescribed contribution, which must be paid by all private households. Anyone who is obliged to pay and does not comply with this obligation must expect enforcement measures.
  • Exemptions from the German radio and TV tax are possible for social or health reasons. In other cases, a reduction is granted. The reasons for exemptions or reductions are also defined by law.
  • No radio and TV tax is levied for a second home.

Radio tax in Germany — contribution for public radio and TV programs

The TV and radio taxes in Germany are a broadcasting fee that supports public service broadcasting. This license fee is used to finance national broadcasters such as ARD, ZDF (first and second German television), and ARTE as well as regional public German TV and radio stations in the federal states. In this way, the legislator wants to ensure the independence of public broadcasting services. In addition, public broadcasters in Germany fulfil a legal mandate, meaning that public German TV and radio are entitled to this funding.

The tax or license fee is used for programs that the public broadcasting channels produce themselves — for example news, entertainment, live-sport, or documentaries.

The tax is collected by the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice.

All issues relating to the broadcasting contribution are governed by the interstate broadcasting contribution treaty. In terms of content, the public broadcasting service is subject to the State Treaty for Broadcasting and Telemedia, which is concluded and regularly renewed between the 16 federal states.

Amount of the radio and TV tax

The radio and TV tax in Germany currently amounts to €18.36 per month. It is expected to rise to €18.94 from 2025. The final decision on the increase in contributions lies with the federal states of Germany.

Obligation to pay the license fee — not per person but per household

On January 1, 2013, the financing of public broadcasting in Germany was reorganized — at this time, the former GEZ fee was replaced by the broadcasting fee. People who could prove that they possess neither TV nor radio could be exempted from the GEZ fee.

In contrast, the new broadcasting fee is charged per household. Whether TV and radio or internet access are available, how many people live in the household and how many devices they use, is as irrelevant as the actual media use. The broadcasting tax is independent of the number of people living in this household. International students must also pay the fee if they live in their own apartment.

Second homes are exempt from the obligation to pay radio and TV tax. Rooms in shared accommodation or holiday homes are also exempt from the tax.

Additional information:

International students who live in a student residence are not automatically exempt from the license fee — student residences are not considered shared accommodation.

Advantages for flat sharing communities

If you live in a flat sharing community, the obligation to pay per household can be an advantage. The license fee of currently €18.36 per month must be paid by only one personRegistering for the radio and TV tax

The ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice provides online forms for registering for the radio tax.

You are not only obliged to pay the license fee, but also to register for it. You have one month to do this after moving to a new place. Likewise, you register with the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice using the online form “Register a new flat (Neuanmeldung einer Wohnung)”.

Regardless of whether you proactively register for the radio and TV tax, eventually you will receive a letter from the contribution service. In Germany, you are legally obliged to register at the citizens’ registration office. The offices will send your registration certificate to the contribution service. In addition, the service regularly compares its data with the data from the registration offices and writes to you if your registration address cannot be assigned to a contribution account.

If you move into a shared flat in which someone is already paying the TV and radio tax, you are not obliged to pay a contribution because it has to be paid by only one person in the household. However, you must inform the service of this using the “Clarification (Klärung)” form.

How to pay broadcasting fees in Germany

The law stipulates that the license fee must be paid every three months in the middle of a billing period. This means that you must pay a license fee of €55.80 four times a year. The due dates are February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15. The money must then be credited to the contribution service bank account within four weeks.

You will not receive an invoice on these dates. The service will only send a one-off payment request stating the recurring annual payment dates for the TV and radio tax.

Optional — prepayment for three months, six months or a full year

You also have the option to pay TV tax in advance:

  • €55.08 for three months
  • €110.16 for six months
  • €220.32 for twelve months

To use the prepayment option, go to the contribution service website and fill out the corresponding section on the “Account Information (Änderung zum Beitragskonto)” form.

However, there are no price advantages to paying in advance — the monthly license fee of €18.36 remains the same and the contribution service does not grant any discounts on the TV and radio tax.

Paying the license fee — preferably automatically

The easiest way to pay broadcasting fees is to give the contribution service permission to automatically collect the radio tax from your bank account on the due date. To achieve this, proceed as follows:

  • The letter you received from the contribution service contains your nine-digit account number (contribution number, Beitragsnummer or Aktenzeichen)
  • Enter this number together with your name, address, and other requested information on the “Account Information” form.
  • Then select the “Payment method (Zahlungsmethode)” section and the “Direct debit from my/our bank account (Lastschrift von meinem/unserem Konto)” option. Here, you enter your name or the name of the bank account holder and your IBAN.
  • Send the direct debit authorization form online to the contribution service. All you must do is to save the form on the contribution service website. The license fee will be automatically debited from your bank account.

Alternatives to SEPA direct debit: Standing order or bank transfer

Alternatively, you can also give your bank a standing order to transfer the license fee on time or transfer the amount by bank transfer on the due dates. In addition to your nine-digit account number, you will also need the bank details of the contribution service, which you will also find in the letter from the service.

Important to know:

If the license fee is increased in 2025, you must remember to adjust your standing order accordingly to avoid problems with the contribution service.

Exemption or reduction of the radio and TV tax — only in legally defined cases

The law also specifies the cases in which an exemption from the radio tax or a reduction of the license fee is possible. Both exemptions and reductions require an individual application. The relevant forms are also available on the contribution service website.

The reasons for an exemption or reduction of the license fee must be proven with suitable documents about financial aid by government or medical certificates.

The contribution service must also be informed if the reasons for exemption from or reduction of the radio tax no longer apply.

Exemption from the radio and TV tax by social reasons

The contribution service grants an exemption from the radio tax for social reasons. Eligible are people who receive certain social security benefits:

  • Students and apprentices who receive financial aid (BAföG, federal training grant, training allowance)
  • Recipients of social security benefits (unemployment benefit/Arbeitslosengeld I, citizen’s allowance/Bürgergeld, guaranteed minimum pension)
  • Recipients of care allowance and certain care supplements
  • Asylum seekers

Radio and TV tax reductions by severe health reasons

People with severe physical limitations receive a discount on the license fee — they only pay a third of the regular fee. Discounts are available for:

  • People with disabilities who have a disabled person’s pass and are at least 80% disabled
  • Deaf-blind people as well as severely hearing-impaired or visually impaired people
  • Senior citizens who live in a care facility for the elderly

Deregistration from the radio and TV tax

If you are leaving Germany permanently to your home country or another place of residence, you must inform the contribution service of your departure on the relevant form. Your account for the broadcasting contribution will then be permanently deleted. If you want to live in Germany again for a longer period later, you will have to register with the contribution service once more.

Frequently asked questions — FAQ

The contribution service does not send out payment reminders. Instead, you will immediately receive a so-called assessment notice for the outstanding licence fee, on which you must pay an additional 1% overdue payment surcharge, but at least €8. You can object to the assessment notice within one month — for example, if you were not required to register during the period stated in the notice, if you have an exemption or if you have already paid the amount due. In the case of larger arrears, you can also negotiate an instalment payment or deferral within the objection period.

If you do not pay or object, you will receive a final reminder from the contribution service after the end of the objection period. If no payment of the licence fee is made after this, it will hand the case over to the enforcement authority. The tax will then be collected by the bailiff, via an account seizure or a debt collection company. You can also expect a negative Schufa entry.

Yes, the contribution service offers contact forms and a nationwide service number (01806 999 555 10).

Yes, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled in 2018 that no TV and radio licence fee may be levied on second homes and holiday homes. Since January 2019, the tax may no longer be levied on second and secondary residences.

The prerequisite for the tax exemption is that you must be registered at the residents’ registration office with your main residence and the secondary residence. The exemption applies not only to the flat owner, but also to spouses and registered partners. It must be applied for at the contribution service using the “Exemption for secondary residence” form.

Yes — but under different conditions than in Germany. France has abolished broadcasting contributions in 2022 and finances public broadcasting through VAT. In the UK, a subscription model applies to the BBC — fees are only paid by people who use public broadcasting services.

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