Broadcast license in Germany
Public digital and audio broadcast companies in Germany are financed by a broadcast license fee, which is similar to a tax fee.
Update: Dec 2015
The unified tariff - what is new about it?
Before 2013, there was no unified tariff as this fee was paid according to the number and type of broadcasting equipment owned. Since the 1st of January 2013 however, everybody must pay the same amount of 17.50 €, independent of the number and type of broadcasting equipment that each household has. The amount is paid per household, irrespective of the number of people living in it.
What do I have to do in order to pay the license fee correctly?
After you have registered at your local registration office, you will be contacted by the license fee authority (Beitragsservice). They will provide you with further information about how to pay the fee.
If you are already registered and have been paying the license fee according to the old provisions, the change to the new system will be automatic: as of the 1st Jan. 2013, you will pay the unified fee.
If you profit from the new provision and pay less than before (e.g. if you live in one household with several people and another person pays the fee), you must inform the “Beitragsservice” of this fact in writing along with your identification number and, if you want to unregister, with the number of the person that will pay the fee for your household. This must be sent to the following address:
Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio
What happens if I do not pay the fee?
According to the old system, the responsible authority had to prove that you own broadcasting equipment in order to make you pay the fee. However, according to the new system, you have to prove that you do not own any broadcasting equipment (this includes a computer) and therefore are unable to receive any kind of broadcasting service.
Attention: If you do not pay the fee, this is considered an administrative offence and can lead to a fine!
Can I be exempt from the paying the fee?
If you do not have a lot of money (as a student or an apprentice) or receive social benefits, you can apply for an exemption for this fee. Also, people with severe disabilities are only required to pay a third of the fee, while deaf and blind people are completely exempt.