We provide you with important information what to think about and what to do after you move to Germany. Starting with registration in the town hall, broadcasting fees, vehicle registration, taxes and charges.
Notify the town hall of your arrival
After moving into a German town, you have one week to register at the town hall or residency office (Bürgeramt). There, you will receive a confirmation of your registration (Anmeldebestätigung). In order to go through this free but obligatory procedure, you need the following documents:
- a completed registration form (Anmeldeformular),
- a valid identity card or passport and your rental agreement (Mietvertrag) or sales contract as proof of accommodation.
If you move again within Germany, you must notify the authorities of your change of address (abmelden) before leaving and re-register in your new town.
Gas, electricity and water
No water supply company included in the utility costs of your rental contract? Ask the local town council to direct you to the appropriate company. As a matter of course, this concerns your house or apartment’s distribution system. For electricity or gas, the German energy market was liberalized at the end of the 1990s. You can choose between many providers but be sure to inquire about their offers and compare their services with other companies first. On websites such as www.vervox.de or www.biallo.de you can compare the offers of the providers.
Telephone and Internet in Germany
You can choose from a large amount of offers from various German telephone operators and Internet access providers.
In Germany, you can get package contracts including landline telephone and Internet access for a monthly rate. Before making your choice, you should think about what use you will make of the phone (frequency and destination of the calls) as well as the length of your subscription. Commitment periods in German telephone contracts are fixed. There are no clauses accepting legitimate reasons for early termination of contract (moving abroad for example). The operator has the right to ask for the payment of the full subscription. However it is possible to cancel the subscription in observance of three months term of notice before the end of the contract term if the operator does not provide his services at your new residence.
Taxes and charges in Germany
Here you find some important information on taxes and charges concerning motor vehicles, property, audiovisual licence and dogs.
Tax on motor vehicles. A car driver in Germany must pay an annual tax: the “Kraftfahrzeugsteuer” (or Kfz-Steuer), which must be paid at the local tax office (Finanzamt). The amount of car tax depends on the date of the first registration, the engine size, the type of fuel used and the CO2 emissions. Here, you can calculate the amount of your "Kfz-Steuer".
Property tax: Property tax is paid by the property owner, but is sometimes a part of the utility expenses in the rental contract.
Audiovisual license: Anyone in Germany owning audiovisual equipment (television set, clock radio, computer…) must pay an annual license fee to the “Gebühreneinzugszentrale” (GEZ). You can register online at www.rundfunkbeitrag.de. Read more about it under "The broadcast license fee in Germany".
Dog tax. If you own a dog in Germany, you must register it at the local town hall and pay dog tax. The cost varies between local councils (sometimes the owner must pay per dog) and different breeds of dog are taxed at different rates.
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.
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.
Vehicle registration in Germany
If you move to Germany, you are not allowed to keep your license plate. You have to register your car as soon as possible. This must be done at your local vehicle Registration Office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle).
Documents to bring to the Registration Office:
- Valid identity card or passport
- Proof of residency - which will be given to you when you register at the municipal services (mandatory step- see below).
- Original EU certificate of conformity
- Original vehicle registration documents
- Certificate of transfer of ownership, or original bill
- Current vehicle insurance documentation
Additional documents to bring along in case of:
1. A new car (less than 6 months old or which has not travelled more than 6.000 km)
A value-added tax (VAT) return statement that the Registration Office forwards to the competent finance authority (“Finanzamt”) to determine the VAT
2. A used vehicle
A certificate of conformity issued by the technical inspection service TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein) and a certificate of exhaust emissions (AU-Bescheinigung) test for all vehicles. These two tests are normally performed at the same place.
The EU certificate of conformity
If you are not in possession of the EU certificate of conformity, you can ask your manufacturer for this document. If there is no EU certificate of conformity existing, you will have to show the registration office a certificate for individual approval (Vollgutachten des TÜV). This document will also be equivalent to an acceptance certificate from a technical inspection center and an exhaust emissions test.
Understanding your German energy bill
Apart from the consumer’s and provider’s contact information, the header of the bill should always include:
|Customer reference number =||Kundennummer|
|Invoice date =||Rechnungsdatum|
|Invoice number =||Rechnungsnummer|
|The period for which the electricity (or energy) bill was issued =||Rechnung für Stromlieferung vom … (date) bis … (date).|
The consumer pays every month a set amount called “Abschlag” which includes:
|Type of supply = Versorgungsart or business sector =||Geschäftsbereich|
|Advance payment for electricity =||Strom-Abschlag|
|Contract number =||Vertragsnummer|
|Subject of the contract = Vertragsgegenstand or terms of the contract =||Vertragsbezeichnung|
|Basic supply =||Grundversorgung|
|Gross amount =||Bruttobetrag|
|V.A.T (in percent and euro) =||Umsatzsteuer (USt.)|
This monthly amount is based on the consumption of the previous year, an estimated advance payment.
At the end of the year, the provider sends a summary invoice which includes:
- Actual energy consumption and its cost
- Advance payments
- Sum that the consumer has to pay, or that he will be refunded
Apart from these figures, you will also find:
|Advance payments to deduct (sums already paid) =||abzüglich angeforderte Abschläge|
|Amount of the bill =||Rechnungsbetrag|
|Additional existing debt =||zuzüglich bestehende Forderung|
The amount of the monthly advance payments can be adjusted every year, after the summary invoice is sent, and is calculated according to the consumer’s actual consumption in the previous year.
The final price on the bill is all inclusive:
The bill must be paid by transfer or deposit into the provider’s account by the due date.