What is the Rundfunkbeitrag?
Broadcasting fee in Germany – ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice (GEZ)
The Rundfunkgebühr, commonly known as the “broadcasting fee,” plays a crucial role in financing public broadcasting companies in Germany. Administered by the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice (GEZ), the broadcasting fee (“Rundfunkbeitrag”) is collected from all citizens, companies, and institutions as a legally prescribed contribution. The broadcasting fee supports the public service provided by the Broadcasting Corporation, an institution under public law, jointly representing the federal states’ public broadcasting channels (ARD), the Second German Television (ZDF), and Deutschlandradio. Through this structured system, the broadcasting service ensures the sustainability and quality of public broadcasting, fostering a vibrant and independent media landscape for the benefit of the German public.
What is the GEZ?
The acronym GEZ, derived from “Gebühreneinzugszentrale,” translates to the “broadcasting fee collecting agency.” While its former name is still commonly used, the organization has undergone a transformation in 2013 and is now officially known as ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice. Due to the long title, many Germans still colloquially refer to it as GEZ. The agency is responsible for collecting the broadcasting fee, also known as the “Rundfunkbeitrag” the legally mandated contribution supporting public broadcasting services in Germany. Expats also often dub it as “radio tax,” “broadcasting license,” or “state broadcasting contribution”.
How much is the Broadcasting Fee?
Each German household is required to pay 220 euros a year to the public broadcasting service. For private homes, the current fee is 18.36 euros per month. You can choose between several payment rhythms. You can make a statutory payment in the middle of three months, a quarterly payment in advance to the first of a quarter, a semi-annually in advance payment on the first of each half-year, or the annual advance payment on the first of each year.
Who must register with the broadcasting service GEZ?
Everybody over 18 who lives in Germany, no matter their nationality, must pay monthly broadcasting fees for the public broadcasting service. You must register with the public broadcasting service (GEZ), even if you do not have a TV, Internet access, or a radio.
The broadcasting fee contribution is collected under the one household – one contribution rule. This means that if you have flat mates, or are living with more than one person in a shared apartment, the fee is only due once.
Usually, the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice will automatically send you an invitation to register when you first register your residence in Germany. However, if you do not receive an invitation, you are still required to register with the GEZ.
Exemption from GEZ broadcasting fee contributions
Individuals facing significant physical limitations, such as those who are deaf-blind or receiving blind aid under SGB XII, are eligible to apply for exemption from the obligation to pay the broadcasting fee. Additionally, contributors receiving specific social security benefits, like BAföG for students or “Bürgergeld” for the unemployed, can also qualify for an exemption. Application for such exemptions must be submitted in writing and are valid for one year.
In cases where one flatmate in a shared apartment is exempt due to receiving student loans or unemployment benefits, the benefit does not extend to other flat mates. Therefore, if multiple persons are registered at the same address, and one flatmate is exempt, the remaining residents are still responsible for the total apartment fee. For married couples, it’s a bit different. If one partner is exempt from the broadcasting fee or only pays a reduced price, this privilege extends to their partner.
How to apply for an exemption from broadcasting fees
You can apply for an exemption from the obligation to pay the broadcasting fees. The GEZ website states that an exemption can be granted retroactively for up to three years, so if you meet the requirements for an exemption, you may be able to cancel your obligation retroactively.
To apply for an exemption from the broadcasting fee, you can fill out the application form online. You may need documentation supporting your exemption application, such as proof of income or disability. It’s important to note that you should only apply if you have the required evidence.
Do students need to pay broadcasting fees to the GEZ in Germany?
Students from EU member states and international students must submit proof of sufficient means (enough money) to stay in Germany. Therefore, an exemption for the broadcasting fees is usually not possible. However, the broadcasting companies can exempt students from the broadcasting fee if they receive a study support benefit from their home country comparable to BAföG.
How do I register with the GEZ to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag?
To register with the Broadcasting Corporation (GEZ), visit the official public broadcasting website at https://www.rundfunkbeitrag.de/. There you can submit your details online to set up your account with the GEZ. Note that the registration process is entirely in German. If you do not speak German, it is best to ask for help from a German-speaking friend as translation programs rarely work on the website. The online registration with the Beitragsservice is free of charge.
How to register an apartment under someone else’s Beitragsnummer?
When moving into an apartment where another person is already covering the broadcasting fee, it is necessary to cancel your braodcasting contribution with the GEZ. This can be done online, and you will be required to provide the name and contributor’s number associated with the existing account (only in German).
What happens if you don’t register with the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice?
On a specified reporting date, all residents’ registration offices submit the registration data of all adults in Germany to the contribution service in a procedure called “Meldedatenabgleich”. This means that anybody whose home had no record of a contribution account on the day of the Meldedatenabgleich will be contacted by the public broadcasting service.
If there is no response from the person contacted, the Beitragsservice will send a reminder letter. If the person contacted does not respond to this either, they will automatically be registered for the license fee by the Beitragsservice. This means that the person receives a contribution account and is asked to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag. If they still do not pay or do not respond, overdue notices and even a request for debt enforcement are triggered automatically.
How can I find my Rundfunkbeitrag number?
Referred to as the GEZ number, contribution number, or “Beitragsnummer” this identifier is crucial for communicating with the Beitragsservice. Each resident is assigned a 9-digit contribution number, that is associated with their address and the main contribution payer of the household.
Fortunately, there are convenient ways to find it. Look for the broadcasting account number prominently positioned in the upper right-hand corner of letters from the broadcasting contribution service. These letters, ranging from registration confirmations to payment requests, display the 9-digit contribution number beneath the contact details (see image below).
If you’re part of the SEPA Direct Debit Scheme and don’t receive payment requests, locating your contribution number remains simple. Check your bank statement, as the number consistently appears as a payment reference. This is applicable for both SEPA direct debit and streamlined transfer forms.
If you do not have access to either of these options, you can also contact the GEZ to find your contribution number. Please note that English customer support might be unavailable. If you contact them in writing, we recommend including a copy of your ID and a current registration certificate with your inquiry to expedite the process.
How To Pay Rundfunkbeitrag?
For your Rundfunkbeitrag payments, you have the option of using the SEPA-Lastschrift-Mandat. By granting the GEZ/Contribution Service permission to directly withdraw payments from your account, you ensure timely payments without the risk of forgetting. This flexible method allows you to schedule payments every three, six, or 12 months.
Alternatively, if you prefer an independent payment approach, the billing process has changed since 2022. Instead of receiving regular bills, households now receive a single invoice annually, payable in full upon receipt. If you opt for quarterly payments, you must manage the payments on your own. Set a reminder in your calendar, and note the required bank details. You can find them on the website of the Rundfunkbeitrag.
What happens if you do not pay the GEZ broadcasting fee?
If you forget to pay the monthly broadcasting fee, the consequences are initially relatively manageable. Forgetting to pay incurs a late payment surcharge, typically around one percent of the outstanding contribution debt or a minimum of eight euros if payment is delayed beyond four weeks.
The GEZ ensures contribution compliance and imposes fines for non-payment. Ignoring these payment requests escalates the matter to a notice of assessment, the initial step toward potential compulsory enforcement. This notice details all outstanding contributions and late payment penalties.
Subsequent steps may involve GEZ reclaiming amounts owed through measures like bank account deductions, wage garnishment, or the involvement of a bailiff officer. Legal actions may extend to seizing life insurance claims or social benefits through court orders. Refusal may result in administrative offense proceedings, carrying fines of up to 1,000 euros.
While imprisonment was a past resort, broadcasters now emphasize a reluctance to resort to preventive detention. To address any discrepancies or errors in GEZ letters, promptly communicate with them.
Even if you’re no longer a resident of Germany, failing to settle the GEZ can still lead to penalties and legal consequences. It’s crucial to proactively cancel your broadcasting contribution to sidestep potential legal and financial repercussions.
How to cancel your broadcasting contribution (Rundfunkbeitrag) when leaving Germany
You can cancel your GEZ broadcasting fees if, you are:
- relocating to an apartment where broadcasting fees are already covered
- giving up a second home
- moving abroad
In the unfortunate event of the fee-payer living alone and passing away, relatives must take the initiative to cancel the broadcasting fee. Termination of your broadcasting fee can be done at any time if one of the specified reasons applies, without a specific notice period. It’s important to note, that the termination becomes effective the following month.
To initiate the cancellation process, visit the GEZ website. Here you’ll find the necessary forms for the deregistration (only in German). The Rundfunkbeitrag cancellation cannot be processed over the phone or via email, as the cancellation must be submitted in writing. Alternatively, you can print out the completed documents and send them to the GEZ. Alternatively, you can compose a handwritten or typed letter containing the following information:
- Your name
- Address of the apartment you wish to cancel
- The date on which you would like to cancel the GEZ fees
- Reason for the deregistration
- the required proof, such as a copy of the deregistration certificate or registration confirmation
This process is completely free of charge.
Please remember that you must provide a German address to have your termination confirmation sent. You must keep this document because it will be your future proof of canceling your account with them. Keep in mind that all documents must be submitted in the German language. If you don’t speak German, ask a friend to help, or use our free step-by-step guide here.
How to contact the GEZ?
To contact the GEZ and cancel your broadcasting fee can use this address:
ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice
It is best to send the notice of termination by tracked mail to the GEZ to ensure it arrives. Also, include the relevant evidence required. Alternatively, you can send it by fax to 01806 999 555 01. If you have any questions, you can try to reach the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice by phone at 01806 999 555 10. However, they frequently have very long wait times. You can find more contact information here.
Deregistration.de: Our GEZ Cancellation Service
If you would like assistance in canceling your broadcasting fee, you can contact us and book one of our convenient GEZ cancellation packages. All you have to do is fill out our English booking form and provide us with your contribution number. We will then take care of the cancellation and handle all communication with the GEZ on your behalf. As the confirmation of the cancellation of the Rundfunkbeitrag can only be sent to a German address, we can also receive the document for you. Once we receive your broadcasting fee cancellation confirmation, we make a digital copy available to you and/or send the original to your new address abroad. For you, this process is entirely online.
Changes in regulations
The rules and regulations regarding the Rundfunkbeitrag can change over time, and it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with any changes that may affect your situation. For example, in 2021, the Rundfunkbeitrag was changed to a new system based on households rather than possessing devices capable of receiving broadcasts. For 2025, the GEZ has announced an increase in the monthly fees charged for the broadcasting contribution, that will apply to all households.
Canceling the GEZ retroactively can be complicated, and seeking professional advice or contacting the relevant authorities is vital. Remembering the above aspects can help you navigate the process more effectively and follow the correct procedures.
Please keep in mind that we do our best to provide credible and up-to-date information, but we are not an official advisor (in the sense of the Legal Services Act, RDG) for taxes, legal matters, and the like. Our service does not replace an individual consultation with legal assistance, and we provide digital tools and automated workflows to assist with the residence deregistration and related necessary steps.