GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — There are a few things you should know about the mandatory German radio, TV and internet fee, generally referred to as “TV tax,” and how to obtain a waiver for the payment if you are in Germany under the SOFA agreement.
The Rundfunkbeitrag, or TV tax, is a mandatory contribution to support the public service radio and TV stations. The fee is to support public radio with independent reporting and coverage with high-quality service. In contrast to commercial broadcast companies, these channels are time limited in publishing commercials.
How much is the fee?
The fee is 17.50 euros per household a month. In 2020 this amount will increase to 18.50 euros. There are also fees for business companies. The fee varies according to the size of the company. Overall, about 90 percent of the fees are paid by private households.
Who has to pay the fee?
Every household in Germany has to pay the fee. It doesn’t matter if they use the public channels or even if they don’t own a TV, radio, smartphone or computer.
Who is exempt?
Regulations exempt or reduce the fee. People with disabilities, recipients of educational grants and recipients of social welfare payments can request reduced fees. U.S. service members and civilians, as well as family members, living in Germany under the SOFA agreement, are also exempt.
I’m exempt under the SOFA agreement – what I need to do?
There is a high chance you will receive a broadcast license fee letter, especially at off-post housing. The best way to react is to schedule an appointment with legal assistance. Pending on the stage of the bill, the legal assistance office will support you to get officially waived for the fees.
“We encourage people receiving a Rundfunkgebuehren letter to contact legal assistance as soon as possible,” said Attorney-Advisor Mechthild C. Benkert, chief, host nation law at the Grafenwoehr Legal Office. “The earlier in the process you do that, the easier it is to get the fee waived. Once the case is in collection, the situation is much more difficult to resolve. Please check your civilian mail boxes if you live off post. The letters normally go to civilian addresses, not to APO addresses.”
For legal assistance in the Grafenwoehr / Vilseck area, please contact:
Location: Tower Barracks, Bldg. 106, Grafenwoehr
Civ: +49 (0) 9641 -70 – 569 – 0521
DSN: (314) 569 – 0521
Location: Rose Barracks, Bldg. 245, Vilseck
Civ: +49 (0) 9662 – 83 – 2289 / 3318
DSN: (314) 476 – 2289 / 3318
Who receives the money and how much is it?
The pot of about 8 billion euros ($10.3 billion) is split between the state media authorities, the radio channel Deutschlandfunk, the TV stations ARD and ZDF (channel 1 and 2) and their sub channels, websites and media centers.
Criticism about the Rundfunkgebuehren
The German public criticize the high fees because the payment is independent of using the services or even being able to use them. Others criticize the way to pay it. Germans would prefer to pay it via the German IRS and not via another overly staffed and expensive institution. There is also criticism from other countries. Only Austria has a similar fee.
The Rundfunkbeitrag was initially founded to provide basic services to customers. This was back in the day, when most customers received just three channels. The broadcasting environment has changed. Nowadays, ARD and ZDF, or channel one and two, are still the leaders in the news and cultural coverage. The most famous German crime thriller “Tatort” is broadcasted on ARD Sundays and has an average of about nine million viewers.
More official information about the Rundfunkbeitrag in English can be found here.