Germans will need to keep paying controversial tv tax

Every dwelling in Germany has to pay 17.5€ each month for the TV and radio license fee that funds public TV channels and the German Radio. And since a group of complainants has lost its case against it, the tax will likely remain.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Germans will need to keep paying controversial tv tax - NewsMavens
Vintage tv set. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

The tax is a contentious topic, not least because it's calculated per apartment, and while a family or a group of people sharing a flat can split the cost, somebody living alone has to pay it all by herself. It does not matter if you don't even own a TV set -- this is a mandatory tax to support public broadcasters.

A group of plaintiffs, which included a single person carrying the cost alone, the owner of two apartments who pays the fee twice, and the car rental company Sixt, who has to pay 1/3 of the fee for each car it rents since cars have access to radio, took the matter to court. They argued that the payment goes against the German constitution, since it constitutes a form of additional taxation.

The court ruled that the tax was in accordance with the constitution, meaning that the situation is not likely to change.

If you believe that unbiased, publicly-funded journalism is needed, you can comfort yourself by thinking your monthly payments are going to a worthy cause. But if you are struggling financially, or if you live alone and have to shoulder the whole cost by yourself, a court ruling like this can leave you feeling cheated. Shouldn't there be a smarter way of calculating that cost, you wonder, looking at the official letter with the orange ZDF logo that greets you every month?

Details from the story:

  • Every household in Germany needs to pay 210€ a year (17.5€/month) for a TV license fee.
  • The so-called "Rundfunksbaitrag" funds the public TV channels ARD and ZDF and the German Radio.
  • This fee is calculated regardless of whether one owns a TV set, watches TV at all, or how many people are in the household, meaning that a group of people sharing a flat can split the payment between themselves, while somebody living alone has to pay it all.
  • This rule was disputed in the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe, which ruled that the fee was in accordance with the German constitution
  • Until 2013, the payment was only mandatory for the people owning a TV set. But with the spread of high-speed internet online news, the new mandatory-for-all payment was introduced.
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