Established in 1983, the Artists' Social Insurance Fund (German: Künstlersozialkasse, or KSK) is one of its kind in Europe and at present time enables approx. 192,000 self-employed artists and publicists’ access to German social security plans such as their State Pension and their statutory medical-/ Long-Term Care insurances. Without KSK too many freelance artists and publicists are unable to afford these Safeguards, which should be available to everyone and regardless of their social class. Each and every bodies health now and financial security later, must always be imperative.
Contrary to rumours, KSK membership is not compulsory, tho’ the ideal solution for professional artists and journalists wanting to join the German social security system.
Social security contributions are divided between the member (50%), the federal government (20%) and companies that are subject to artists' social security contributions (30%). These monies are collected monthly from the members and companies and forwarded to the appropriate insurance providers. Thus, in principle, KSK fulfills the role of a regular employer and the member the of an employee.
As a member of KSK you are treated as an 'employee' rather than a freelancer/ self-employed and once accepted you will benefit from German social security insurances, i.e. their statutory pension scheme and statutory health insurance. Having chosen the health provider, medical and long-term-care insurances are then in place as from the date of acceptance and the monthly contributions are equally shared between the member and KSK.
Contributions towards the German social security insurances are based on annual earned income, which defined by profit determination rules within German Income-Tax-Law, is the difference between business revenue and business expense; to keep it simple- profit. Therefore KSK members must provide annual forecasts of their anticipated income and in the event of an audit will be asked to provide Profit & Loss Reports and/ or Tax Returns, supported by other acceptable documentation, such as: contracts, business proposals, orders, etc.
KSK contribution rates for 2021:
In 2020 the social security insurance contrubtion rates for the majority of KSK members was 18.38% of their income!
The often-lengthy period one must endure to finally receive for KSK's decision on approval, invariably produces concerns to those who in the meantime become in need of a residence permit. Although in certain cases the Foreigners' Office (Ausländerbehörde) grants extensions, this is indeed very much up to their policies and goodwill.
Another very important financial aspect people need to consider is that when the day does finally arrive in which KSK's acceptance letter is received, their new member is required to make back-payments on contributions towards the state pension scheme. The amount due in 2021 is 9.3% of the assessable income for both the "employee" (KSK member) and "employer "(KSK), totalling at 18.6%. Thus, having waited e.g. 8 months, based on 12,000€ assessable income the member will need to transfer 744€ (8 months x 93€) within 2 weeks of receiving KSK's approval letter.
As payments are on a percentage basis in conjunction with income, and although there are payment ceilings, having to contribute 9.3% of your income towards the German state pension scheme needs to be well thought about. Not only is this disadvantageous for those with higher income, but considering the minimum waiting period of 60 months it requires to become eligible, contributing towards a scheme one might never make use of, is an aspect that requires serious consideration.
For those with an income of less than 3,900 EUR per year, entering KSK is not possible, respectively membership will be cancelled. Exception: Those who have started their professional career are exempted for the first 3 years.
For a relatively small service-fee, we at ERICON broker will assist you from the very beginning to the day you read KSK's final decision notice and, if necessary, even beyond.
Our KSK service includes:
Should you prefer a "hands-off" application procedure, simply grant us authority to act and communicate on your behalf (Power of Attorney).
With a 100% success rate, you can sit back and let others do the work.
The Social Security Insurance for Artists & Writers (Künstlersozialkasse - KSK) is not actually a health insurer itself, but instead it acts as an employer that allows qualified artists and some other professions to apply for membership.
Upon enrolment the applicant will have access to German statutory (Public) health insurance scheme (GKV).
The person must be a self-employed artist and publicist within the meaning of the KSK Act (§2 KSVG)
The act states that the person is not only temporarily self-employed in creating music, performance arts or visual arts, or is engaged as a writer, journalist or in a similar journalistic manner, as well as teaching journalism.
KSK membership is not compulsory, does however have one very interesting aspect - financial support.
As a member of KSK this means that you are treated as an 'employee' rather than a freelancer or self-employed. As such you are then entitled to statutory (public) health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung – GKV), which can be provided by any of the many Kassen (companies). The monthly premiums are divided into two portions, the member pays approx. 50% and KSK subsidise the difference.
If you are intending to remain in Germany long-term then membership of KSK is worth considering, despite the effects on your ‘bottom-line’ income. There are benefits to long-term membership. If however you are NOT planning to remain in Germany long-term, then you should seriously consider whether membership is worthwhile. Bearing in mind that your contributions to the various social security schemes, especially pension, are not always refundable and (pension) is only payable at retirement age. Pension does not actually acquire any value at all until you have been contributing for a qualifying period of 2 years.
One advantage of the European Union is that within the EU, this ‘qualifying’ period is valid in all EU Member States so no need to start this qualifying period again if you move within its boundaries.
.. the alternatives ...
The only alternative is not to join KSK. In this case you will have to sign up with a private insurance (Privat Krankenversicherung – PKV). This topic is quite complex, so you will need help from an intermediary/ broker such as ERICON broker or other health insurance specialists throughout Germany.
We strongly advise not to rely solely on advice from the insurance companies themselves. They will obviously only consider their own interests/ products and not the full range of options. As a non EU citizen the choice of German private insurers willing to accept an application is unfortunately very limited.
Before applying for statutory health insurance you will need to receive the certificate of enrolment from KSK. The application for this needs to be submitted direct to KSK and may take a few months (up to 6 months is not unusual) - to be processed and approved.
Download the KSK Application here.
Please note that there is also no guarantee that every application will be approved - this is up to KSK and their strict adherence to the requirements!
This waiting period (and the possibility of non-approval) invariably produces problems for people who need a residence permit for Germany as this must normally be applied for immediately on entry into Germany, and all the requirements finalised (including health insurance) within 2-3 months. Although it is sometimes possible to get an extension but this is very much up to the Ausländeramt (Residence Permit Office/ Foreigner's Office), or even the individual official you are dealing with.
On receipt of KSK's approval certificate a proposal for statutory health insurance must be made to a Krankenkasse (statutory health insurer). This can be done directly with the company, however we recommend to consult a representative or broker, like ERICON broker, to deal with this matter, after all it is a complex issue. The decision of which GKV provider the applicant wishes to join up with is totally up the individual.
The last stage before completing the whole procedure is to inform KSK of the provider you have chosen.
KSK are asking for your Social Security Number, which is made up of numbers and letters and is used to clearly identify a person within the social insurance structure. It consists of 12 digits in the following order:
Although the Social Security Number is kind of similar to the Pension Insurance Number and latter can even be found on the Social Security Card, it is not the same because they have different identifiers.
Should you be missing your Social Security Number you can apply for it at the Pension Insurance Institute (Tel 0800 / 1000 4800) or simply let KSK do the job when accepted.
In order to support those affected by COVID 19, the legislator has extended §3 KSVG. This is the paragraph that determines a minimum income of 3,900€ per year.
The following sentence has been added: "Falling below the limit in 2020 and 2021 will not be taken into account.
This means that KSK will not kick anyone out just because they fell below the income requirement during these two years.
And even without this new regulation, it was always the case and still is: KSK members are allowed to earn less than 3,900€ per year twice within six years. With this new regulation it is now up to four times.
The cost of statutory health insurance (German: GKV) is related to income and shared equally between member and KSK.
The exact total cost is dependent on the member's choice of statutory provider, though the current average is 15.9% (14.6% Fixed + 1.3% Additional Fee).
Important to understand is that to assure that contributions are based on factual income, the person must provide KSK an assessment of their anticipated annual income and this initially and at the end of every year. And should they ever be audited, will need to affirm their declarations by providing official documentation in form of a 'Profit & Loss Report', Tax Return or any other acceptable evidence, such as: contracts, business proposals, orders, bank statements, etc.
Whether or not a person is unsured whilst their application is being processed is not a matter that KSK is concerned about, as all they must see on acceptance is a Certificate of Insurance by either a German statutory ("public") or private insurer.
HOWEVER, as since 1st January 2009 there is health insurance obligation for every person with their residence in Germany, all future health insurers have a legal commitment to check whether or not the applicant is in possession of a recognised insurance policy and if not, are enforced to charge back payments.
KSK are legally obliged to issue an Annual Statement that lists the amount of contributions that have been paid towards the German Pension Scheme and German Health Fonds, latter for medical and long-term care insurances. This document is usually sent within the 1st quarter of every year.
The Künstlersozialkasse have put together detailed information in English in form of the following 2 PDFs.