How does the KSK work?
The Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) is part of the social insurance system in Germany. Its goal is to support freelance artists and publishers financially by paying half of the fees for health insurance, pension and other social insurance costs.
In case you are elligible for the KSK, the health insurance is covered via a public or private health insurance and the KSK pays half of the insurance fees. The KSK in itself is not an insurer: you have to pick a health insurer first before going to the KSK. The KSK does pay contributions to your German public pension fund.
Please read our review of the best public and private health insurers to pick the right health insurance plan.
Freelance artists and publishers pay half of the contributions to their social insurance costs and the KSK pays the other half. 40% of the KSK contributions is subsidized by the German state, the other half is a tax like contribution called Künstlersozialabgabe by companies and all organisations who reuse artistic or published content.
How much does the KSK cost?
The costs of the KSK based insurance is based on your income. The more you earn, the more you pay. The minimum monthly contribution is 160.- Euro source.
In 2020 the normal contributions for non-KSK members to the public pension fund were 18.6%, health insurance fees were 14.6% and other social insurance costs were between 3.05% and 3.30% of the gros income which amounts to total contributions of around 36.5% of income. This means that somebody insured via the Künstlersozialkasse would only pay contributions of around 18,25% instead of the usual 36.5% source.
KSK members pay roughly half as much as what other freelancers pay for public health insurance.
You can calculate yearly contributions to the KSK by entering your total yearly income in this calculator.
Who can profit from cheaper health insurance under the KSK?
The Künstlersozialkasse covers freelancers who belong to one of the following professions:
- writers, journalists, bloggers and other publishers
- designers including web, game, light and audio designers as well as animators
- make-up artists
- actors and many film or theater related professions
- artistic photographers
- many more
Please have a look at the official KSK list of professions.
Note that you are not elligible for the Künstlersozialkasse anymore once you exercise one of these professions as an employee. The KSK covers only freelancers.
“You need to prove that you earn significantly more as an artist as opposed to any non-artist job you might do to get by. If you have a monthly 400 Euro job at a bar and in one year average 6 perfomance gigs per month with only 350 Euro value, you won't get in because you earn more as a bar keeper than as an artist. If you have that same 400 Euro job at a bar, 350 Euro income from performance gigs, and another 1000 Euros from graphic design work [...] then you are in”. source
Your yearly income must be at least 3900.- Euro source otherwise the KSK classifies your artistic or publishing activity as a hobby and does not cover you. This does not apply if you are just starting your career: in this case you yearly income can be less than 3900.- Euro for the first three years source.
The KSK only covers your health insurance if your artistic or publishing job is your main profession. The KSK will however ask you for pension contributions if you earn more than 3900.- Euro per year with artistic or publishing freelance work besides your main job.
Students can be covered by the KSK if the above requirements are met but the KSK will check each application individually source.
The downsides of the KSK
Getting into the Künstlersozialkasse and staying in it requires regular paperwork which is more than non-KSK subsidized public or private health insurance and social insurances in general.
Membership in the Künstlersozialkasse is legally binding for artists and publisher who fulfill all the requirements. Once you are in they won't let you go easil unless you can prove that your professional situation has changed. You should also actively try to get out once you don't fulfill the requirements anymore to avoid double payments.
How to apply for the KSK?
- You first need to sign up with a health insurer in Germany if you haven't done so yet. We recommend *Techniker Krankenkasse as the biggest public health insurer.
- You can then apply for the Künstlersozialkasse by filling out this form on the KSK website. We do not recommend to apply yourself at the KSK. The rules and the procedure are complex. There are organisations in Germany who help artists and publishers to get into the KSK.
Here is a list of organisations who can help with KSK applications:
- Kathleen Parker at Red Tape Translation - native English speaker with low consultation fee source
- Alex Holz at Kulturspace - offers applications preparations, support and consultations in English
- Freie Wildbahn - has very good Google ratings
- DMKB - some expats reported positive experiences with this organisation source
- BMKB - website in English
- KSK Berater
- most recent annual tax confirmation or alternatively a Einnahmen-Überschuß Rechnung from your tax consultant
- copies of all invoices for income resulting from artistic or publishing jobs
There is a more detailed guide to apply to the KSK here.