Updated on 17 April 2013.
TV licenses are a legal requirement in the UK, for anyone who has equipment that can receive live television. This includes TVs, digital boxes, video recorders, PCs, laptops, and mobile phones.
As of April 2013 an annual license for a colour TV costs £145.50. This can be a hefty sum to pay, especially if you don't use a TV all year round, or only need a TV to keep up with the news and weather. We show you how you may be able to cut the overall cost of your license.
This may be the first question you ask when faced with a letter from TV Licensing demanding you cough up £145.50. Unfortunately, it is illegal to watch or record TV without a license, and it isn't worth risking getting caught without one - you could face a fine of £1,000.
However it may be worth considering if you really need to watch TV. If you primarily watch it to catch up on the news and weather, try doing so online instead, or catching the news on the radio.
Or, if you mostly watch TV for films or series, consider renting them instead. If you only use your TV to watch DVDs with a DVD player rather than receiving live television, you won't need a license.
If you are looking for a way to cut costs and don't mind foregoing colour reception in the name of frugality, you can significantly save on your TV license. A license for black and white reception only costs £49 per year, a saving of £96.50 per year when compared to colour reception.
However you should bear in mind that TV Licensing officers are more likely to check up on homes which hold a monochrome license - and if they find you have any equipment that can receive colour television, you will be asked to upgrade to a colour license.
You can also save a considerable amount on your TV license expense if you don't use a TV all year round. Unfortunately this doesn't apply if you claim to only watch your TV during certain months of the year. You will have to pay for the privilege of having television-receiving equipment in your home, whether you are actively watching it or not.
However, if for example you are a student and only need a license to cover your 9 months in your university dwelling, you can claim back the months that you weren't using your TV. For example, you could buy a license in October which would last you until September of the following year, but if you are living back at home during the months of June, July, and August, you can request a refund for that time.
Go to TV Licensing for more information, and for a refund application form.
You may be eligible for a discount on your TV license if you fall into the following categories:
You can find more information on the concessions available on the Gov.UK website.
As the TV license fee tends to go up in April with the start of the new tax year, you should try to buy or renew your license before this time. For example, if your license is due to expire around April, buy a new one in March to avoid the likely price hike. As you can only pay for a license a month in advance, March is a good time to buy.
When deciding on a payment method for your license, it's advisable not to opt for quarterly direct debit. The spread of these payments could cost you up to £5 more a year than if you paid via an alternative method.
Other payment methods available include monthly direct debit, or paying the whole fee in one go by credit or debit card. A cash payment plan is also available which could lessen the dent of the fee on your wallet, by spreading it into small weekly or fortnightly payments.
Written by Sally at money.co.uk
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