VwdA for self-employed architects

Registered self-employed architects are compulsory participants in the Architects’ Pension Fund (VwdA). This means they are required to pay compulsory contributions. There are only very limited options for exemption from compulsory participation and other forms of cover can unfortunately not be considered.

VwdA members enjoy many benefits and above-average payments. Find out all you need to know here. Important information at a glance:

Legal bases: § 16 and § 19 of our Statutes.
Contribution amount: 18% of the participant’s annual professional income; during the first five years of self-employment, participants can choose to halve their contributions so that the rate of contribution is just 9%.
Minimum contribution: €310.50 a month in 2020.
Maximum possible compulsory contribution: €1,242.00 a month in 2020.
Maximum contribution: €2,484.00 a month in 2020.
Exemption from contribution payments: Possible if the participant’s total annual net income from professional work of any kind is less than one-fifth of the contribution assessment ceiling in the statutory pension insurance scheme; in 2020, this means it must be less than €16,560.00.

VwdA contribution amount
The rate of contribution is 18% of your annual professional income. During the first five years of self-employment, you can apply to halve your contributions to just 9%. The contribution amount can be set to any figure up to the maximum permissible contribution. Please remember that your pension pot is directly determined by the size of the contributions you make.

Contribution statements
We send you annual contribution statements. If your income is below the contribution assessment ceiling, you can apply to have your contribution reduced.

Minimum contribution
In 2020, the minimum contribution is €310.50 a month. You cannot pay less than this amount. The application to reduce your contributions only applies for the current calendar year and, where required, must be resubmitted in subsequent years. Please note that you will not receive a confirmation of receipt if you submit an application to reduce your contributions.

Exemption from contribution payments
If your annual professional income from professional work of any kind is less than one-fifth of the contribution assessment ceiling set by the statutory pension insurance scheme (less than €1,380.00 a month in 2020), you can submit an application for exemption from contribution payments. You can simply apply in writing without submitting a form. If you are not working as an architect and are practising a different profession for which your income is above this limit, you cannot be exempted from contribution payments. In such cases, you are required to pay at least the minimum contribution.

Annual net income is used as a benchmark
Your contribution is calculated on the basis of your total annual net income from your professional activities before the deduction of tax allowances. You can find your annual net income on your income tax return or your income tax assessment notice under “Self-employment income”; architects with their own commercial enterprise can find it under “Business income”.

Additional requirement for compulsory insurance under the statutory pension insurance scheme
When do you also require compulsory insurance under the statutory pension insurance scheme in addition to your compulsory participation in the VwdA?

  • When you are in a comparable situation to that of an employee, e.g. if you work on a freelance basis. To help you to precisely clarify your employment relationship, we would be happy to send you a questionnaire from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund with the application for exemption.
  • When compulsory pension contributions are being made on request. Exemption is only possible if the compulsory pension contributions made on request began before the compulsory participation in the VwdA.

Exemption criteria
You can also submit an application for exemption so that you can pay contributions to the VwdA instead. We would be happy to advise you and send you the required forms. An exemption can only be granted retrospectively from the start of the compulsory insurance period (or the start of compulsory participation in the VwdA) if it is applied for within three months. Otherwise, it will only start when your application is received. If you are granted an exemption, you will only be required to make compulsory contributions to the VwdA.

An exemption only applies for the duration of the compulsory membership in a professional chamber.

If you do not apply for an exemption from the statutory pension insurance scheme and pay compulsory contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme as a self-employed individual, the amount you pay can be deducted from the contribution to be made to the VwdA so that the contribution paid to the VwdA can be reduced accordingly.

If you do not apply for a reduction in or exemption from contribution payments, the regular contribution (maximum possible compulsory contribution) will apply in accordance with our Statutes.

Please inform the VwdA if your employment type changes, e.g. if you take up employment.

Contributions are tax deductible
Just like contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme, contributions paid to the VwdA are tax deductible. In turn, this increases your net income. In 2020, the annual limit stands at €25,045.80 if you are single and at €50,091.60 if you are married. The proportion of contributions which is tax deductible has been rising gradually, from 60% in 2005 to 100% in 2025. (The German Retirement Income Act (Alterseinkünftegesetz) at a glance). More information is available from the tax office or a tax consultant. Make use of tax relief by planning for your future! And make sure you have all you need when you retire.

First pillar – two separate systems
Like the statutory pension insurance scheme, the VwdA is part of the first pillar of retirement pension provisions. However, these systems operate completely separately and independently from one another. This means that it is not possible to transfer contributions. Any pension claims from the statutory pension insurance scheme are independent of your entitlements from the VwdA.

If you have not reached the general qualifying period of 60 months of contributions under the statutory pension insurance scheme, you have not fulfilled the criteria for entitlement to a pension from the statutory pension insurance scheme. In such cases, you can apply for a contribution refund. However, only the employee contributions will be refunded. Please contact the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund directly for more information on this.

Contributions paid during a period of employment are refunded to the amount equivalent to the employer contribution.

Don’t forget that other subsequent contribution periods may count towards the qualifying period (e.g. parental leave or time spent working in another field). You can also choose to make voluntary supplementary payments to make up for the missing months. This is particularly worth considering if your payments only fall slightly short of the required 60 calendar months. If you have any questions about contribution refunds, please contact the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund directly.