The Artists’ Social Insurance Fund (Künstlersozialversicherungsfonds, KSVF)


In the course of the reorganisation of the Austrian social security system in 2001, the Artists’ Social Insurance Fund (KSVF) was set up to support self-employed artists.

The Artists’ Social Insurance Fund (KSVF) awards grants towards the payment of social insurance contributions of self-employed artists and, in cases of special hardship, also pays benefits, and collects the charges needed to finance such payments.

Self-employed artists may apply for a grant towards their contributions to health, accident and pension insurance.

In order to receive support from the KSVF, artists have to file a personal application specifying their artistic work and qualifications. Panels (Kurien) decide whether the applicants qualify as artists and inform them of their acceptance individually; this process may take several months.

Wording of the law:

Sec. 2 (1) For the purposes of this Federal Act, an artist is anyone who, in the course of performing his/her artistic activity, creates works of art in the fields of visual arts, performing arts, music, literature, cinematics or their contemporary forms.

As a second formal requirement for acceptance by the KSVF artists have to be compulsorily insured with the Social Insurance Institution for Commerce and Trade (SVA).

This is linked to the third criterion, namely that the applicants must have an income or earnings from self-employed activities as an artist of at least EUR 5,108.40 (2017) in the current calendar year. You are strongly advised to obtain individual advice to clarify whether all criteria are met. 

Amount of grant

The amount of the grant depends on the applicant’s income and/or earnings.

The maximum amount is:

Up to and including 2012:
maximum grant per month EUR 130 / per year EUR 1,560

Since 2013:
maximum grant per month EUR 143.50 / per year EUR 1,722 If the KSVF awards a grant, the Fund transfers the respective contributions directly to the SVA, i.e. the contributions invoiced to you will be reduced by the amount of the grant.

Are KSVF grants compatible with pension benefits?

Even if you already receive a pension, but continue to work as a self-employed artist, you are eligible for a KSVF grant towards your social insurance contributions. Your entitlement to pension benefits does not rule out the receipt of KSVF grants.

What happens if my application is rejected?

If your application for recognition of your artistic activity is turned down, you may also submit it to an appeals board. 

If the appeals board also rejects your application and the Fund issues a negative decision, you may lodge a complaint with the Federal Administrative Tribunal.

Good to know

You are entitled to reapply if the criteria (see above) change. 

Please note

Make sure to observe the deadlines that apply for filing an application and throughout the entire process!

For how many years back can I file a retroactive application with the KSVF?

In principle, applications with retroactive effect may be filed with the KSVF for a maximum of five years back, including the current calendar year.

Minimum limits

Value 2012:EUR 4.515,12
Value 2013: EUR 4.641,60
Value 2014:EUR 4.743,72
Value 2015:EUR 4.871,76
Value 2016:EUR 4988,64
Value 2017:EUR 5.108,40

Reaching the minimum limit

If an applicant’s earnings from self-employed artistic activity fall short of the above-mentioned minimum limits, the Fund will also accept income from employment as an artist if the application is made for calendar years from 2008 onwards, provided that no contribution periods for statutory pension insurance were acquired through such employment and the income was not subject to statutory pension insurance.

Scholarships and awards

Since 2008, it has also been possible to add scholarships and awards to one’s income (pursuant to section 3 (3) of the Act on the Promotion of the Arts [Kunstförderungsgesetz] if they serve as an income replacement. 

Income or earnings from secondary self-employed artistic activities

With retrospective effect from 2014, a maximum of 50% of the earnings or income may come from secondary self-employed artistic activities. These are defined as follows:

Wording of the law

Sec. 17 (5) 3 … e.g. preparations and activities that serve the purpose of carrying on and disseminating art or making it accessible.

Flexible averaging period of three years

The amendment of the law in 2015 brought another relief by allowing for a flexible fiscal averaging period of three years for artistic earnings in order to help applicants reach the required minimum threshold with their income from self-employed artistic activity. That means that artists are entitled to allocate their artistic income in a variable manner within a three-year period. The first year is always the year in which the first application is filed.

Tolerated failure to reach the income threshold, five “joker years”

In addition, it is possible to fall short of the thresholds for income and/or earnings from self-employed artistic activities (since 2015: and secondary artistic activities) for a total of five times (i.e. in five years which do not have to be consecutive years) without this having any effect on the payment of the grant.

Maximum limit

There is also a higher earnings limit for being awarded grants from the KSVF. This maximum limit corresponds to the total annual income and used to be 60 times the respective monthly lower earnings limit:

Value 2012: EUR 22.575,60
Value 2013:EUR 23.208,00

Following the latest amendment of the law, this limit was raised to 65times the lower earnings limit. As a result, from 2014 onwards, the values were higher:

Value 2014:EUR 25.695,15
Value 2015:EUR 26.388,70
Value 2016:EUR 27.021,80
Value 2017:EUR 27.670,50

Please note

The maximum limit refers to the sum total of all earnings – i.e. from self-employed and employed work, income from rentals and leases, etc. – irrespective of how long the person concerned was actually insured on the basis of self-employed artistic activities in the respective calendar year.

Higher maximum limit for persons with children

In calendar years in which the artist is entitled to family allowance for a child, this limit is increased by six times the marginal earnings limit per child. This requirement is also met if the other parent is entitled to family allowance for the child. 

All limits at a glance

Changes in eligibility criteria

Changes in eligibility criteria such as a

  • change in income situation
  • change in the activities performed
  • change of name and address
  • termination of insurance contract with SVA 

are to be notified to the Fund without delay, either informally or using a form.

Reclamation/repayment of grants towards contributions

The Fund is obliged by law to examine whether the eligibility criteria are met in every single case. If these criteria cannot be met in spite of the 2015 amendment and payments have already been made, the recipient is, in principle, obliged to pay these grants back.

Basically, the Fund has the following options

  • defer payment
  • grant payment in instalments
  • or waive payment.

In a great number of cases, the Fund waives its right to repayment, in particular if artists fail to reach the minimum limit with their income or earnings from self-employed artistic work. 

In the case of a waiver, social, health, family or financial reasons that would make a repayment of the grants unreasonable have to be stated.

Incremental regulation

As a rule, when repayment is required, only the amount by which the earnings fell short of or exceeded the income limits (in the case of the minimum limit also: earnings limits) has to be repaid instead of the entire amount.

Example

A visual artist generates income from self-employed artistic work. Following an unexpected sale of a painting, her earnings during the calendar year were higher than anticipated and now exceed the statutory maximum limit for being awarded a grant by the Fund by EUR 500. She does not have to return the entire amount of grants received but, at most, only the difference of EUR 500.

New: Aid fund at the KSVF

Following the amendment of the KSVF Act, an aid fund was set up for artists in social, family, health-related or financial distress and/or to cover necessary exceptional expenses.

The purpose of this emergency fund or aid fund is to temporarily pay for the artists’ livelihood. Currently, the emergency fund has an annual total volume of EUR 500,000. Applications may be filed by artists who have their main residence in Austria. An advisory board decides whether support will be provided. There is no legal claim to benefits.

New provisions introduced by the 2011 Artists’ Social Insurance Structure Act (KSVSG)

SVA as a service centre for artists The Artists’ Social Insurance Structure Act (KünstlerInnensozialversicherungs-Strukturgesetz, KSVSG), which entered into force in 2011, extended the scope of the SVA’s responsibilities. Since the beginning of 2011, the SVA has been defined by law as a service centre for artists. That means that the SVA has since then been legally responsible for all types of inquiries regarding social security. SVA employees in all regional offices are to provide artists with comprehensive information regarding contributions, health, pension and accident insurance, as well as unemployment insurance. In spite of this legal basis, a special advisory service for artists was re-established at the SVA in 2015.