Understanding the Church Tax in Germany
You’ve just moved to Germany and are down to the Amt to register your address – on time and in good form! The clerk asks you, “What is your religion?” Wow – why are they asking me this? I thought Germany was a progressive country – why should this matter?
Before you answer the clerk, you should understand what the Church Tax is, and why your answer is important.
What is the Church Tax?
The Church Tax, or Kirchensteuer, is a deduction from the wages of members of certain religious groups. The funds are sent to the administration of these religious groups. It is processed through your salary automatically if you are registered as a member of that religious group.
All persons who have been entered as members of that church are liable to pay the tax unless they de-register themselves from that religion. If you were baptized in the church, even as a baby, you are probably listed as a member.
The funds collected are sent to the churches in Germany and worldwide. They cover all sorts of costs of the modern church. It accounts for about 70% of the church funds, and was about 9 billion EUR in 2010.
If you are registered as a member of a church, you will be subject to a tax called the Church Tax.
How much does it cost me?
The tax is about 8 to 9 % of your taxes, or about 1% of your gross wages – not a small amount! In fact, it is so high that many religious people de-registered themselves from the churches in Germany to avoid paying it, although they remain active members of the faith.
You can calculate how much it would be here. If you earn about EUR 50,000 annually, the tax will be about 800 or 900 EUR annually.
Should I be paying this? Am I paying this?
I want to pay this!
If you are active in your religious community and if you want to pay the tax – good for you! Check your payslip to be sure that you are!
I don’t want to pay this!
If you haven’t registered in Germany yet, be careful when you do your Anmeldung. When asked to state your religion, do not check the box for Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish. Sounds Judeo-Christian-centric? Well, yes. These faiths are supported by the German government. Others (other than one Islamic group in a one state) have not taken advantage of this unique opportunity.
If you’ve already registered and didn’t have this in mind, check your payslip anyway – chances are that that clerk may marked you as a member of a religious group when you registered in Germany, without ever being asked. For example, some people from Spain are registered simply because they are presumed to be Catholic. The Catholic Church is sterner about tracking down its black sheep than the Protestants are. If you are from Poland, Spain, or Ireland, for example, you should be very careful about this.
If you are not religious at all, there is nothing to think further about. However, if you are religious and practicing your faith in Germany, you will probably not be eligible to baptize your children or have your wedding in the church in Germany. This keeps many people in the church. You will always be able to take Communion – no matter your status – as the priests are not in the habit (eh!) of checking tax statements at the altar.
I am paying this - but I don't want to!
That is not an uncommon experience!
You may get some mail asking your to prove that you are not a member of a church. If you are not able to prove this, you may not be able to recoup the costs for tax which you have already paid. However, you can stop paying future taxes by leaving the church officially, or, “Kirchenaustritt“.
How to stop paying church tax: Step 1
Read this handy info.
Go down to your Anmeldamt with a copy of your Meldebescheinigung and your passport or ID. You will need to fill out a form and register your formal exit from the church.
With the money you save from the taxes, you can buy some flowers for someone to make them smile. Just don’t forget to keep a copy of the Kirchenaustritt to prove at any point in the future that you are not a member of the church.