WHAT IS IT?
A church tax (Kirchensteuer in German) is a tax imposed on members of some religious congregations in Germany.
In Germany, both the Protestant and Catholic churches as well as the Jewish denominations are legally allowed to collect taxes from their members.
The tax is then collected by German tax offices and channeled to the respective faiths.
DO I HAVE TO PAY IT?
All citizens in Germany who are officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax on their annual income tax bill.
If you are a employed and received a regular salary, the German Church Tax is collected in the same way as the standard income tax model. You will notice a separate line item on your monthly payslip.
The church tax is only paid by members of the respective religions, so if you are not a member of one of the mentioned church tax-collecting denominations then you do not have to pay it.
HOW MUCH IS IT?
The percentage of income tax paid varies depending on the German state. In Bayern and Baden-Württemberg it percentage is 8%, whereas all other Bundesländer have to pay 9%.
Let’s say you are earning 50,000 euros and thus pay about an average income tax of 20%, which equates to 10,000 euros. The church tax (8-9%) is then added on top of this 10,000 euros which would mean you would be paying around 800-900 euros in church tax.
WHY DOES IT EXIST?
The church taxing system has been in place since the 19th century and is historically rooted in the pre-Christian Germanic custom where the leader of a tribe was directly responsible for the maintenance of the relevant religious group.
This custom was then later adopted by the Christian churches, and the concept of church maintenance by the ruler of a community remained the accepted custom in most Western European countries.
In Reformation times, the local princes in Germany then became responsible for the maintenance of the churches. However in the 19th century the finances of churches were state regulated to the extent in which they became financially independent. It was then at this point, that church tax replaced the state benefits that the churches had obtained previously.
WHAT IF I DECLARE MYSELF AS HAVING NO FAITH? WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?
If you have officially left the church (in Germany, this is to declare Kirchenaustritt), then it is not possible to perform certain sacraments in a German church such as getting married or baptising a child.
Other restrictions include the possibility to participate in confirmation, work in the church, its schools or hospitals, as well as becoming a godparent or to take part in parish activities in Germany.
AVOID IT AS AN EXPAT MOVING TO GERMANY
As you probably are aware, you have to complete the Anmeldung (registration) at the Bürgeramt (citizens office) when you move to Germany.
During this process , you have to complete the Anmeldung form (which AiRelo can help you with in no time!), where you will be asked to declare your religious status. If you do not wish to pay German Church Tax, then you should not declare your religious domination (Note: this only applies to Protestants, Catholics and Jews).
OPTING OUT AT A LATER STAGE
In case you didn’t know about the church tax when you registered, and thus have been paying the tax ever since despite not being a practising member of your faith. The good news is that you can still opt out at a later stage.
However, to formally rescind your denomination of your said faith, you must go through another bureaucratic process including having to pay a small fine (usually around 30 euro) and making a return visit to the Bürgeramt (citizens’ office).
This is the same place where you originally did your Anmeldung, and you must bring your passport, marriage certificate (if needed) as well as your Meldebescheinigung (confirmation of registration). In return, you will receive your Kirchenaustritt, which is an official piece of paper declaring your exit from the church, which you must keep as proof to avoid any further church tax charges.
So the most important tip to take away from this blog post is to remember to not select any religion on your Anmeldung (registration) form in the first place, if you want to avoid paying the additional German church tax.
For more information about the Kirchenaustritt (exit from the church), please go to: https://www.kirchenaustritt.de/