Church Tax in Germany is called as “Kirchensteuer” that applies to registered Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. This tax is based on an individual’s income and the state in which they reside. For example, residents of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg pay 8% while residents of other states pay 9% of their income as church tax in Germany. It is important for those who are and will be working in Germany to be familiarized with the applicable taxes in Germany.
What is Church Tax (Kirchensteuer)?
Church Tax (Kirchensteuer) is the tax collected in Germany by the state recognized churches to manage the finances, the tax office (Finanzamt) is responsible to collect the tax and the same will be passed on to the church bodies after deducting the administrate charges estimated at 3% of the total collected amount.
Who Needs to Pay Church Tax in Germany?
Church Tax is applicable for all law-abiding residents who are members of registered bodies recognized as religious communities in Germany and are subject to pay Income Tax.
The following associations are allowed to collect Church Tax as they were recognized as religious bodies and its members are subject to Church Tax in Germany.
- Catholic Churches (Römisch-katholische Kirche)
- Evangelical Churches (Evangelische Kirche)
- Free Religious Communities (Freireligiöse Gemeinden)
- Israelite Religious Communities
- Jewish Religious Communities (Jüdische Gemeinde)
- The Mennonites Community in Hamburg
- The Old Catholic Church (Altkatholische Kirche)
- The Reformed Church of France in Berlin (die Französische Kirche zu Berlin)
- Unitarian Religious Communities in Rhineland-Palatinate (Unitarische Religionsgemeinschaft Freie Protestanten)
The most common method of becoming a member is through the act of baptism or when you join the church, you are also subject to church tax even when you get married in a church and you as a married couple are then subject to Church Tax in Germany.
Who don’t Need to Pay Church Tax in Germany?
All other residents don’t need to pay Church Tax if they are not members of the recognized religious communities like Catholics, Protestants, or Jews. You also don’t need to pay Church Tax in Germany if you are person who believes or is a member of other religious communities that are not recognized in Germany such as:
- Jehovah’s Witness
- Salvation Army
It’s important to note that it doesn’t mean you have to pay the Church tax if you are Christian, it depends on the religious society and views that you follow.
Church Tax in Germany is also not applicable if you are living in Germany under the SOFA agreement (Military).
How much is the Church Tax in Germany?
Church Tax in Germany depends on the state of your residence, it’s 8% for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and for all other states in Germany it is 9% of your income tax.
For example, if you are person earning 60,000 euros per year and are resident of Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg you will have to pay income tax between €500 to €1300 approximately depending on your family status and tax class and you will be taxed approx between €600 to €1500 for all other states in Germany.
To be clear and precise Church Tax in Germany is calculated as a surcharge on top of your overall income tax between 8 to 9% depending on the federal state of your residence and the out go is based on your income tax as a surcharge or if you are looking at a fair and flat estimate the church tax in Germany translates between 2.75 to 4% of your total taxable income (subject to your tax class and the place of your residence).
How do you enroll for Church Tax as an expat?
For internationals the first step of integrating in the German ecosystem starts with the registration of your flat (Anmeldung) at the city registration office (Bürgeramt) and in the city registration form you will have various fields to know and record your personal details that includes your Name, Address, Date of Birth, Religious Views, etc.
If you are not religious or fall under any other religions you should mention the same or leave the field blank or indicate that it’s not applicable for you.
Tip: Mention OA in the field of the form that asks about your religious society (Religionsgesellschaft) which means that you do not belong to any religious society under public law (keiner öffentlich-rechtlichen Religionsgesellschaft angehörig).
Depending on your answers to your religious views, the city registration office will notify the Finance Office (Finanzamt) and link it to your Tax ID (Steuernummer) for dedication of applicable taxes.
Please do be truthful about your religious views and mention the same in the city registration form, as the authorities have their own ways of tracing back your roots to identify your affiliations with any of the religious congregations back in your country and you may get a notice asking you to pay for the lawful backdated Church Taxes that owe to the tax authorities for the duration of your stay in Germany.
So in short if you are stating as non-religious just to evade the church tax in Germany doesn’t mean that you can simply fly away from it, so make sure you are being honest while filling out the application.
How to Pay Church Tax in Germany?
The process is pretty straightforward for the employees who is doing a job in Germany, your employer will deduct the applicable tax from your salary directly and it will be reflected under KS (Kirchensteuer / Church Tax) in your payslip.
For self-employed or freelancers you will have to pay the Church Tax at the same time you pay your income tax, depending on your case it could be monthly, quarterly or yearly.
How to Stop Paying Church Tax in Germany?
If you have enrolled yourself to the Church Tax in Germany by mistake or in case you would like to stop contributing for the Church Tax for your personal reasons, luckily it is possible to stop contributing to Church Tax in Germany, as a trend there’s spike in number of people who want to stop paying church tax in recent years
In order to opt out you will have to follow the bureaucratic process that starts with de-registering yourself from the registered societies will either have to visit the registration office (Standesamt) or district court (Amtsgericht) depending on the authorities responsible in your city of residence and the process will be free of charge for the residents of Brandeburg or Bremen and as high as 32 euros for residents of other states in Germany.
You can need to carry the following documents to complete the process of leaving the church:
- Address Registration Certificate (Anmeldebestätigung)
- ID Proof such as National ID or Passport
- Marriage Certificate (for those who are married)
Once you submit all the details and documentation to the respective authorities correctly, they will notify the decision electronically to the tax office to stop further contributions towards Church Tax and usually should be effective from the end of the month and may take up to a couple of months to complete the process, beware of the public holidays which could delay the process further.
You will have to keep the Church Leaving certificate (Austrittsbescheinigung) safe with you for future records as the tax office may ask for it from time to time (even after many years!) and the onus lies on you to provide the details to make sure that no further deductions were happening towards Church Tax.
What Happens if you Fake your Religion to Avoid Church Tax?
Falsifying information in order to receive a church tax exemption is considered tax fraud and is illegal. If caught, individuals may face fines, penalties, and potentially even criminal charges. Additionally, they may also lose their eligibility for the church tax exemption in the future and we urge readers not to alter the facts to escape Church Tax in Germany and its definitely not worth the gamble.
In case of further questions and clarifications about Church Tax in Germany, please feel free to contact us or leave us your query in the comments section.