How to stop paying the German church tax

I think it’s safe to say that we all know someone who suddenly realized that they were paying the German church tax, even though they never went to a service once in their time in Germany. For many foreigners that are not used to this system, the mistake is almost forgivable; they simply fill-out their Anmeldung form truthfully and ask no questions when being asked if they belong a certain religion.

German church tax

For a lot of people, it’s natural to say that even if they don’t believe in it or go to service, they belong to that culture since they’ve been raised with it. However, by doing this, they are signing-up for an extra 8% or 9% on their income tax. That can represent hundreds of euros every year!

A simple mistake that can cost thousands of euros on the long-term

For many of us foreigners, something like paying a German church tax is unheard of. In Europe, only Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, some parts of Switzerland & Croatia are doing the same. This is why it may come as a schock when you finally realize what this “KS” (Kirchensteuer) line on your pay slip is!

 

If you are this situation (like i was once), i thought i’d make a little guide on how to stop paying the German church tax.

How to stop paying the German church tax

 

1- Find the right office & bring enough money with you

If you want to quit paying the church tax in Germany, you want to leave the Church, which translates to “Kirchenaustritt”.

Depending on your region, you have to go to either your Standesamt or your Amtsgericht to do that. The fee also changes. Here is a little summary (hat tip to Kirchenaustritt.de):

BundeslandRelevant officeFee (€)
Baden-WürttembergStandesamt31
BayernStandesamt31
BerlinAmtsgericht30
BrandenburgAmtsgericht0
BremenStandesamt0
HamburgStandesamt31
HessenAmtsgericht25
Mecklenburg-VorpommernStandesamt10
NiedersachsenStandesamt25
Nordrhein-WestfalenAmtsgericht30
Rheinland-PfalzStandesamt30
SaarlandStandesamt32
SachsenStandesamt26
Sachsen-AnhaltStandesamt30
ThüringenStandesamt25

You can also click on your region to access the right official portal.

2- Gather all the necessary documents and go to that office

It’s pretty straightforward if you are not married in Germany; just bring a piece of ID and your Meldebescheinigung with you. If you are married; you will also need to take your Heiratsurkunde (Marriage certificate). The document you need from them is the Austrittsbescheinigung (Leaving certificate). Make sure to keep it with all your other important documents. You might need to show it to your Finanzamt at some point.

 

3- Rejoice and bath in your own money

If you have done everything correctly, you should stop paying the German church tax from the end of the month during which you declaration was registered. Your tax ID is handled electronically, so your Bürgeramt will communicate your decision to your Finanzamt automatically. It might take up to 2 months for that infamous  “KS” tax line to disappear from your pay slip though.

It might take up to 2 months for that infamous  “KS” tax line to disappear from your pay slip.

FAQ

Can’t i get all that money back?

I’m afraid not. Your involuntary donation is gone forever.

Can i still go to church, temple? What do i give up by not paying the church tax in Germany?

If you want to go to service, you can still go. No one will ask you to show your tax card. However, this move might disqualify you for bigger events like baptisms & weddings. The rules aren’t the same everywhere though.

Why is there this system anyway? And where does the money go?

This system was set-up during the Weimar Republic in 1919 in order to accommodate the pre-existing advantages the Church(es) already had acquired before-hand.  It’s even written in the constitution! Every year, around 10 billions euros are levied that way. The money goes to the up-keep of religious buildings, paying religious personnel (not priests, they are payed by the diocese directly) & administrative costs as well as funding social projects.

Which churches are concerned by the Church tax in Germany?

The following:

  • Evangelische Kirche
  • Römisch-katholisch Kirche
  • Jüdische Gemeinde
  • Altkatholische Kirche
  • Freie Religionsgemeinschaft Alzey
  • Freireligiöse Gemeinden (Baden, Mainz, Offenbach, Pfalz)

Good luck and let me know if you need any details in the comments or simply share your experience. 🙂

20 Comments

  • Reply CC 23/11/2017 at 10:54

    Hey, thanks for the info, super helpful! I was just wondering if this requires filling out a form or anything? My German is almost non-existent, so would bringing the required documents and saying, “Ich mochte die Romish-Katholische kirche verlassen” be enough, or should I try bring a German speaker with me to help?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2017 at 18:50

      Hi Cora. In theory that shoould be enough yes but you know German and their love of bureaucracy. It’s a good idea to bring somebody with you.

  • Reply Woganfan 27/10/2017 at 00:24

    So how do you prevent even starting to pay such a ludicrous tax? What does someone write on the Anmeldung when asked about religion? I have no religion, nor do I claim to be atheist as this is now considered a religion in some jurisdictions.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/10/2017 at 15:51

      Yes, as mentioned in the post; during the Anmeldung, make sure to tick the right box that says you dont belong to any religion.

      • Reply FaithNoMore 12/11/2017 at 15:36

        Beware that this is often not enough. They started to ask the Diocese of your own town if you are still registered there as a catholic (in Italy for example) and if so, they will force you to pay that stupid tax no matter what. In Italy it’s easy to leave by writing a letter and send it over to the Church were you’ve been baptised – link: https://www.uaar.it/laicita/sbattezzo/

  • Reply Julia Henry 04/10/2017 at 11:50

    This is a great article, thank you! I went to the Standesamt with the required documents today but was turned away because I don’t speak German. The lady told me I had to come back with a translator to get my leaving certificate. Is this common? Was it because I did not say in German “Ich mochte die Romish-Katholische kirche verlassen”? Is there anything else I need to say in German in order to procure my leaving cert? I’d prefer to avoid having to pay for a translator. Obviously I’m new to Munich and don’t have many German speaking friends yet who might otherwise help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/10/2017 at 16:38

      Hi Julia. This is quite weird. Why would you need a translator; you are representing yourself and it’s not part of the requirements indicated by the Finanzamt. I doubt what this person was correct. She probably didn’t want to deal with you. Maybe you can prepare a letter announcing your intent in German beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings, if you don’t have any German speaking friends to come with you.

  • Reply Sofia 24/09/2017 at 16:03

    Hi, thanks for this useful information! I am living in Nordrhein Westfalen so I had to go to the Amtsgericht and now I got the Bescheininung. From what I have been reading my employer will need a copy of the document (so far so good). But what about the Finanzamt? Do I have to go there or send a copy of the document, or should I simply wait that the Amtsgericht and the Finanzamt communicate automatically? Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2017 at 11:21

      Hi Sofia. It’s probably better to call your Finanzamt directly and ask them as the rules may be different where you live.

  • Reply Marisa 06/09/2017 at 19:42

    Hi, I’m not German, I’m baptized but I don’t go to the church. Recently I’ve received a form to fill from Finanzamt, I’ve already said before in my anmeldung that I’m not catholic, but it seems that they want to confirm. Should I say that I’m not baptized? If I do that, have they a way to confirm?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/09/2017 at 10:52

      Hi Marisa. This double check can sometimes happen. If you were baptized outside of Germany, i doubt they will have any way to check it.

  • Reply Lainey 20/06/2017 at 23:44

    Apologies if this question is a little naive, but I’ve always heard that if we excommunicate ourselves, we are then officially excommunicated from the Vatican church, which is a reason why a lot of people I know are reluctant to do so. Or are do these records only stay in Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/06/2017 at 12:18

      I don’t know about that, I’d think that these only have to do with taxes and the government, not the actual Church.

  • Reply Ana 06/06/2017 at 18:26

    If you by chance know, is it in this way possible to leave only the churches mentioned above or it can be done for churches that are not in the list yet (one does not pay tax to the Orthodox Christian church yet, but that may not be the case in 5 years).

    Thank you in any case!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/06/2017 at 09:30

      Hi Ana. That’s a good question. I guess that if this really does happen, the procedure will then be the same. I doubt however that you can do it before-hand.

  • Reply Benjamin 02/05/2017 at 18:10

    Thanks, really helpful article!

  • Reply Samantha 11/04/2017 at 17:01

    Can you please clarify one thing for me? I am an exchange student under DAAD, and I get monthly scholarship which is not taxable. Today I received some letter from the Evangelische Kirsche in the neighborhood about some money I need to pay. I am not part of/joined the Church. What do I do?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/04/2017 at 18:49

      Hi Samantha, there is a chance you were registered by mistake when doing your Anmeldung at the Bürgeramt. You can check this if you kept a copy of the form. The process to not pay the tax is detailed in the post.

  • Reply Lucy Gillis 19/03/2017 at 19:51

    Having worked in Germany for three years (since 2014) I have found out that I am paying tax for Roman Catholic since 2015. However I am have never been baptized as RC what should or can I do?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/03/2017 at 09:48

      Hi Lucy. All yours answers are in the post already. This often happens to foreigners.

    Leave a Reply