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.

I have done all the steps above, but i’m still paying the tax. What then?

Try going to the Bürgeramt (the place where you registered your residency). And ask them to change your religion showing them the confirmation from the church.

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. 🙂

91 Comments

  • Reply Mario Vargas 21/12/2020 at 02:10

    Hello!

    I am exploring options for international teaching in Germany. I was baptized as a Methodist in the United States (protestant) and no longer a member. Upon arrival to Germany, what should I do at that point to ensure that I do not have any religious taxes taken out?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/12/2020 at 20:31

      Hey Mario. When you register residence (anmeldung), make sure to write you don’t belong to any Church.

  • Reply Khan 09/12/2020 at 11:17

    Hi Bastien,
    I am a Muslim and I am moving from India to Berlin for Employment. I plan to regularly visit the mosque for Friday Prayer Sessions.
    Am I liable to pay the Church tax ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/12/2020 at 09:42

      Hey Khan. No such tax exists for Muslim churches in Germany. There has been several times projects to establish that, but nothing happened so far. Background info.

  • Reply Mist 07/12/2020 at 17:20

    Hi Bastien,
    I was baptised back in France but not religious and when I moved to Germany I registered as without a religion because I am not religious. I have worked a few years here without paying a tax for a religion I don’t believe. Now as a freelancer, the finanzamt asking me if I am unregistered. I am not but will ASAP. Will they charge me for those years I was not paying this tax?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/12/2020 at 09:46

      Hey Mist. I don’t get it. You are not registered here in Germany with a religion. And now you want to unregister again?

  • Reply Dani J. 25/11/2020 at 14:54

    Hey. So I’ve heard horror stories of people registering as Atheist, and then the German tax authority checking their baptism records in their home countries and fining them for a shitload of money. I was baptized Calvinist, but am atheistic and haven’t been to a church service like in forever. Now the Calvinist church isn’t established in Germany according to the above list.
    Is it safe for me to register as atheist, or should I register as “other Christian” and then do this signing out thing immediately?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/11/2020 at 10:06

      Hey Dani. I think you described your situation well and your understand the choices here. can’t tell you what to do. 🙂

  • Reply Angela 23/11/2020 at 09:36

    Hi,
    I declared I don’t have a religion but I was baptized back home. If I go an de-register, will they charge me for the 3 years I haven’t paid tax? I don’t know if it is better to ignore this since no one has come after me….

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/11/2020 at 09:59

      Hey Angela. If you don’t belong to any Church here, you can’t de-register…

  • Reply Mark 24/09/2020 at 10:29

    Hello, Thanks for the article in simple language, it helps a lot 🙂 I stopped paying the church tax approximately 12 months ago and followed all the steps outlined in the article. All was well, until yesterday I received a letter in the post from the church tax office stating that I owed them 135 euro in arrears ? Do you know how I can owe them money if I declared myself as having no religion and the tax hasn’t been taken out of my wages for a year ? Thanks, Mark.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2020 at 13:59

      Hey Mark. I am as puzzled as you. Do you still have a hold of a written confirmation that you exited the Church? This would probably help.

      • Reply Mark 28/09/2020 at 12:21

        Thanks for the reply, Would it have anything to do with the fact i initially paid it for 2/3 months before realizing what it was on the payslip and then declaring myself out ?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/09/2020 at 13:58

          Hey Mark. If you did declare yourself out by following the proper steps. You should have a written confirmation somehwere yes.

  • Reply Tom 23/09/2020 at 10:26

    Hello, thanks so much for your explanations!
    I have a question: when compiling the anmeldung, if I am an atheist and don’t want to pay the tax, should I leave the field empty or should I select OA – keiner Religionsgesellschaft angehörig?
    I compiled two different forms in English and when I thicked “no” to the question on whether I have a religious community, one of the form left the field empty, the other adopted the other formulation…

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/09/2020 at 09:49

      Hey Tom. I would not leave it empty, just to be sure.

      • Reply Tom 24/09/2020 at 10:20

        Thanks! Better “OA – keiner Religionsgesellschaft angehörig” than a handwritten cross on the empty field then, as someone suggested?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2020 at 13:58

          Hey Tom. Up to you, both options are acceptable.

          • Tom 01/10/2020 at 09:54

            Thanks!

  • Reply Nava 17/08/2020 at 06:12

    Hey there! Are there other religions that are also taxed? I’m Jewish, I did some research and I can’t find a clear answer on whether I would receive a form of the “church” tax or not? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/08/2020 at 14:30

      Hey Nava. From what i understand, Jewish communities are not established as religion-s in Germany, but rather as cultural associations. There is no nationwide Jewish Church tax in Germany. Source: Central Jewish Counsel in Germany FAQ.

  • Reply Ski 09/06/2020 at 23:56

    … so my story is unique. My parents are different religion , I am baptised in Orthodox church…my mom is catholic, my parents got divorce at my early age…so I celebrated catholic holidays with my mom. Consider myself spiritual, but did not go to church. On last citizen registration in my homeland declare myself just as Christian with no belongs to any church.
    Year ago… when I arrived in Germany, did not have clue about tax and because of my bad German …during registration I said ;Catholic. Now when I look year back …gave a lot money to the church where officially don’t belong and don’t wanna give money any more.

    Can just go to the Amtsgericht and change my church to the Orthodox without proof , because my document of baptism from Orthodox church is in cyrillic. Or is easier just to say no religion any more?? Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/06/2020 at 13:22

      Hey Ski. You can do both if you want to. If you don’t want to pay church tax, then it’s best to quit it entirely.

  • Reply Jerald Reventh 23/05/2020 at 10:18

    Hi, I am Jerald from India, I am moving to Germany to pursue my M.Sc. degree in Berlin, I am Baptized in India and I may work part time to cover my expenses. As a student with part time should I pay church taxes or generally will students pay church taxes?
    Thank you for your article.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/05/2020 at 09:40

      Hey Jerald. Being a student does not have any impact on church tax liability. If you have income, you will pay church tax.

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