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. 🙂

46 Comments

  • Reply Diana 05/09/2018 at 12:46

    Hello! This only applies if you have a full time job in Germany, correct? I’m a full time student and want to make sure I am not charged when I Anmeldung in my flat in Germany. Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/09/2018 at 10:23

      Hey Diana. This would apply onto your payslip directly, yes.

  • Reply Irina 18/07/2018 at 16:44

    Dear Bastien,

    I will move to Berlin in September and I do not want to pay the church tax for 1 year until my husband will find a job too. Then I would like to pay it since I have a son and I want him to participate in church events. Would this be possible? Thanks,
    Irina

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/07/2018 at 21:08

      Hi Irina. I don’t really know, then you would need to declare yourself part of the Church in one year. Might they not ask why you didn’t do that earlier?

  • Reply Mahmoud 12/06/2018 at 08:44

    Hi,
    I’m a muslim moving to Berlin.
    Do I have to pay this tax?

    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 01:09

      Hi Mahmoud. No.

  • Reply Julie 30/05/2018 at 10:40

    Hi Bastien,
    I have been working in Berlin for the last year and not paying the church tax as I didn’t put down a religion on my Anmeldung. I moved apartment last month so I did the Anmeldung for my new apartment and again, put down no religion. This month I have been charged for the church tax although I have had no correspondence relating to it! Is it possible to check with the Bürgeramt if this was a mistake on their part? I don’t have a copy of the form I filled out. Would the Amtsgericht/Finanzamt normally notify someone if they have discovered their religion and made them eligible for the tax?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/05/2018 at 16:15

      Hi Julie. It’s best to get in touch with the Finanzamt directly and understand what happened there.

  • Reply Lucy Liu 09/04/2018 at 15:27

    Hello Bastien, thanks for your helpful post.
    I’m Italian, baptized in Italy, and I’m going to move to Berlin.
    What’s the best way to avoid paying this tax? Is it better to do the “Kirchenaustritt” when I’ll be in Germany, or is it better do to something while I’m here in Italy?

    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:46

      Hi Oscar. Both options are possible and equally valid. Maybe the process is easier to handle in your native language though.

    • Reply Davide 11/07/2018 at 18:52

      Just send a sign-for letter (raccomandata) to the church where you were baptised. I used this form here:
      https://www.uaar.it/laicita/sbattezzo/sbattezzo-modulo-per-parroco.pdf
      In my case I had to push by calling and finally the diocese sent me a letter confirming that I was finally out. Be insisting.

      Until you do it you are considered Catholic, so always declare yourself ‘konfessionlos’. There is no way they can find proof that you are, as they’d need first to know in which church have you been baptised. Look at this: https://global.handelsblatt.com/politics/expats-beware-germany-church-tax-922429

  • Reply Peter 04/04/2018 at 13:31

    Hi,

    I’ve started working in Germany two years ago. During the anmeldung I declared that I don’t belong to any religious organization. I am an atheist, but I was baptized in Poland. I thought that saying no in the anmeldung form is enough, but recently I’ve learned about ​Kirchenaustrittserklärung and I’ve started to worry about backpayment. I would like to leave church officialy.

    Do you know if I will need to pay all of the taxes from my anmeldung to the day I declare that I’m leaving the church in Standesamt?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2018 at 15:23

      Hi Peter. As far as the German tax system is concerned, you are not registered as part of the church, so it would not make any sense to leave it in the first place.

      • Reply Petra 26/05/2018 at 15:08

        Hi Bastien, I declared I was not a member of any church by Anmeldung but now I received a form from the Kirchensteuerstelle where they are asking me if I was baptised or not. What should I do (I was baptised in my home country but do not consider myself religious)?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:17

          Hi Petra. I can’t tell you what to do but i have talked with people who were in the same situation as you. They said they weren’t and got away with it. But again; your decision.

      • Reply Lucio 19/09/2018 at 15:44

        Hi Bastien,
        the same for me, I have been in Berlin 1 year, I filled the form with konfessionlos. However, a month ago I received the famous questionnaire. Still did answer it and throw it in the trash. Just worried about it if they ask for tax retrospectively. Couldn’t find a Tax expert so far to advise what to do. Don’t say anything? File to get out of the Church and not paying in the future? no idea

  • Reply Tanlie 23/02/2018 at 10:31

    Hi,
    Thanks for the info.
    I will start working in Germany in March/April.
    I am baptised but I don’t want to pay the tax church. If I write that I don’t have a religion on my Anmeldung, I suppose it’s not good enough?
    Do I need to do the “Kirchenaustritt” before registering my anmeldung, or can I do this later?
    Thanks for your help,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2018 at 08:39

      Hi Tanlie. There will be no further questions during the anmeldung process if you proceed like so. There will maybe be a check in the future at some point by the Finanzamt. No need to do a Kirchenaustritt before the anmeldung since you aren’t even registered.

  • Reply Rade Vajda-Medina 21/02/2018 at 16:58

    Thank you for the information! I’m really considering doing this and not paying this tax while I start living in Germany. I didn’t know about the tax at the moment, but well…. my question is this:
    If I sucessfully quit the “Kirchensteuer”, can I return in the future to be considered christian by paying my taxes again? I say this, because later I may meet a christian girl in Europe who wants to get married. Can I return or would it be too late?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/02/2018 at 19:49

      Hi Rade, i’m not sure you need to pay taxes after you get married. Why would you do that?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/02/2018 at 08:47

      Hi Rade. You need to be paying Church taxes to get married.

  • Reply LG 19/02/2018 at 05:30

    Hi
    I’m a student in Berlin and I haven’t started working yet but I intend to do so.
    I really don’t remember if I wrote Catholic on my application or not, is there any way to check before since I don’t want to pay this tax? I don’t have a copy of the form.

    Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/02/2018 at 18:37

      Hi LG. You should be able to see that on your first pay slip. There is a tax line for that.

  • Reply Gust 03/02/2018 at 19:57

    I’ve been working in Germany since September 14 of 2017, I was informed about the Kichensteuer (Church tax) few days after arriving. Then I had to get my Kirchenaustritt.
    I was said the paperwork will take about 2 months, and after that, the tax would be removed. It’s February third and I got charged with tax the last month.

    Is anything else required to get rid of this tax?

  • Reply Jad 08/01/2018 at 01:37

    Hi ,
    I got a letter from the Finanzamt after I applied for a Steuernummer as a freelancer. I’m also employed and i have been working in Berlin for over 5 years now as an employee. I have always declared to be atheist even though i have been baptized. So I have never paid the Kirchensteuer and never done the Austritt, however now I’m worried that they will double check with the Italian church to confirm if I have actually been baptized and will need to pay all the retroactive payment. Should I just send them this Formular confirming once more that I don’t belong to any religious group? Should I also eventually do the Austritt or I don’t need it and could actually create more doubts if I suddenly do the Austritt after six years of declaring that I’m not religious anyway. Thanks for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/01/2018 at 11:24

      Hi Giada. I have heard from Italian friends that checks in Italy can indeed happen. I don’t think you can send any Austritt form, since you are not in a church in the first place.You know the risks and the situation. Up to you to take the decision. Good luck!

  • 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

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.