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I’s safe to say that we all know someone who suddenly realized 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 trivial. They simply fill-out their Anmeldung form truthfully and ask no questions when being asked if they belong a certain religion.

German church tax

If you are this situation (like I was once), this costs you money. Follow this guide to stop paying the German church tax.

How much is the Church tax in Germany?

Church tax in Germany is a 8-9% surcharge on top of your income tax. It’s 8% in Bayern and Baden-Württemberg & 9% in all other regions.

You can use this calculator to estimate how much it represents for you.

This means that some people paying up to thousands of euros every year, when they never intended to belong to a Church in Germany! 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.

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

How is this tax collected?

For employees, this is collected directly from your paycheck, as is the rest of income tax in Germany. This is what this “KS” (Kirchensteuer) line on your pay slip is!

The process looks a bit different for self-employed people but it’s also relatively simple. It will be paid at the same time you pay income tax. Depending on your situation, this might happen in yearly, monthly, or quarterly installments. The Finanzamt already has the information, no need to send extra documents.

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 have to do an “Kirchenaustritt. It translates to “Church exit”.

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 & enjoy the extra-cash

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.

About the chances to get caught if you lied

There might be different reasons why you were untruthful during your Anmeldung:

  • You were baptized as a kid but you have stopped going to services a long time ago. Therefore, you don’t feel like you have strong connection to the religion.
  • You were baptized as a kid out of tradition but never were religious. You also don’t feel like you belong to the Church at all.
  • You are going to services back home, but you don’t want to pay the church tax in Germany because you only want to stay temporarily.
  • You don’t plan on going to services given in German, which you can’t understand anyway.

Those are all valid reasons but the religious authorities don’t care unfortunately. There is a good chance you might get an angry letter if you lie about this.

Churches often possesses enough information to cross-reference it with files available to them on an international level. We might feel like those are antiquated institutions but they are well-organized, well-centralized ones too. It is common to be “found”. This is almost guaranteed if you come from a country where a Church tax exists.


Good luck and let me know if you need any details in the comments abut Church tax in Germany. You can simply share your experience. 🙂

Bastien

FAQ – German Church tax

Can I get all that money back retroactively?

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.

Can I put off the German church tax off in taxes?

Yes. Church tax is completely deductible in Germany. Use the document “Anlage Sonderausgaben” when doing your tax declaration.

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 address). 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 state-recognized religion communities are allowed to collect taxes: The following nine state-recognized religious communities are allowed to collect church tax: Evangelische Landeskirchen, Katholische Kirche, Altkatholische Kirche, Jüdische Kultusgemeinden, Israelitische Religionsgemeinschaften, Freireligiöse Gemeinden, Französische Kirche zu Berlin, Mennonitengemeinde in Hamburg-Altona, Unitarische Religionsgemeinschaft Freier Protestanten in Rheinland-Pfalz.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4