Whether it’s about the church tax rate, calculating church tax or leaving the church, read all the facts about the topic here.
Unlike all other types of taxes, the church tax is not regulated by the Basic Law, but by the laws of the federal states. Accordingly, any religious community or ideological organization may levy a church tax if it is recognized as a public corporation. The responsible federal state then formally reviews the corresponding decisions of the corporation.
Who has to pay church tax?
You have to pay church tax if you belong to a state-recognized church and your main residence is in Germany. The two largest state-recognized religious communities in Germany are the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. According to calculations by the German Bishops’ Conference, the Catholic Church will have a total of 22.6 million members in 2019, and the Protestant Church 20.7 million.
By the way:
A corporation under public law is something like a state within the state. In addition to certain requirements – for example, at least 30 years of existence before being recognized as a corporation – there are many rights associated with it: A corporation under public law may employ civil servants, is exempt from property tax, and can collect (church) tax, especially with the help of tax offices. For recognized religious communities, church tax accounts for by far the largest share of their income.
There are a total of nine state-recognized religious communities in Germany, all of which are allowed to levy a church tax:
- Catholic Church
- Protestant Churches
- Old Catholic Church
- Jewish religious communities
- Israelite religious communities
- Free religious congregations
- French Church of Berlin
- Mennonite Church in Hamburg-Altona
- Unitarian Religious Community of Free Protestants in Rhineland-Palatinate
Which religious communities do not charge church tax?
If a religious community is a recognized public corporation, it can levy church tax – but it does not have to. Many do without. These include, for example, the Orthodox churches with a good 1.5 million members in Germany, as well as the Evangelical Free Church congregations with around 301.000 members.
Which religious communities are not allowed to levy church tax??
Members of the Muslim religious community do not pay church tax because the community is not recognized as a public corporation. The German Bishops’ Conference estimates that there are currently about 4.5 million Muslims living in Germany.
Fewer members, similar principle: Buddhists, Methodists, Baptists or Adventists also do not belong to a state-recognized religious community and therefore do not pay church tax.
By the way:
With a population of over 80 million, the German Bishops’ Conference estimates that more than one-third of the population in Germany is non-denominational.
How high is the church tax?
The amount of church tax depends on your place of residence. In Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria, eight percent of your income tax is paid as church tax, in the other federal states nine percent:
|Federal State||Church tax|
|Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania||9 percent|
|Lower Saxony||9 percent|
|North Rhine-Westphalia||9 percent|
This is how the calculation looks with eight or. nine percent church tax:
The tax office determines the income tax and church tax, your employer withholds wage and church tax. Subsequently, the church tax is forwarded to the church. However, the treasury does not make this transaction for free: The respective church must pay a fee of 3 to 4.5 percent of the collected church taxes. But the church is happy to accept this, because if it were to collect its taxes itself, the administrative costs would be much higher.
By the way:
If your income in 2021 is below 9.744 euros a year or. around 812 euros a month, you do not have to pay wage tax, income tax or church tax. For married couples and registered partners, the double basic tax-free allowance of 19.488 euros.
Can I deduct church tax from my taxes??
Yes, you can. You can deduct the church tax you actually pay from your taxes as a special expense. Simply enter the amount in the special expenses annex under "Church tax" one.
Are there different types of church taxes?
There are three different types in total:
- Church tax on income,
- Church tax from real estate,
- the general and the special church tax.
How does the church tax on income work?
This is the most common form of church tax. It is also called church income tax or church payroll tax. Under the question "How much is the church tax?" you will find the most important details.
What is it about church tax on real estate?
Some bishoprics and dioceses require their members to pay church tax not only on their income, but also on their real estate. In Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, this is the case in the area of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Limburg and Speyer.
The church tax from the real estate is collected by the municipalities together with the real estate tax and is calculated according to a fixed percentage. In the area of the Speyer diocese, for example, the church tax on real estate is 10 percent of the real estate tax assessment amount (as of 2021). If you own a property but are not liable to pay church tax, the municipality is not allowed to collect church tax from the property.
What is the general church tax?
Who has only a small income and also no property, would have to pay as a member of a nationally recognized church municipality theoretically no Obulus to the church. In this case, the general church tax applies: This means that even housewives or unemployed people pay their contribution to the church if they are of age and their income is above the subsistence level. Then they pay between 5 and 120 euros a year directly to their church community.
Just like the church tax on real estate, the general church tax is only levied in certain regions. In Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg, the Protestant Church in the Rhineland and the Protestant Church of the Palatinate levy a general church tax of.
What is the special church tax?
This form of church tax only affects married or. married persons who use the joint tax assessment for their tax return. We explain how the special church tax works with an example:
Let us assume that an executive employee has recently left the church. His wife is a housewife and still a member of a state-recognized church. If both submit a tax return together as a joint assessment, the wife must pay the special church tax – and according to the joint income. In other words: Because he left, she has to pay a higher church tax.
The special church tax is calculated by the responsible tax office. The calculation is based on a table with 13 levels: The first and at the same time lowest level applies to a joint taxable income of the spouses between 30.000 and 37.499 euros, the special church tax is then 96 euros per year. The 13. and at the same time the highest rate applies from a joint taxable income of 300.000 euros, the special church tax then amounts to an annual 3.600 euros (as of 2021).
What if only one spouse or partner is a church member??
If a married or cohabiting couple submits their tax return as a joint assessment and only one of them is a church member, then the special church tax (see above) applies.
If the spouses or partners belong to different denominations and only one of them earns, the employer and the tax office collect the church tax, namely half for the husband’s church and half for the wife’s church.
What do I have to consider when moving?
Basically, you do not have to pay attention to anything when you move. Because no extra re-registration for the church tax is necessary. But the tax officials may have to do a little math – for example, if you have moved from North Rhine-Westphalia to Bavaria. Why? The church tax in NRW is nine percent, the church tax in Bavaria is eight percent.
An example: Christoph moves from Cologne to Munich because he has found a new job there. But because Christoph is moving to a state with a lower church tax, the tax official has to do some math, at least for the year he moves: he takes the income tax Christoph has to pay and divides it by twelve (months). For each twelfth, it calculates the church tax rate applicable to the respective place of residence – i.e. from January up to and including July, the nine percent church tax as applicable in Lower Saxony and from August up to and including December, the eight percent church tax of Bavaria. Finally, the tax official adds both sums together – and receives the church tax due for Christoph in the year of his move.
By the way:
When Christoph still lived in Cologne, he earned much less than in Munich. Therefore, the twelfths could be unfavorable for him, so that he has to pay a lot of church tax. Therefore, he applies for a "remission in equity" to his responsible church tax office. This then decides at its own discretion whether Christoph has to pay church tax or whether it is waived for him.
I live and work in different federal states – does this have an impact on church tax?
Yes, it has. The amount of church tax depends on the state in which you work. This is regulated for reasons of simplification, because this way an employer can simply make the monthly tax deduction for all employees with the same church tax rate – no matter in which federal state the employees live. In the final assessment, the amount of church tax depends on your place of residence. You can either get the difference back on your tax return or you may have to pay it in arrears.
How to leave the church?
If you want to leave the church, go with your identity card or passport to the registry office, local court or district court responsible for you. If you are married, in many cases you will also need your marriage certificate. Together with the official, you fill out the form for leaving the church. In some federal states, leaving the church is free of charge, in others you have to pay between 25 and 100 euros.
Important: Have a confirmation of leaving the church issued for you. You may have to pay a small fee for this, but it is worth it. Since the church has not yet deleted you from its baptismal register, you may otherwise be asked to pay again or retroactively when you move. With the church leaving confirmation you can prove your resignation.
When does a withdrawal become effective for tax purposes?
The obligation to pay church tax ends at the end of the calendar month in which you declared your departure from the church at the registry office. Sometimes it can also be the following month. Afterwards the church tax will be cancelled without replacement.
Do I have to inform my employer about my leaving the church??
As a rule, the Federal Central Tax Office automatically sends a notice of change to the employer. If you want to be absolutely sure whether your employer has been informed, it is best to check the first pay slip after leaving the church.
How does it work with leaving the church in the case of a mini-job??
Especially in the case of a mini-job, you do not have to inform anyone about your leaving the church. The reason: As a mini-jobber, you generally do not pay church tax. If you have a midijob and are in tax class V (5) or VI (6), you will pay church tax, but you do not have to inform your employer that you have left the company – as with a regular employee, this should happen automatically via the Federal Central Tax Office.
How do I pay church tax if I change my denomination??
If you change your denomination – for example, from Catholic to Protestant – your previous Catholic parish will receive the church tax pro rata temporis until the end of the current calendar month. From the following month, you then pay church tax to your new, Protestant congregation.
Church tax is also due on my investment income – is this then withheld directly by the bank??
Generally, the final withholding tax and also church tax is due on capital gains. The tax office levies church tax on capital gains that you had before 2009. Between 2009 and 2015 you could choose: Either you took care of the taxation yourself by filling out your tax return accordingly or you instructed your bank to do it for you. Since 2015, the automatic church tax deduction on your investment income by your bank is mandatory. You can find all the details on this topic in our article on the flat rate withholding tax.
What if I receive a severance payment – is that also subject to church tax?
Yes. But at least you have the possibility to save church taxes with the help of a partial remission. You can find out how this works in our top topic Are taxes due for a severance payment??
By the way:
They do not want to pay church tax anymore, but still want to remain a member of the Catholic Church as a faith community? This is not possible, as the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled in 2012 and the German Bishops’ Conference clarified. Hartmut Zapp, professor emeritus of church law, filed a lawsuit.