How to leave the church


In the end, it is often the church tax that induces cartel members to leave.

The two large churches in Germany collected around 11 billion euros in taxes last year. And this despite the fact that the number of members is steadily declining. How much is the church tax? And how can one press it?

Protestant, Catholic or Muslim? Most people do not choose their religion, but are baptized or born into it – or not. In the eastern German states, the non-denominational people are the absolute majority, but nationwide, about 60 percent of the population still belongs to a Christian church, which is a good 48 million people. It doesn’t matter if they go to church regularly or have long since turned away from the faith: If they earn enough money, they have to pay church tax. But how much? Is it possible to avoid the tax or at least to avoid it? And is it true that non-members can also be asked to pay the tax?? The most important questions at a glance:

Who must pay?

In principle, all religious or ideological communities in Germany are allowed to levy church tax if they are recognized as public corporations. But that does not mean that they are. The Protestant free churches, for example, waive the tax, as do the Orthodox churches, the Alevi community and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They rely instead on voluntary membership dues. The large churches and the Jewish communities in Germany, on the other hand, use the "move-in offer" from the state back.

Every member who has any income to pay tax on must pay. If your income is below the basic tax-free amount of 8652 euros, you will usually remain untroubled. Otherwise, church tax is deducted directly from the salary of employees. In the case of investment income, the banks pay it to the tax office unless you expressly object. Self-employed people are usually asked to pay through their advance income tax payments.

Non-members also pay?

There are indeed cases in which even non-denominational people are asked to pay on behalf of the churches. In the case of mini-jobs, for example. Here, the employer deducts a flat two percent tax on the salary that he pays out gross for net. And this two percent not only covers income tax and the solidarity surcharge, but also church tax. Even if the employee is not a member of the church.

Another option is the so-called special church tax for marriages of different faiths. It is incurred when a couple uses spousal splitting and the higher-earning partner is non-denominational. If the other earns little or nothing, the income of the non-member is used to calculate church tax. However, the special church tax is not levied everywhere by all churches.

How much is the church tax?


Every year about 450.000 people leave the church.

The assessment basis for the church tax is not the income, but the income tax. In most German states, nine percent of income tax goes to the church; in Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg it is eight percent, but here members still transfer an income-dependent local church fee to their congregations. A single person with 30.000 Euro annual gross income pays between 300 and 340 Euro church tax per year. At 70.000 Euro annual gross the church tax makes up about 1350 to 1500 Euro depending on the federal state.

Can church tax be reduced?

Since the church tax is linked to income tax, it is automatically based on financial capacity. Reductions for hardship cases are therefore not provided for. Unemployed are exempt from church tax but in principle. Retirees pay – like everyone else – only if their income is high enough.

However, there can be a discount for particularly high incomes. Keyword: "cap limit. To prevent people with particularly high incomes from leaving the church, they can limit the tax to a certain percentage of income almost everywhere. Depending on the federal state and church, the limit is between 2.75 and 4 percent of income. The churches would rather collect a little less tax than none at all. Only in Bavaria there is no upper limit, at least not officially. However, municipalities are free to waive part of the tax for their members. In Baden-Wurttemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Saarland, the cap must first be applied for; in the other states, it is automatically taken into account.

Churches are also often open to discussion when it comes to severance payments. Church tax offices are obliged to carefully examine applications for tax exemption. In most cases, half of the tax is waived in the case of severance payments.

Can I get the tax back?

Taxes paid can be deducted from tax? That is possible. Church tax counts as a special expense. Like donations to charitable organizations, the full amount of the contribution to the church also reduces taxable income. Church tax, which is due on capital gains, is not taken into account here.

And if you absolutely don’t want to pay church tax?

If you earn enough to pay taxes, there is only one way to avoid church tax: Leaving the church. If one has anyway no relation to the faith, this is obvious. Many people remain loyal to the church, even though they no longer have anything to do with it. This is certainly not only for folkloristic reasons, but also for organizational reasons, because leaving the church is not a simple matter of clicking a mouse. One must go to the registry office or to the responsible district court and gets there a resignation form. You don’t have to give a reason for leaving, but you do have to pay. Depending on the federal state between ten and over 30 euros are due.

The exit either takes effect the following month or a month later. This is also the point at which the church tax ceases to apply. The employer is informed of this by the Federal Central Tax Office. Self-employed people should report their departure to the tax office and ask for a recalculation of the advance tax payments.

It is very important to keep the confirmation of leaving the church. Because sometimes the Federal Central Tax Office stores incorrect information. Who can not prove the resignation in case of doubt, may have to pay taxes retroactively.

Doing good even without the church?

Even though only a fraction of church taxes go to charitable projects, many church members feel they are doing something "good" with their taxes to be supported. After leaving, of course, it is a good idea to invest the saved tax or a part of it in other charitable projects. Pleasant side effect: Donations can also be deducted from taxes. So that it does not remain with the noble intention, one must worry naturally also.

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