Church tax in Germany

Historically the church tax law goes back to close integration of state and church in the German Principalities and Kingdoms before 1803. After the secularization of church properties in the year 1803 (dispossession and use for worldly purposes) the Catholic dioceses came into financial hardship due to the dispossession, and the Protestant regional churches due to the increasing separation of state and church.

Therefore in the 19th century nearly all German states instituted a church tax. With the introduction of democracy in Germany in the year 1919 this was regulated in the constitution. Chapter 137 Section 6 of Weimar Constitution from 11.8.1919 guaranteed the church the right to church taxes. This norm has continuing validity according to Chapter 140 of the Basic Law (the present German constitution of 25.5.1949).

For the state the church tax is the result of the gradual separation and fulfilment of state and church roles and the mutual promotion of freedom in partnership since 1918. Concretely the church tax is regulated by the church tax laws of the individual states.

In the church tax law of North Rhine Westphalia the Catholic and Protestant church raise the church tax due to their own regulations on the basis of Paragraph §1. Usually the church tax is levied as a surcharge of incomes or wages tax (§4 Section 1). If the obligation to pay church tax is not valid for the whole year, then the amount is calculated on a basis of one twelfth of the yearly amount for each month (§ 5 Section 2 Church Law NRW) Members of the church pay a surcharge of 9% on their income tax.

This money is used in our Diocese Essen for spiritual welfare, Caritas and education. In Germany one only has to pay tax above a particular income, € 8.653,00 per annum, i.e. € 721,00 monthly.

Students who only have a minijob don’t have to pay income tax and thereby also now church tax. When you have a part-time job for several month in the year, in which you are obliged to pay income tax, it is sensible in your own interest to make a tax declaration with appendix KAP (KAP Anlage) at the end of the year.

The income will be calculated over the whole year. If you lie with your income within the tax free allowance (€ 8.652,00) you will be refunded the tax.

Even then you have to pay church tax, it can be recognised as a special expense, which will reduced your taxable income. You can get free help your for declaration in the internet under the reference ‘Studenten Steuererklärung’.