August 2011


So I am proud of the fact that I pay taxes in Germany, save for one thing….

Feststellung der Zugehörigkeit zu einer öffentlich-rechtlichen Religionsgemeinschaft

Sehr geehrter Herr Adam

durch die steuererhebende Stelle des Finanzamts sind wir informiert worden, dass keine ausreichenden Information über Ihre Zugehörigkeit zu einer der Kirchen vorliegen, die auf der Grundlage der Bestimmung des Grundgesetzes zur Steuerhebung berechtig sind.

So, in today’s mail I got a letter – the third one this year – from the Tax Authorities here in Berlin, but unlike the previous ones asking legitimate (I suppose) questions, this one is asking me about my religion—specifically whether or not I have one.

I find this annoying and offensive.

Even more so because the questionnaire is being sent by the tax authorities on behalf of the church.

Why is it that Christians get special privileges?

5 comments to So I am proud of the fact that I pay taxes in Germany, save for one thing….

  • Declare yourself an atheist and keep your money … That would make Ayn Rand proud (LOL).

  • A S

    Giving money to the church or making Ayn Rand proud… now that’s a dilemma.

    At least you get to have a choice in the matter. As a German citizen, I was branded a protestant the moment my parents decided to have me baptized, which they admittedly only did because they were after the money and presents they would no doubt receive from their families.

    I hated church, religion classes in school (I only went because all my friends were there) and pretty much gave up on trying to understand why anyone would willingly believe in an invisible man in the sky by the time I was eight. Needless to say, I never did undergo confirmation, even though our local pastor repeatedly urged me to do so, lest I not become a true member of the church.

    Imagine my surprise when I discovered that both the church and the state apparently considered me an official member of the church despite all this, and wanted me to pay the church tax. Apparently I had given my consent to become a lifetime member the day I was baptized. The fact that I was only a few weeks old at the time didn’t seem to bother anyone.

    Leaving the church ended up costing me 25 Euros and a trip to the local Amtsgericht.

    If I ever have children I might still have them baptized, the money and the presents really can be pretty nice. But I’ll probably make sure to set aside 25 Euros of that cash just so they won’t have to pay their own way out when the time comes 😉

  • Mo

    It’s not that (only) Christians get special privileges – all religious communities and “Weltanschauungsgemeinschaften” (world-view communities? philosophical communities? That one is really hard to translate) that have been granted public body status may choose to collect church tax, or have it collected by the state.
    And achieving public body status is not that hard. The communities basically need to have an “aspect of sustainability” (so they are not just a short-lived fad) and (as an unwritten law) need to adhere to the constitution, the legal system and the law.

    Apart from the roman catholic and protestant churches and a few other christian churches (the) jewish communities collect church tax via the state as well.

    And among others, elegible for tax collection (but choosing not to do so) are e.g. the Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses and several humanistic and freethought communities.

    That’s not to say I’m in support of church tax – I’m not. It’s just that it is not a special privilege just for christians.

  • ann

    thank you, mo. you spared me a lot of typing. i am opposed to the setup, here, but it’s pretty entrenched.

  • You shouldn’t have to tell them you’re an atheist. Whether you’re a god-fearing troglodyte or not is none of the state’s fucking business. Tell them nothing at all and they can’t tax you for anything.