Have you ever heard about church tax before? If you are living in Austria and you are a member of the Protestant or Catholic Church you have to pay a church tax. The church tax in Austria is not a tax as it is known in the conventional sense, but this is a contribution that is only intended for the respective church. By joining a religious community in Austria, the church tax is due, taking into account the relevant requirements, such as the amount of income.
Church tax exists only in several countries in the world and these are Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria. In other countries, the churches finance themselves.
After the end of the Second World War, the Church Contribution Act was incorporated into the legislation of Austria and has been in force till today. However, since in Austria the church tax is not linked to the state taxes, the individual contribution amount is determined by the respective churches or their institutions themselves according to Finanz.
Because of this procedure, the churches do not have all and detailed information from the respective taxpayers. The churches are therefore forced to compile such lists themselves and to write to their members of the respective religious community in order to collect the church tax. The estimate of the respective income is determining the amount of church tax.
In practice, the churches only receive the registration data of the members (such as name, address, and date of birth) from the authorities. Everything else that is necessary for the calculation of the church tax must be obtained by the church from the persons concerned. The respective data is treated confidentially and may only be used for the calculation basis and the collection of the church tax. (source: Finanz)
How much is the church tax in Austria?
The amount to be paid for the Catholic Church in Austria is 1.1% of the gross income in the year of the respective contributor and in the Protestant Church, it is approx. 1.5% of the gross income in the year of the respective contributor. The amount of tax deductibility is currently around 400 euros in Austria.
What is the church tax used for in Austria?
The church tax in Austria is mainly used to cover the expenses of the churches. Missing amounts are financed with donations or compensated with it. Austria is the only country that finances the expenditure of the churches without support from the state. In Austria approx. 80 percent of the population are Catholics and thus the church tax is a cornerstone of its possible sources of income for the Catholic Church.
What benefits can be expected for paying the church tax in Austria?
The members of the Catholic or Protestant Church can also use the services of the churches, such as baptism, wedding, first communion, confirmation, pastoral care in crisis situations or in the hospital as well as free visits to church buildings.
I didn’t pay church tax in Austria – what is happening?
Every member of the Catholic or Protestant Church is obliged to pay the church tax. If a larger amount has been accumulated, the church can also claim the amount. However, anyone who leaves the church does not have to pay a church tax from this point on.
The churches in Austria have the problem that often young people leave their respective religious communities. The reasons for this are very different. Every year in Austria there are over 50,000 church resignations from the Catholic Church alone, with an upward trend. The churches react to this negative development for them and therefore try to accommodate the members with relatively low contributions.
How to avoid paying a church tax in Austria?
You can avoid paying a church tax in Austria by leaving the church. In order to leave the church in Austria, all important forms, which are exactly required for this, must first be submitted to the appropriate authority. These can usually be viewed on the website of this authority and then downloaded. After printing them out at home and filling them in, they must be submitted in full and signed to the authorities. Exactly which documents are involved may vary depending on the religion and region. However, a call to the relevant authority usually solves this problem quickly.
Leaving the Church in Austria
There are different reasons for people to leave the church. Apart from the fact that it is stated that they do not believe in God, but that they were baptized by their parents anyway, the monthly payment of church tax also is an important factor.
Certain documents must be submitted to the relevant authority in order to declare the withdrawal. These almost always include the baptismal certificate, a registration slip, a short letter, and a photo ID for identification. The letter must be signed in order to be valid.
The exit from the church must be reported to the competent authority. This is the district administration or the magistrate of the main residence. By using the Internet or the telephone, it is easy to find the correct address and the given requirements of the authority for a legal exit.
If written confirmation is requested from the person leaving the church, a fee is usually charged. The usual amount is around 15 euros. (Source: Finanz) However, this is more payment for the administrative burden. The respective church does not benefit from this payment. It is recommended to have such a written confirmation handed over in order to be able to show official proof in case of doubt. Leaving the church, regardless of whether it is a Catholic or a Protestant church, is already possible at the age of 14.
When I don’t have to pay church tax in Austria?
There are also groups of people exempt from the church tax. These include people without their own income and special groups such as apprentices, unemployed people, mothers or fathers on maternity leave, those doing military or community service.
There are situations in Austria in which no church contribution has to be paid. For example, if you are studying and do not earn any additional income here, you do not have to pay a church fee. During community service or regular military service, it is not necessary to pay church fees or church tax.
Those who are financially poor and, for example, receive emergency benefits or are e.g. unemployed, do not have to pay church tax. A household that has no income does not have to pay church tax either. The same applies if, for example, you receive minimum income according to Foerderportal.
Do I have to pay a church tax as a student in Austria?
As a student, you usually have little or no income, which is why you are exempt from church fees. The church (in the form of the diocese of your main residence) will contact you regularly and ask you about your current status, which you must actively prove. In order to remain exempt from the church fee, you must regularly submit your confirmation of enrollment and/or confirmation of continuation at the request of the church. (Source: Studium.at)
If you can no longer do this (for example because you have completed or dropped out of your studies) and or do not provide any information about your income, the church will estimate your income and possibly calculate the church contribution you have to pay, which will then be free to your door is communicated by letter with the enclosed payment slip.
If you then refuse to pay the church fee, you only have to leave the church. The district authority of your main residence is responsible for this. Only a few authorities still require that you hand in the necessary documents in person. Most of the time, this can be done by post, and more and more simply via the online form.
Author: Sofia Ivanov is a blogger at AustrianCareer.at. She holds a MA in international business and also contributes photography to AustrianCareer.at