How to leave the church in Germany (Kirchenaustritt)
Are you a member of a religion that is subject to church tax in Germany? Considering leaving the church? You’ll need to go through a process called Kirchenaustritt.
👉 Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or financial advice. Please consult a professional if you have any questions or concerns.
What is church tax (Kirchensteuer)?
In Germany, church tax is collected by the state on behalf of the Church. It applies to members of the Catholic, Evangelical and Old Catholic churches, as well as Jewish and Israelite religious communities, Free religious communities, the Reformed Church of France in Berlin, Hamburg’s Mennonite community and Unitarian religious communities in Rhineland-Palatinate.
How does Germany decide whether I should pay church tax?
When you register your address (Anmeldung), you add your religious affiliation to the form. Based on this information, the state determines whether you are liable to pay church tax. Your answers are sent to the tax office and they will then link your Tax ID to your affiliated church tax. The church tax rate is typically around 8-9% of your income tax. This isn’t 8-9% of your taxable income. It’s 8-9% of your annual income tax payment amount, added as a surcharge to the bill.
How do I leave the church and stop paying church tax (Kirchensteuer)?
To stop paying church tax, there’s a formal leaving process known as Kirchenaustritt.
In most states of Germany, this involves a personal visit to the district court, Standesamt (civil registration office) or church office. It’s also possible to get a declaration notarized independently, but it costs more.
Although you might be able to walk into the district court or Standesamt during opening hours, many offices require you to make an appointment by calling or emailing in advance.
You have to be at least 14 years old to complete this process independently.
What to expect on the day
Bring your European ID card or your passport and most recent registration certificate (Anmeldung or Meldebescheinigung). You will also have to pay a fee of around 30-60 Euros. If your knowledge of German is not adequate, you’ll have to bring an interpreter with you.
Your caseworker will explain the effects and consequences of leaving the church and get you to sign the declaration. They’ll check your ID documents and your interpreter may have to sign too.
You then receive a certificate of departure known as an Austrittsbescheinigung, which confirms that you are no longer a member of the church. Your obligation to pay church tax should automatically end at the end of the month following your declaration.
Are there any disadvantages to leaving the church?
Leaving the church does have some consequences. For example, you may lose the right to be married, baptized or buried in a church ceremony. But you will probably save a few hundred Euros each year.
How Red Tape Translation can help with the Kirchenaustritt
We’ll happily find out exactly where you need to go and arrange an appointment for you at a district court, civil registration office or notary, taking your availability into account. If you’re in Berlin, Munich or Hamburg, we can also organize an interpreter for you on the day. Set up a coaching here and get started today.