Bumper year for German church tax - but people still leaving

In a boon to Germany's Catholic Church, the country's economic boom has boosted the collection of church taxes by 800 million Australian dollars over the last two years - but people are still leaving in droves.

Deutsche Welle reports that for the first time since 2000, the German church has raked in more church tax.

According to recent estimates, the 27 dioceses on average took in some eight per cent more in 2006 when compared to 2005. Financial experts for the church expect that revenue for 2007 could amount to A$7.3 billion - A$800,000 more than two years ago.

Germany has a system of ecclesiastical financing unique to only a few European countries. Germany's 28 million Catholics - along with other members of state-recognised religions - are obligated to pay their churches a tax of between 8 percent and 9 percent, depending on where they live.

The federal tax office automatically deducts this from people's monthly pay packets every month, with the result that Germany's churches are among the richest in the world.

However, despite the increase in church tax collected, Germans continue to desert the Church in droves.

Between 2000 and 2005, more than 680,000 people officially registered to leave the church and free themselves from their tax obligations (and their right to receive the sacraments at the same time). In addition, Germany's sluggish economy with its high unemployment rates and lower wages meant there was even less money available to tax.

But now, things are looking up because the levy, the church's biggest single source of income, is back up to levels not seen since 1998.

According to Sebastian Anneser, the financial director of the Catholic Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, a key reason for this "surprising" development is increasing business confidence and its positive effects on employment.

In his March budget statement, though, Anneser warned the increase "wasn't expected to hold in the long-term" because a combination of low birthrates, aging population and waning interest were causing people to "turn their backs on the church."

Economic Boom, Not Pope, Helps Catholic Church in Germany (Deutsche Welle, 16/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Church tax (Wikipedia)
Taxation in Germany (Wikipedia)
Catholic Church Germany (Catholic Hierarchy)

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