The church is so rich anyway. So why do I have to pay a church contribution?

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One point of criticism often voiced by people who are not ready to pay their “Kirchebeitrag” is the impression that the church has a lot of money and enough assets. It is incomprehensible to them that they must also pay a church contribution.

You must contribute if you are a member of the Protestant or Catholic Church in Austria. However, the church tax (church contribution) in Austria is not a tax as we know it in the conventional sense but a contribution that is only intended for the respective church. By joining a religious community in Austria, the church contribution (church tax) becomes subject to certain conditions, such as income level.
Such a church contribution or tax is only levied in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria. In other countries, the churches finance themselves through their own assets (e.g., property assets).

After the end of the Second World War, the Church Contributions Act was incorporated into Austrian legislation and has been in force ever since. However, as Austria’s church tax (church contribution) is not linked to state taxes (as in Germany), the individual contribution amount is determined by the respective churches or their institutions.

Due to this procedure, the churches and their institutions do not have detailed information from the respective taxpayers. Therefore, the churches or their institutions are forced to compile such lists themselves and write to their members of the respective religious community to collect the church contribution (church tax) in this form. The amount of church tax (church contribution) is then determined by estimating the respective income because nobody is obliged to disclose their income to the church in Austria.

In practice, the churches and their institutions only receive the registration data of the members of the respective religious community (name, address, date of birth) from the authorities. Everything necessary for calculating the church contribution (church tax) must be obtained by the church itself from the persons concerned.

Regarding data protection, the respective church or its institutions must comply with the statutory provisions. The respective data is treated confidentially and may only be used to calculate and collect church contributions (church tax).

According to various estimates in recent years, Catholics in Austria are missing out on around 40 percent of their potential income. The reason for this is that the Catholic Church does not have precise information about the income of its members.

The amount to be paid by the Catholic Church in Austria is 1.1 percent of the annual income subject to the income tax of the respective contributor, and in the Protestant Church, approx. 1.0 % of the annual income is subject to the income tax of the respective contributor. The tax deductibility for 2024 is EUR 600 (previously EUR 400) in Austria.

There are also groups of people who are exempt from church contributions. These include people without their own income and special groups such as apprentices and those doing military or civilian service. The contribution is reduced for recipients of childcare allowance, unemployment benefit, or equalization allowance.

What is the church contribution (church tax) used for?

Church contributions (church tax) in Austria are largely used to cover the expenses of the churches. Any shortfall is financed or offset by donations. It should be noted that Austria is the only country that finances church expenses without support from the state. In Austria, around 80 percent of the population is Catholic; therefore, the church contribution (church tax) is a cornerstone of the Catholic Church’s possible sources of income.

What benefits can be expected from paying the church contribution (church tax)?

Many services benefit the general public. These include the preservation of valuable and historic buildings. Members of the Catholic or Protestant church can also take advantage of church services such as baptism, weddings, first communion, confirmation, pastoral care in crisis situations or hospitals, and free tours of church buildings.

Church contribution (church tax) is not paid. What now?
Every Catholic or Protestant church member is obliged to pay the church contribution (church tax). If a large amount has accumulated, the church can also sue for the amount. However, anyone who leaves the church no longer has to pay the church contribution (church tax). Nowadays, it is relatively easy to leave the church, whereas this was still very difficult and cumbersome years ago.

The churches in Austria have the problem of young people often leaving their respective religious communities. The reasons for this vary greatly. Every year in Austria, over 50,000 people leave the Catholic Church alone, and the trend is rising. The churches are reacting to this negative development and trying to accommodate members with relatively low contributions.

Is leaving the church permanent?
Is there an alternative to leaving the church if you want to change your mind?

Leaving the church is a separation from the church community. The person who decides to take this step is no longer a member of the church to which they previously belonged and can no longer be a godparent for confirmation or baptism, for example. However, a church wedding may be possible under certain procedures. However, a return to the respective denomination or another church organization is open to everyone. Here you can find all the information about leaving the church in Austria!

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