As far as I understand, only your employer can see if you pay the Church tax in Germany, as the employer detracts the tax from your salary.

Can the Church actually see if I pay the tax, and how?

Who else can access this information?

  • 1
    Well, you have no choice, and they know that you are their member, don’t they? Or are you asking if they know how much you personally pay?
    – chirlu
    Nov 13 '15 at 21:16
  • 2
    I do not know if they can see if I am a member or not. Can they just lookup my name in a database to see if I pay/am a member?
    – Me ne vado
    Nov 13 '15 at 22:18

Whether someone is a member of a church that may raise taxes (öffentlich-rechtliche Religionsgemeinschaft) is stored in the register of residents (Melderegister) with the municipality they are living in. The churches are notified of all changes to said register that pertain to their members; each church will keep a register of members based on these notifications from the municipalities.

Employers have access to this and some other pieces of information that are relevant for tax purposes via a system called ELStAM. Accordingly, they are required by law to withhold a certain part of the salary and pay it to the tax office, which will forward the money to the employee’s church. This ensures that the employee can’t fail to fulfill their tax duties.

Therefore, although there is no direct communication between the employer and the employee’s church, the church can be sure that all their members pay taxes (if they are employed). It will not normally know how much each of its members paid in taxes, nor, equivalently, what their salary was. The tax office, of course, does know this.

  • In addition, some people at the German Inland Revenue (Finanzamt) would obviously learn about it when you fill out your tax return, because last year's Kirchensteuer is a tax deductible expense. Of course they are legally required not to tell anybody about it except for the calculation of this year's income tax. So if your neighbour works at the local Finanzamt and by coincidence handles your return, they would know it but wouldn't be allowed to tell his/her wife/husband, or their children, or anyone else.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 15 '15 at 19:58
  • @gnasher729: In all states except Bavaria, the Finanzamt handles church tax matters anyway, so there is no need for the detour via deduction from the regular tax.
    – chirlu
    Nov 15 '15 at 20:04
  • Not about paying church tax, but about deducting the church tax that you paid from your income in the next year.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 15 '15 at 22:24
  • @gnasher729: It seems you didn’t understand what I said? In all states except Bavaria, the Finanzamt already calculates church taxes, collects them, handles refunds etc. Therefore, they don’t learn anything new when someone tells them they paid € X in church taxes.
    – chirlu
    Nov 15 '15 at 22:50
  • @chirlu, thank you for your response. I try to be more specific. My wife and me wish to not pay the Church tax once we relocate (for religion reasons). However, my wife plays the organ. She has to find a church (we do not care about the specific Christian-related belief) to let her train on the organ once in a while. She would be happy to do something in exchange, e.g., pay a rent/offer. However, I am afraid that somebody at those churches will reject her as they could see that we do not pay the Church tax. Is this likely to happen?
    – Me ne vado
    Nov 17 '15 at 17:24

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