Many Europeans Still Pay Church Taxes

They believe that the church helps the poor and the needy

Majority populations in six countries located in Western Europe continues to pay the traditional church tax despite widespread opposition towards religion in their respective societies. It seems that pervasive secularization had not made much of a dent when it came to paying church taxes. A report published by Pew Research Center revealed that citizens of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland continues to pay their church tax. The monies paid are given by a low 68 percent of Swedes and a high 80 percent of the Danes. The statistics are surprising as almost a third of all Europeans, which includes 51 percent of the Swedes support increased secularization of their societies.

The levy funds the upkeep of church buildings and pays clergy salaries. The monies also go to support many "charitable services." Other than Christian churches, this tax also cushions Muslim and Jewish institutions. This tax comes to approximately one to two percent of the income of a registered church member.

In multiple European countries, all registered members of the church automatically get into a taxation system post baptism. This tax constitutes a minor contentious issue in European history. There have been several protests encouraging Europeans to de-register so that the tax can be avoided. A few German bishops even advocated the abolishment of this tax to further separate the distance between the state and the church. It is thus surprising to observe that de-registration rates are low in the surveyed nations. Pew discovered that only eight percent of Swiss adults have de-registered. Only 20 percent of the Finnish population have de-registered themselves.

The overall trend, however, is to keep paying the tax. About 88 percent of Danes and 87 percent of Finns who pay taxes are fine to continue doing the same. The same line of thinking is observed among the Germans (78 percent), Swedes (78 percent), Swiss (72 percent), and Austrian (77 percent).  Most payers identify themselves as Christians and majority of non-payers identify as religiously non-affiliated. Even minorities pay the tax despite saying they are non-affiliated to any religion. The reason that the areligious and antireligious continue to pay the tax despite minimal church attendance is the fact that there is a broadly held view of religious institutions supporting the common good. Many taxpayers believe that churches help the needy and the poor and they have no problem in supporting such endeavors.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter