Sunday, June 3, 2012

"CHURCH TITHE" IN EUROPE


27 May 2012, 06:25
Recent proposal by Vsevolod Chaplin to impose a “church tithe” in Russia caused more smiles than to protests, which have become the natural reaction to the initiatives of the Russian Orthodox Church chief PR-executive of late. Comments regarding the occasion may be reduced to a simple thesis that “we are about to find out the real number of true believers in Russia”. Having smiled with everyone else, I decided to peek at our European neighbors in order to understand how the educated European Union funds its churches (of which there are aplenty). Here I would like to share the results of my research with the progressive public.   

Church tax happened to be the most widely spread economic model there. However, six EU member-states directly fund its churches. These countries are Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Luxemburg and Slovakia. The term “church tax” describes two primary church-funding models through the secular taxation system. The first one is based upon the imposition of a mandatory income tax for everyone, who has officially declared its membership in the respective religious community. The most prominent example of that is the German model, where the church tax instituted by the FRG Bill of 1949, which, in turn, was based upon the 19th century legislation. At the present time tax rate is 8% of the income for the Landkreise with the greatest number of believers (Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and 9% for the rest of them. Besides, in case of excessive funding and given the consent of the respective church authorities, this rate may be reduced down to 2.75%–3.5%. For instance, in 2010 incomes of the Evangelical Church made up €4.3 billion thanks to this church tax, while the incomes of Roman Catholic Church made up €4.9 billion. Apart from covering its expenditures, churches are to use this money to fund charity activities. Churches of German-speaking (Austria and Switzerland) and Scandinavian (Denmark, Finland and Sweden) are funded in the similar manner. German and Danish budgets also finance the religion lessons in schools, upkeep the religious educational institutions and maintain the monuments of the past, possessed by the churches (in Denmark about 13% of all church incomes are spent on that). In Spain, Holland, Italy and, of late, Hungary another form of church tax is in effect. It is based upon the voluntary deductions of a certain part of the tax in favor of religious organizations.
Church tax rate
Voluntary  donations of a part of income tax
No church tax – direct state grants
State and church property is segregated
Austria (1,1%)



Denmark (up to 1,51%)
Spain (0,5239%)
Belgium
France
Finland (1-2%)
Holland (1-3%)
Czech Republic
Ireland
Germany (8-9%)
Hungary (1%)
Greece
Portugal
Switzerland  (up to 2,3%)
Italy (0,8%)
Luxemburg

Sweden (up to 2%)

Slovakia

     
In fact, we may use any European form of funding the churches, if it doesn’t infringe upon the interests of secular taxpayers and allows the believers to voluntarily donate money, according to their beliefs. At that, we have to keep two important principles in mind:
1.    That sort of funding must absolutely necessarily be transparent and the state is to retain the right  to control the spending.
2.    Each and every religious organization of our multi-confessional country must be able to exercise this right of funding.

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