How registering as a JW in Germany benefits the WT/Org

by OrphanCrow 24 Replies latest jw friends

  • OrphanCrow

    In some European countries, "church tax" is levied against members of certain religions. How each country handles this differs depending on each country's tax laws.

    In Germany, a member of a religion that has "public law" status pays an additional 8 or 9 percent on their tax assessments. How this tax is collected is one of two ways: the government can collect the tax from each member and then disburse it to the religion they belong to or, the church/religion can collect the tax themselves directly from the membership.

    In Germany, on the basis of tax regulations passed by the religious communities and within the limits set by state laws, communities may either require the taxation authorities of the state to collect the fees from the members on the basis of income tax assessment (then, the authorities withhold a collection fee), or choose to collect the church tax themselves.

    In the first case, membership in the religious community is stored in a database at the Federal Tax Office which employers receive excerpts of for the purpose of withholding tax on paid income. If an employee's data indicate membership in a tax-collecting religious community, the employer must withhold church tax prepayments from their income in addition to other tax prepayments. In connection with the final annual income tax assessment, the state revenue authorities also finally assess the church tax owed. In the case of self-employed persons or of unemployed taxpayers, state revenue authorities collect prepayments on the church tax together with prepayments on the income tax.

    If, however, religious communities choose to collect church tax themselves, they may demand that the tax authorities reveal taxation data of their members to calculate the contributions and prepayments owed. In particular, some smaller communities (e.g. the Jewish Community of Berlin) choose to collect taxes themselves to save collection fees the government would charge otherwise.

    The church tax is only paid by members of the respective church. People who are not members of a church tax-collecting denomination do not have to pay it. Members of a religious community under public law may formally declare their wish to leave the community to state (not religious) authorities. The obligation to pay church taxes ends once such a declaration has been made. Some communities refuse to administer marriages and burials of (former) members who had declared to leave it.

    So, based on the above information, once a person declares themselves a JW by signing that "consent form" (which is the concern of many right now because of the privacy laws coming into effect on data storing), their personal information about their job and finances that is submitted to the government, become accessible to the WT/Org (if the org chooses to collect the tax themselves). And, their affiliation with the JWs also is revealed to their employers.

    Once a person is no longer a JW, and want to opt out of the church tax, they have to report that to state authorities, not to the religious authorities.

    In Germany, the JWs have public law status which means that the above tax laws apply to them - the org can now collect taxes from their membership and they can access the tax records of all the JWs that have registered with them as members.

    Predictably, this information has not been given to the JWs themselves and the org's write up about gaining public law status in Germany does not reveal how public law status gives the org the power to collect taxes and gain access to information about its members income. This is how the granting of public law status in Germany was written up for the org's website:

    Oct 10, 2017

    The Long Struggle to Obtain Public Law Status

    The Benefits of Having Public Law Status

    What are the real benefits of gaining public law status in Germany? The org can collect tax and not only that, they can access confidential income information on their members.

    Does the org's article include that in the "benefits"? Of course not - 26 years of legal struggle is re-framed as a fight for religious freedom.

    Just sign on the dotted line...give consent for the org to keep records on you and, in Germany, the org can access your income tax records.

  • Alex Bogdanov
    Alex Bogdanov

    Very interesting information. Thank you ūüĎć

  • OrphanCrow

    Oh post didn't load properly. The org's article about Germany is missing.

    I will try to post it again without the quote box (no link, it can be found at the org website)

    The following is a WT/org article:

    "Oct 10, 2017

    After more than 26 years of legal proceedings, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany obtained the same legal status as that granted to major religions in the country. On January 27, 2017, North Rhine-Westphalia was the last state of the 16 German states to grant public law status to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The decision is significant for the Witnesses because even though they have been present in Germany for well over 100 years, their national headquarters and the thousands of congregations in the country were considered independent religious associations. Now that the Witnesses have finally been granted public law status in all German states, they are viewed as a single religious entity and enjoy the benefits that this status provides.

    The Long Struggle to Obtain Public Law Status

    In 1921, Jehovah’s Witnesses were first registered in Germany under private law. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the Witnesses applied for public law status because of the benefits available to religious organizations that have it.

    In order for a religious association to be registered throughout the country as a public law corporation, the law requires that it first obtain public law status in the German state where it is based. It may then apply for this status in the 15 other German states. In 1990, the religious association Jehovas Zeugen in Deutschland (Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany) first applied to the state of Berlin, where it maintains its legal address. Although most religious organizations seeking public law status obtain it within a short period of time, perhaps within a year or two, the Berlin government refused to grant public law status to Jehovah’s Witnesses for many years. One reason the government cited was that the Witnesses refrain from voting in national elections. However, this argument is not valid, since the law does not require German citizens to vote; to do so is entirely voluntary.

    This issue eventually came before the courts. On March 24, 2005, the Higher Administrative Court in Berlin ruled that Jehovah‚Äôs Witnesses in Germany must be acknowledged as a ‚Äúcorporation of public law.‚ÄĚ Over a year later, the state of Berlin relented and granted public law status to Jehovah‚Äôs Witnesses, ending a 16-year legal struggle with the Berlin government.

    Next, the Witnesses applied for public law status in the remaining 15 German states. In 2009, 11 states granted public law status; another 3 states followed in subsequent years; and the last state, North Rhine-Westphalia, granted public law status to Jehovah’s Witnesses on January 27, 2017. The persistent efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses to obtain the same legal status as that granted to major religions in Germany finally ended after 26 years of legal proceedings.

    The Benefits of Having Public Law Status

    The national headquarters and the more than 2,000 congregations of Jehovah‚Äôs Witnesses in Germany now function under a single corporate structure. In the past, because each association representing at least one congregation was viewed as an independent religious association, it was subject to state laws requiring the submission of annual reports and tax returns. Adjustments in an association‚Äôs structure resulting from an appointment of new elders, purchase of property, or the renaming or merging of congregations had to be reported to the government. In the past these reporting requirements required much effort and time on the part of congregation elders, but now they can focus more fully on the pastoral care of congregation members. The lack of public law status also required congregations to pay fees for the processing of reports. A longtime elder in one congregation commented: ‚ÄúNow we have greater freedom to use donated funds to support the public ministry of congregation members.‚ÄĚ

    Without the superior legal status of public law, Jehovah‚Äôs Witnesses were not viewed as a mainstream religion, even though some 274,000 Witnesses and their associates were attending their meetings in Germany. Armin Pikl, an attorney for the national headquarters of Jehovah‚Äôs Witnesses in Germany, observed: ‚ÄúDuring the more than 26 years of legal efforts to obtain the status as a corporation of public law, the media published hundreds of untrue and defamatory statements about our religion, sometimes almost weekly. Now the flood of untrue and defamatory statements has subsided.‚ÄĚ Werner Rudtke, a longtime Witness, stated: ‚ÄúSince a religious association that wants to become a public law corporation must be law-abiding in every way, many false allegations against the Witnesses can be refuted.‚ÄĚ Another Witness, named Petra, mentioned the past challenges facing schoolchildren. She said: ‚ÄúThis kind of recognition is very helpful for children in school. Until now it has been the tendency of teachers to discriminate against Witness students as a result of the false allegation that they belonged to a ‚Äėsect‚Äô rather than to a religion.‚ÄĚ

    Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany are grateful that their sincere religious activity has been recognized by the government as qualifying for public law status. They hope that such recognition will alleviate some of their past challenges and will benefit them as individuals and as a religious community."

    (you are welcome, Alex)

  • TheWonderofYou

    .It is quite clear that institutional status means in Germany and Austria that all religions have the right to collect contributions

    What is mainly of interest, what is about is data privacy, how is it handled. Do the priests in the Catolic church or does the tax collection office know how much is my income automatically? No. For reasons of data protection. So it is in Austria and certainly also in Germany. And this would be also for JW.

    Also if one gets seized to pay the contribution the office knows the name, but not the income yet. Howwere this is handled differently in each church and it seems even each dioceses and federal province. It seems that the priests and the church collection offices are working quite separated with other focus and not regularly talking with each other about who pays and who not. IN the other case the priest could help a person to negotiate the amount with the church tax office. But this could also be cleared directly with the office without the cleric.

    Here is an information of a local church about the contributions. They try to get your money, but you can very well negotiate with the office. There are e.b. 300 cases per year in a certain diocese where the offices even seized the contribution from members.

    Howwere this is handled differently in each church and it seems even each dioceses and federal province. It seems that the priests and the church collection offices are quite separated and not talking with each other.

    I know personally someone who receives regulary a letter with the proposed contribution amounting to ‚ā¨ 90 for a year, but he never pays it. So he has already gatherd an open amount of 200 ‚ā¨ including former years. He has not to leave the church however. No priests ever talked to him about it. Only he himself once 20 years ago phoned there to give a selfestimated income estimation, one or two times he payed the fee but then never again because he lost his job and only unregularly worked. He is an irregular visitor of the church and the church certainly wants to avoid to loose its members, therefore this policy how it is. Some pay some do not.

    Church contribution calculation according to the income (Catolic example)
    Calculation bases are wages, salary, pension, the income according to valid income tax law. The church contribution for the income amounts to 1.1% of the contribution basis minus one withdrawal amount of ‚ā¨ 56.00 for persons who only receive income from non-self-employed work and for persons who are taxpayers.
    For reasons of data protection, the church contribution offices receive no information about their income situation. If no income data is available, the church contribution office is commissioned (according to the applicable church contribution regulations of 01.01.2005) to make the basis for the church contribution calculation on the basis of an estimate. These estimates are based on average income values ‚Äč‚Äčaccording to Statistics Austria, or, if the profession is known, according to the current collective agreement (if available).
    The minimum church contribution is: [seemingly for one year] tax deductible
    ‚ā¨ 27.96 for payroll taxpayers and
    ‚ā¨ 123,00 for income taxpayers.
    For workers, employees, civil servants and pensioners, the church contribution is based on income according to income tax assessment (employee assessment) or according to the employment tax base (pay slip, pension statement).
    The income tax assessment takes into account the tax allowances. So that this also in the calculation of the Contributions of the church, the submission of the income documents is a prerequisite.
    The salaries of temporary soldiers, the income of assembly workers abroad, as well as the special support, will be like treated a taxable income.
    Who is assessed for income tax, for which is for the calculation of the current church contribution, as a rule, the income of the previous year, the contribution basis.
    This situation also applies to income tax payers when they are assessed for income tax due to employee taxation.
    Additional income from agriculture and forestry is deducted from 'taxable income'. Income from agriculture and forestry is calculated according to the unit value.
    In certain cases, the church contribution for income and wealth is determined jointly.
    The first contribution requirement is for the calendar year following the 19th birthday.
    The legal basis for the church contribution is the church contribution law with the church contribution ordinance of 1939.
    In 1945, this was incorporated into the existing legal system. In addition there is the church contribution order of the Diocese of XXX from 1.1.2005 including annex for 2017.
    The following times or references are free of church contributions:
    Study without extra income
    proper military or civil service
    community service
    Relief of emergency money
    Household (without income), unless there is a mixed marriage
    (A mixed marriage is when a Catholic is married to a spouse who is under state law not a member of the Catholic Church. This includes baptized but escaped persons). [tranlated by google]

    50 % of the amount of the fee goes directly to the local parish and is used for personell costs, buildings, church own kindergarden.

  • LongHairGal


    That’s very interesting that in Germany a parishioner can be asked for a tax and their income records become known to the religion!

    If that’s not a good reason to not be affiliated with a church or religion, I don’t know what is. But, at least other religions give a benefit to their community!...Can you imagine the JW religion trying to pull this in the US? Just think of all the people damaged by the no college/no career stand of the religion. Think about all the people scraping by?

    I hate to say it but this signing of this form may cause more JWs to leave. Maybe not right away but as a result of the treatment they get for refusing to sign. I wonder if they will mail it out to inactives. If I receive one I will write a strongly worded letter to them which I will send by special mail.

  • Listener

    Is the amount payable 8 or 9% of an individual's net income or of the amount of tax payable for that year?

  • TheWonderofYou
  • Listener

    Thanks Thewonderofyou and Orphan Crow for the topic. I had no idea that the Government of some Countries tax individuals to give to religions.

  • TheWonderofYou

    LogHairGal wrote: But, at least other religions give a benefit to their community!

    Here you have the statement of accounts (voluntariy annual audit) of the archdiocese Vienna Austria for 2016 about usage of church tax contributions. Such contributions are e.g. used by the church to finance own church order hospitals who are working with less cost then state public hospitals = support of the community. The order hospitals want to increase help for the town Vienna. The church hospitals number at the moment 131,000 stationary patients.

    Characteristic for the religious hospitals is the combination of private sponsorship by religious orders or foundations and a non-profit commission. "So, we have a public service mandate and public-sector support to deliver high-quality health services, a high level of modernization and innovation, and create high patient satisfaction - and that's a very attractive area," Greher continued , Unlike for profit-oriented private and medical hospitals, "every euro" remains in the company and benefits patients.

    This is indeed supporting the community. What a tight religious community with "christian" in the name should do!

    (Charakteristisch sei f√ľr die Ordenskrankenh√§user die Kombination von privater Tr√§gerschaft durch Ordensgemeinschaften oder Stiftungen und einem gemeinn√ľtzigen Versorgungsauftrag. "Wir haben also einen √∂ffentlichen Versorgungsauftrag und werden von der √∂ffentlichen Hand unterst√ľtzt. Daf√ľr bieten wir Gesundheitsleistungen in sehr guter Qualit√§t, ein hohes Ausma√ü an Modernisierung und Innovation, und schaffen eine hohe Patientenzufriedenheit - und das zu einem ausgesprochen attraktiven Bereich", erl√§uterte Greher weiter. Anders als bei gewinnorientierten Privat- und Belegsspit√§lern verbleibe bei den Ordenskrankenh√§usern "jeder Euro" im Unternehmen und komme Patienten zu Gute.)

    Further 0,9 % is used for develpment countries.. A closer look would be interesting. Such an information JW dont get.

    1. member contributions total 2016: EUR 102,017 K
    2. state reparation payments for church: EUR 10,401 K
    3. rental income EUR 7,185 K
    4. income from church activity EUR 3,228 K
    5. subventions and grants EUR 4,237 K
    = total income

    As told the disposition of funds shows that

    Disposition of funds 2016

    50 % goes to the parishes (67,000 K ‚ā¨)
    18 % for pastoral care
    10 % education, culture and art
    2,3 % social & cariative agenda
    0,9 % to worldchurch & Development aid

    For how many member is this. In the diocese Vienna (not only the town but also large surrounding vicarates and curates and decanates) live 1,2 Mio catolics.

    Area: 9.100 km²
    catolics: Katholik/inn/en: 1,2 Mio.

    housholds: Haushalte: ca. 700.000

    decanats: Dekanate: 54
    parishesPfarren: ca. 657
    church buildings: Kirchliche Gebäude: ca. 1.600
    Priests: about ca. 1.000
    Deacons: ca. 170

    Hauptamtliche Mitarbeiter/inn/en (Vollzeit): 1.700
    Pfarrgemeinderätinnen/-räte: ca. 4.600
    Größte Pfarre: Wien-Aspern (12.304 Katholik/inn/en)
    Kleinste Pfarre: Grafensulz (94 Katholik/inn/en)
    √Ąlteste Kirche: Ruprechtskirche, Wien
    Größte Kirche: Stephansdom

    BTW: I wonder why is the google translated english text really always only half so long than the German original text?

  • slimboyfat

    As I understand it JWs are entitled to collect tax in various European countries but have not done so. Is there evidence they are beginning to collect tax? I would not be surprised given that they’ve run out of money. It would seem the prudent thing to do.

    It puzzles me that more citizens in secular European countries don’t opt out of church tax.

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