Sunday, October 24, 2010

Foreigners moving to Denmark should be beware of church tax

In Denmark members of the state church (Folkekirken) pays church tax, which is collected from their pay checks together with other tax. The church tax depends on what municipality you live in, but in 2008 it was on average 0.8756% of your income. Considered that the average income for people who received a wage in 2008 was 284,065 kr. (approx. $53000), this amounts to more than 2000 kr. per year (approx. $375).

That's a fairly large amount of money going to the churches (on top of the money getting channeled from other taxes), but it is presumable acceptable if you're a member of the state church.

But what if you're not?

Well, in Denmark, church membership is tracked by a central register, or rather the central register, so for most Danes that's not really an issue. People who are baptized are members of the state church (at least until they actively leaves the church), while those who are not baptized aren't members (even though mistakes have been known to happen).

But what if you're not born in Denmark?

Well, if you live in Denmark, you will be registered in the central registry, based upon information you have provided when moving to Denmark. Theoretically this would mean that you won't pay any church taxes if you don't indicate that you're a member of the Danish state church (a check box on the form).

But this is only theoretically the case. The truth is, that many, perhaps even most, foreigner gets registered as member of the state church, and thus pays church taxes. I know several people this has happened to - in my last job it had happened to both a Norwegian and an Indian colleague of mine, none of which are members of the Danish state church (or any other state church for that matter).

So, if you're a foreigner who has moved to Denmark, make sure to check that you're not registered as a member of the Danish states church. If you are, make sure to complain to the municipality straight away, so you don't end up paying church taxes. If you already have paid church taxes, make sure to complain to the tax department, so you can get the money refunded - this might not be easy, so the earlier you discover your unwilling membership, the better.

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Blogger Caro said...

Hi kris, I am currently trying to get a church tax refund. I am German and moved to Denmark a year ago. I might have stated "protestant" when asked, but only because I as baptized protestant and not because I am a church member, especially not in the Danish Folkekirke. I also called SKAT, and they said I have to contact my local parish to get out of the church to avoid taxation in the future, but SKAT also said I wont get a tax refund for the last year. What is your experience with that issue? Do I maybe have to "re-phrase" my concern in order to get refunded?

Looking forward to hear from your experience.

April 04, 2016 3:59 PM  

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