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The future of Germany after Merkel

Discussion in 'off topic' started by Bob Edwards, Sep 26, 2021.

  1. ciderglider

    ciderglider pfm Member

    The church tax mystifies me, but I think other European countries have similar, e.g. Denmark. I was under the impression that most people did pay it, but that was probably 20 years ago.
    I worked near Hamburg for a while, and the food was very good. The weather was grim, hot and humid in the summer, very cold and/or very wet in the winter.
    The other thing that struck me was the army of drug addicts that congregated at main railway stations, worse than anything I'd seen in the UK.
  2. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    Most countries in Northern Europe have the church tax. It means the clergy gets relatively well paid, the churches are well maintained, and non-believers don't have to pay a penny. Consistency means you don't get a religious wedding or funeral if you haven't paid the church tax. Seems a fair system to me.
  3. Woodface

    Woodface pfm Member

    Never been so wouldn't know but I can cycle from my house into the Peaks, about 2 miles, I live in a city so think this is pretty unique. Not sure there are any better places to cycle than Strines Moor, unless you dislike hills.
  4. richardg

    richardg Admonishtrator

    Except they police it a bit like the BBC do the TV licenses...seems a disgrace to me that you have to officially make a declaration and if they don't believe you, you have to prove it somehow. It's not opt-in, it's opt out and the authorities don't like you opting out. And if you are classified as in and then opt out, they charge you for opting out.

    There are stories of people opting out and the authorities still mistakenly taking the cash from your bank account. And it is hard getting it back. One of the traps can be that by opting out (perhaps because you were inadvertently and involuntarily opted in at birth or by error as an immigrant), you are seen as confessing that you were therefore actually in prior to opting out. Then they ask for back-taxes.

    None of that should happen. That's why it is on my list of things I don't like about Germany.

    And that is why it seems an unfair system to me.
  5. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    There are stories about all sorts of things; some are true, some are wrong, some are exceptions blown out of proportion. Having lived in a few of these countries as an expat/immigrant, I've never had any of the problems you mention. Sample of 1, but it's my sample. You just state your preference when you enter the tax system as an immigrant (or expat, however you want to describe yourself) et voilà.

    It's a way for atheists and agnostics to be relieved of the financial burden of supporting organized religion, and for believers to maintain their chosen clergy in style. Pretty progressive, IMV, and not such a disgrace when you consider most European countries had state religions not so long ago.
    RJohan likes this.
  6. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    Odd. I have had lots of dealings and travels in Germany over the last 40 years and I have not ever heard of the church tax. Are any religions allowed to use the system? I know there a ton of Christian churches all over Germany, but what about other religions and creeds….how do they qualify…or is it a limited list?
  7. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    I suppose that's the difference between visiting a country regularly and actually living there at least for a few years.
    More details about how it works in Germany can be found in the German wiki page:
    In short, registered religions or "opinion communities" have the right to collect the religion tax, but not all of them do so. The main Christian, Jewish and Unitarian communities are registered and have the tax collected by the state (and pay the state a fee for this collection service). Other religious communities are registered but do not collect through the state, and others are not registered. The lists are half way down the wiki article.
    Other countries: similar systems in operation in Scandinavia, Finland, Switzerland, Austria. Alsace is an exception to the general separation of church and state in France as it has kept some elements of the German system for "historical" reasons.
    Only two religions are state religions in Finland: Lutheran and Orthodox. You register as one of those and pay your tax, or not. So atheists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims etc. just register as "none of the above" and support their cause/church directly.
    I've just seen that Italy has a compulsory 0.8% general religion and culture tax, where the taxpayer specifies which religion is to be supported, otherwise it goes to social or other causes. Similar in Spain. So this religion tax business is more widespread than I had realized.
    ciderglider likes this.
  8. richardg

    richardg Admonishtrator

    Odd to us, but its rife! When I was moving over to France in 2017, I had 3 years to choose my country and get the post- Brexit residential pass. This tax came up time and again in my desk research when I was working out whether I would like to live in France or Germany. I just felt culturally a bit closer to the French than Germans. Less unfamiliar quirks in the way things are done. I also really hated that the notary made me pay for a translator / interpreter to translate what he was reading out to me from the documentation in German when setting my business up, as he spoke fluent English, could have done it himself and saved time and money..

    I might have been misled early on but I recall being told people in some villages chalk on their doors that they were paying it. Knowing I was never in a million years going to pay it, I didn't want to be the only one in th village without chalk on my doors!

    PSB may be able to confirm if this tale is me remembering incorrectly or a legend of some sort. I've defo seen the scrawl on the door frames though.
  9. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    I don't know. Never heard of it or seen it in cities, but possible.

    Back to the election results: it's interesting that Die Linke finally got 39 MPs, even though they did not clear the 5% hurdle. They got MPs directly elected in three different voting areas, and that is enough to override the 5% rule ("Grundmandatsklausel").
  10. PaulMB

    PaulMB pfm Member

    Regarding Italy, the sneaky trick with the 0.8% tax is that many people do not bother to choose a religion or other institution to give it to. And their 0.8% is distributed according to the proportion of those who do choose. And since the biggest recipient is the Catholic church, they get a proportionally big slice of the non-choosers' 0.8%. In addition, the Catholic church benefits from other subsidies and tax reductions at both national and local levels.
    The Jewish communities get their slice of the 0.8%, but in addition charge community members an annual tax which is roughly a percentage of declared income. I don't know how other religions work. But there is a list of officially recognised religions that receive a part of the 0.8%. One curious thing is that the State recognises the Orthodox Jewish communities, which therefore benefit from the 0.8%, but not the two small Reformed communities.
    PsB likes this.
  11. kensalriser

    kensalriser pfm Member

    To the original question: not much is going to change. The new government will probably have better environmental policy due to the influence of the Greens and that's about it. My guess is an SDP/Green/FDP coalition with the SDP and FDP cancelling out most of the other's policies.

    It's a relief the Neo-Nazi party appears to have reached a high water mark. I'm less confident the same will be true in Italy, although there's another two years to go there.
    Bob Edwards likes this.
  12. Bananahead

    Bananahead pfm Member

    My concern is that they might change the speed limits
  13. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    Not much motorway with unlimited speed limit left I understand.
  14. PaulMB

    PaulMB pfm Member

    It will be interesting to see if Scholz develops the charisma and gravitas to follow an act like Merkel's. Both domestically and internationally. Does he have "bottom", as Patrick O'Brian would say?
  15. RJohan

    RJohan pfm Member

    Roughly half of them, the last time I checked. Nothing beats knowing you are allowed to make your own decisions, at least somewhere.
  16. RJohan

    RJohan pfm Member

    As a Swede I wasn't sure how it worked. It is as you say, if you are a member the government collects and distributes. There is a .24% burial tax that everyone pays, though (they could very well just transport me to the dump, I wouldn't notice the difference).
    PsB likes this.
  17. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    It took Merkel decades to develop the gravitas and presence - she was a long time in the shadow of Kohl, Schäuble and other party bigwigs. She was Kohl's protégée, but even he underestimated her. One could argue she never really got the charisma aspect worked out properly.
    eternumviti likes this.
  18. PaulMB

    PaulMB pfm Member

    Perhaps this thread shows that Brexit was justified. Talking with Italians and Swiss, there is enormous interest in the political and economic future of the most important nation in Europe. But, with some notable exceptions, most attention here has been on church taxes, motorcycling on Sundays and speed limits on German motorways. This gives the impression that among Brits, even among the educated and "thinking" Brits on PFM, Germany is of little more interest than as a place where you can drive as fast as you like. So the impression one gets is that a combination of an insular and global, as opposed to a European, way of thinking may justify Brexit.
  19. wacko

    wacko pfm Member

    If only all politicians had no charisma.
  20. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    It could also be because this election result is hard to de-cypher. The process is totally alien to the British (FPTP) or US ways of running an election: nobody can tell for sure who will be chancellor as the outcome will only be apparent after several months of negotiations, so speculations at this stage on the consequences/outcome are necessarily muted. The Greens and FDP are both in a kingmaker sort of position, but are sharply divided on key issues such as taxation.

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