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Financing of religions

Financing of Religious Communities

Religious communities receive their financial means basically from:

 dues of their members,
 exploiting their own resources and economic undertakings,
 direct and indirect state subsidies for specific purposes,
 and restitution paid by the State.

Whereas donations are offered voluntarily to the communities, it is within their constitutionally guaranteed autonomy to determine obligatory dues of their members. Most communities, established in Austria make indeed use of this possibility. Their titles are directly enforceable under administrative law, which regards recognised Religious Societies according to s. 14 of the Act concerning the Recognition of Religious Societies. The Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran and Reformed Church and the Old Catholic Church need to take legal action according to s. 3(1) of Church Dues Act. The situation of the Greek Oriental Church may be doubtful in this respect, because s. 7(3) of the Act concerning the External Relations of the Greek Oriental Church refers to an additional act of law which has not been passed yet. Registered Confessional Communities have the same right as registered associations to sue for outstanding dues.

According to Art. 26 of the State Treaty for the Re-establishment of an Independent and Democratic Austria and thereon based contracts and legal acts, the State had to return property, legal rights or interests have been the subject of forced transfer or measures of sequestration, confiscation or control on account of the religion of the owner for all cases since 13 March 1938, or to grant compensation. The latter is not offered as a single transfer, but paid in repeated instalments every year to the Catholic Church, the Lutheran and Reformed Church, the Old Catholic Church and to the Federation of the Jewish Communities.

Educational purposes, such as e.g. the salaries of religious instruction teachers or public status schools of recognised Religious Societies (see Chapter “Religions and schooling”), hospitals or the maintenance and renovation of cultural heritage, are directly subsidised.

Recognised Religious Societies enjoy some tax benefits, as ecclesiastical purposes are considered privileged purposes similar to non-profit and charitable purposes according to ss. 34–38 of Federal Tax Code. For examples see s. 10 (2)7 and s. 6(1)1a of Value Added Tax Act or s. 5/6 of Corporation Tax Act.

Sources and for further information:
 Höfer, Rudolf K., “Hat Österreichs Kirchenbeitragsgesetz aus der NS-Zeit Zukunft oder ist Steuerwidmung für Kirchen und Staat die Alternative?”, in Ders. (Hg.), Kirchenfinanzierung in Europa. Modelle und Trends, Innsbruck, 2014, pp. 87-120. - Siegel, Rainer, “Die Finanzierung anerkannter Kirchen und Religionsgemeinschaften. Ein Vergleich zwischen Österreich und Frankreich“, Linz, 1994, pp. 26-109.
 Kalb, Herbert, “The Financing of Religious Communities in Austria”, in Brigitte Basdevant-Gaudemet / Salvatore Berlingò (eds.), Le financement des religions dans les pays de l’Union Européenne, Leuven, Paris, Dudley, 2009, pp. 87-96.
 Kalb, Herbert / Potz, Richard / Schinkele, Brigitte, "Religionsrecht", Wien, 2003, pp. 395-445.
 Paarhammer, Hans (ed.), “Kirchliches Finanzwesen in Österreich“, Thaur, 1989. - Wieshaider, Wolfgang “Il finanziamento pubblico delle comunità religiose in Austria e in Germania”, in Vincenzo Pacillo (ed.), Il finanziamento pubblico delle chiese: sguardi incrociati tra Svizzera ed Europa, Lugano 2014, pp. 65-73.
 Wieshaider, Wolfgang, “Modes of Financing Religious Societies”, in Michaela Moravčíková / Eleonóra Valová (eds.), Financing of Churches and Religious Societies in the 21st Century, Bratislava, 2010, pp. 69-76.
 Potz, Richard / Tripp, Harald, “Finanzierung von Religionsgemeinschaften“, in Andreas Kowatsch / Florian Pichler / Daniel Tibi / Harald Tripp (Hg.), 111 Begriffe des österreichischen Religionsrechts, Erlangen, 2022, pp. 131-135.

D 4 September 2023    ARobert Wurzrainer AWolfgang Wieshaider

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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