How Italy’s “8 per mille” religious tax works

I don’t have much time right now to write a lengthy post on the “8 per mille” (that’s “8 per thousand”) religious tax. It’s an obligatory tax, and the taxpayer must choose which religious confession gets the money. If the taxpayer is a Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu he or she is out of luck. Their religions aren’t able to participate. In that case the taxpayer might simply not choose, or choose “State”, in which case the money almost certainly goes directly to the Catholic Church. 

The UAAR has done an excellent job of informing the public on how this all works. Around 60% of Italians don’t choose, perhaps because they’re apathetic or have no idea what’s at stake. Only 37% or so actually choose the Catholic Church, yet the C.C. receives around 87% of the entire tax. Something’s clearly wrong with this picture.

If you understand Italian, this short video explains what’s going on (and how the C.C. spends the €1 billion or so they get as a freebie from the State each year.)

The “8 per mille” Wikipedia page exists in ItalianEnglish and Hebrew.

15 thoughts on “How Italy’s “8 per mille” religious tax works

  1. If that’s money going to God, then it would be fair to say it is Taxation Without Representation.

    Tip your servers. I am here until Thursday.

    1. Stewart, I tried! For some reason WordPress wouldn’t accept the link. They’ve recently revamped things, so maybe there’s a glitch. I find it interesting that of the three languages that have that article, Hebrew is one of them.

  2. Yes, it’s interesting, but in the case of a user-run enterprise like Wikipedia, all it means is that there was someone interested enough in the subject who uses Hebrew. Had there been an overall editor making decisions, priority over Hebrew might have been given to German, as the state collects taxes for religions here, too, though one can opt out completely (if one knows and cares to make the effort to do so).

  3. It’s not the same. If at any point in your life you were ever officially a member of a religious denomination (baptised as any kind of Christian, or ever belonged to a Jewish community – Muslims so far, I believe, are not yet allowed into the “game”) the government takes 9% of your income (in two states it’s only 8%) and passes it on to whichever cult has your name on its rolls. You need never have been personally active in any religion for this to happen to you. You can only stop it by getting your name removed, i.e. formally leaving whichever religion claims you as one of its own. In some places this is free, in others you have to pay up to a few dozen Euros for the privilege. I didn’t find that many good links in English to explain more. This is probably the best and has at least a brief history of the phenomenon:

    Please note what it says about how much the churches made this way in 2010: nearly five billion Euros. Also get the bit about businesses in most of Switzerland which are stuck paying no matter what they do and where this is headed legally. And Warning #1. And the truly awful bit about leaving the church in Germany for children between 12 and 14. They can only leave if both they and the parents/guardians apply to do so (whereas we know how easy it is to get in at age zero…).

    1. That’s even worse than the 8 per mille! In Italy I think it’s comparatively easy to get yourself rubbed off the religious (Catholic) register – as long as your parish doesn’t make it difficult. But you can give your 8 per mille to the Assemblies of God if you like; you just have to know how it works.

      I’m shocked – shocked! – that Switzerland is so rigid. If these taxes were eliminated, all the European churches would close their doors tomorrow.

  4. The “8 per mille” is not an additional tax. The State gives you the possibility to choose to give this 8/1000 of the taxes you anyway would pay to one of the listed churches (not only catholic) or to the State. You are not obliged to choose: if you don´t your 1/1000 is split according to the share of the choices made by the other taxpayers
    Now: I admit that the mechanism does not perfectly work (for example, other religions can ask to be admitted to this share, by signing an agreement with the State, which does not work smoothly and quickly; or that since the most part of Italians does not make a choice or choose the catholic church – I don´ by the way ) so that the catholic church gets most of the money …but the principle is not wrong
    In addition we have also the “5 per mille” (5/1000) which we can choose to give to no profit associations, sport, cultural bodies, university and medical research and so on …

  5. Simona, it is wrong to oblige every taxpayer in Italy to support religion. Religion should be a private affair, and its institutions should be supported privately by those who wish to sustain them. The government has no business making life easier for the Catholic Church (or anyone else, though it really goes out of its way to do backflips for the oltretevere).

  6. Thank you for this fascinating article. I had heard that in Italy and other European nations, the government subsidizes the church, and in actuality, it is the taxpayers doing so.

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