In 2016, the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church in Germany collected a record-breaking €6.1 billion ($7.5 billion) and €5.5 billion ($6.8 billion) in church tax, respectively.
The right for churches to collect a de-facto membership fee in the form of a tax dates back to 1919, when the Weimar Republic introduced the measure to counter the financial aftermath of the separation of church and state.
The rate is currently set at 9 percent of one's income for members above a minimum income threshold. The money helps keep parishes, church employees, daycares and other properties afloat.
And as the Finance Ministry handles the tax for them — neither church has the necessary infrastructure for such a massive undertaking — it also receives a neat 3 percent of the total, which added up to €348 million in 2016.
The two churches own at least 830,000 hectares (8,300 square kilometers or 3,200 square miles) of land, according to an estimation by church critic Carsten Frerk, whose number is often cited by German media.
The churches themselves have disclosed tens of thousands of buildings that they each hold in addition to at least 14,100 Protestant and 10,800 Catholic churches. When examining buildings related to the churches' roles in healthcare, education and charitable work, the Catholic Church has at least 66,000 additional holdings and the Protestant Church a further 50,000. They also lease an undisclosed number of properties to home owners and businesses nationwide.
Moreover, they receive state funds to compensate for property losses dating back to the early 1800s when Napoleon upended the Holy Roman Empire. According to broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, this amounted to nearly €500 million in 2017 and comes from tax payers whether they belong to a church or not.