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Why does Denmark have church tax and do you need to pay it?

Church tax in Denmark is voluntary but 72 percent of the population pay it. We take a look at why.

Why does Denmark have church tax and do you need to pay it?
Our Lady's Church in Aalborg. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

What is church tax?

Income tax in Denmark is divided into a number of components. There are the two state taxes, basic and top tax (bundskat and topskat,); municipal tax (kommuneskat) and labour market tax (AM-bidrag).

There is also a voluntary church tax, called kirkeskat. The exact rate of this depends on the municipality but it averages at 0.87 percent.

You pay this church tax when you become a member of the national church in Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which in Danish is called Folkekirken

How many people pay church tax in Denmark?

According to Statistics Denmark, there are 4,276,271 people in Denmark registered as members of the Church of Denmark (Folkekirken) out of a population of 5,932,654. That means around 72 percent of people in Denmark are members of the National Church and pay church tax.

Church membership in Denmark has remained high for the past ten years, despite several surveys showing less than a fifth of Danes see themselves as “very religious.”

However there was a spike in the number of people leaving the church in 2016 following a nationwide advertising campaign by the country’s atheist society.

What happens when you become a church member?

Anyone can attend a service at a church in Denmark but to hold an event, such as a baptism, wedding or a funeral, you must be a member of the Danish church and pay your voluntary church tax. When you are a member, you do not pay the church for a wedding or burial.

This is why many people in Denmark are members, as well as wanting to support the maintenance of the church buildings, some of which date as far back as the Middle Ages. 

At least one of the couple must be a member of the Danish church to be married there. You can usually only be buried with the presence of a priest if you are a member of the church when you die.

You cannot vote in or run for parish council elections unless you are a church member.

How do I become a member of the church?

You become a member of the Danish church, Folkekirken when you are baptised. If you are a member of an Evangelical Lutheran church abroad, you automatically become a member when you take up residence in Denmark. 

If you’re baptised from another church, you can become a member by filling in a form at your local church.

You don’t need to be a Danish citizen to become a member of the church, but you cannot be a member of both the Evangelical Lutheran Church and another religious community at the same time.

Young people aged 15 and over decide themselves whether to be baptised and become church members or leave the church.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to confirmation in Denmark

Denmark is divided into parishes, and each parish has its own church. If you wish to belong to a church in another parish, you contact the priest at the parish that you would like to join.

You can find your parish church here.

How does it affect my taxes?

Once the church has confirmed you as a member, it is updated on the national record, the central person’s register (CPR) and your church tax will automatically be drawn from your monthly salary and appear on your payslip as kirkeskat. The exact rate depends on the municipality but according to Folkekirken, it averages at 0.87 percent. It is calculated based on your total income.

Children and young people who do not pay tax do not pay for membership.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to understand your Danish payslip

Denmark has around 2,400 churches and 2,000 cemeteries. The church tax covers the running and maintenance of the churches in the municipality. It ensures that a service is held every Sunday in local churches across the country, as well as other events and community services.

What if I want to end my church membership?

You can decide at anytime to end your church membership and church tax. You can do this by submitting a form to your parish church. This can be done in person or in writing and you can find your local parish here.

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Copenhagen house prices propped up by new tax rules

The prospect of a tax discount from the beginning of next year is driving prices on Copenhagen’s housing market.

Copenhagen house prices propped up by new tax rules

New property tax rules that come into effect on January 1st, 2024 are likely to result in higher property tax for people who purchase their homes after that date.

This is because property tax will from next year be based on updated property valuations, but people who already owned their homes before the change took effect will see lower rates applied to protect them from higher tax bills.

Because apartments and houses in and near Copenhagen have seen their values rise the most on recent years, these properties are likely to see the biggest difference in tax calculations under the new rules.


The incoming tax changes are having the effect of keeping property prices up in the Copenhagen area, Mira Lie Nielsen, housing economist at Nykredit, said based on new house price data released by real estate media Boligsiden.

“When we switch to a new housing tax system on January 1st, the tax on owner-occupied apartments in particular is expected to rise very significantly for new home buyers,” Nielsen told news wire Ritzau.

“But if you buy before the turn of the year, you are guaranteed a tax discount,” she said.

“And it seems that many people are buying an apartment in Copenhagen now to make sure they keep the lower property tax for many years to come,” she said.

Last month saw prices for houses and apartments in the Greater Copenhagen region rise by 0.6 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

Nielsen said that prices for apartments are likely to fall again in 2024.

“We expect that the prices of apartments will fall in 2024 as a result of the new property tax rules because higher property tax means higher fixed costs for the property in question,” she said.

The increase in prices for apartments and houses in Copenhagen is distinct from the general trend elsewhere on the housing market.

Prices for both apartments and houses have fallen in the Central Jutland region, while North Jutland has also seen house prices decrease.