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Spain: stop the financing of Catholic Church by State budget!

Europa Laica requests to reduce the income tax allocation to the catholic church.

Europa Laica has presented an amendment to the General State Budgets of Spain to cut the tax allocation received by the Catholic Church through personal income tax and reduce this contribution to 0.5%, compared to the current 0.7%. This measure would be key to decrease the public contribution to the maintenance of Catholic worship until the 1979 Agreements with the Holy See are repealed.

In Spain, the Income Tax Assignment to the Catholic Church is currently regulated by Law 42/2006 of December 28 on General State Budgets, as a development of the Agreement with the Holy See on Economic Affairs (1979). This law increased the allocation to 0.7% of the full quota of the personal income tax, which represented a 34% increase compared to the 0.5239% that was applied before 2007. Taxpayers can thus decide to allocate 0.7% of their taxes to specifically finance the Catholic Church, subtracting this amount from the general interest expenses of the state, such as health or education.

The Spanish Episcopal Conference publishes annual reports describing the use of this Tax Assignment, recognizing the surpluses that it has been obtaining in the last years. To date, the increase in the percentage of income tax allocation has led to an extra amount of more than 840 million €. In addition, part of this money is dedicated to issues unrelated to the maintenance of Catholic worship, such as advertising campaigns, subsidies to its radio and television network, and other expenses beyond it.

These issues have been questioned by the Spanish Court of Accounts after conducting the first audit of the Tax Assignment to the Catholic Church in 2020. The report of the Court of Accounts, which is in charge of ensuring the proper use of public money, stated that Spain could be exceeding the content of the 1979 Agreements themselves, since such assignment to the Catholic Church was established in order to exclusively attend to “its adequate financial support”. Thus, no additional quantities or uses were established. Furthermore, the assignment was considered to be temporary, until the Catholic Church “achieved by itself the sufficient resources to attend to its needs”. Self-financing of this church was indeed a commitment of the Agreements.

However, more than 40 years later, the self-financing commitment remains unfulfilled; Spain continues to subsidize the Catholic Church above its needs and, since 2007, it has even increased the percentage of such assignment. This misspend has been carried out in a context of economic crisis and budget cuts, while the Catholic Church has not only been unaffected, but has improved its finances.

On this basis, Europa Laica continues to demand the repeal of the 1979 Agreements with the Holy See, for democratic reasons, equality before the law and in compliance with the non-denominational nature of the Spanish State. Until this requirement is fulfilled, Europa Laica proposes that the General State Budgets for 2022, and subsequent ones, reduce the personal income tax allocation to the Catholic Church to at least 0.5%, leaving it in the percentage established before 2007, as a measure to move towards its total elimination and the self-financing of the Catholic Church.

Original text (in Spanish):