Opposition MPs will jointly file a complaint with the Constitutional Court
against a law pushed through by ANO, the Social Democrats and the
Communists to tax church restitutions.
The law which would tax money being paid out to churches for property seized by the Communists, which the state can no longer return, is to come into force at the beginning of 2020. The complaint was signed by 62 right-wing deputies.
The tax bill was vetoed by the Senate as “unconstitutional” but the veto was later overturned by the lower house and the bill was signed into law by President Zeman. Its supporters argue that the sum being returned to churches is “overinflated”, critics argue it is wrong, in principle, to tax stolen property on its return.
Aside from returning land and property, the restitution law approved in 2013, counts on paying church organisations 59 billion crowns divided into annual payments over a period of 30 years. If taxed, the pay-outs would be reduced to 48 billion.
President Miloš Zeman has signed into law a controversial proposal to tax
money paid to religious groups in compensation for property seized under
The tax is due to take effect on January 1, 2020. But the Constitutional Court may well strike it down before the first tax payment come due the following year.
In late April, MPs overrode a veto by the Senate to tax the restitution income of 16 Czech churches and a Jewish federation which had their property seized by the former Communist regime.
Critics say the law, proposed by the Communists, is unconstitutional and unethical. The religious institutions had been awarded money in cases where the confiscated property could not be returned to its rightful owners.
President Miloš Zeman has signed legislation enabling the state to tax
church restitutions, according to an official press release from Prague
Castle. Communist deputies say the highly controversial law, which had to
go through a second vote in the Chamber of Deputies in late April after it
was vetoed in the upper-house, could retain CZK 380 million from the annual
CZK 2 billion pay-outs the state has pledged to undertake until 2030.
Opposition parties including the Mayors and Independents and the Christian Democrats are planning to issue a complaint to the Constitutional Court, which they hope will invalidate the legislation.
The taxation of financial compensation paid to churches in lieu of
properties not returned in restitution could have dire consequences for
faith groups, religious leaders have said. In a statement on Wednesday, the
chairs of the Czech Bishops’ Conference, the Ecumenical Council of
Churches and the Federation of Jewish Communities said the move could cause
churches serious financial problems or even result in their demise.
The church leaders said the bill mandating such taxation was immoral and unconstitutional.
MPs on Tuesday overrode a Senate veto on the legislation. A tax on compensation was a condition of the Communists for supporting a minority cabinet of ANO and the Social Democrats.
MPs are set to vote again this week in favour of a proposal to tax
financial compensation awarded to churches in lieu of property that could
not be returned in restitution.
The Senate had rejected the Communist-drafted proposal, arguing it was unconstitutional and unjust to tax money paid in compensation for properties confiscated by the former regime.
The Communists have conditioned their tolerance of the minority government comprised of the ANO and Social Democrat parties on the proposal passing.
They estimate the Czech state stands to recover about 380 million crowns annually from the roughly 2 billion crowns it now transfers to 16 churches and a Jewish federation under bilateral agreements.
A Communist Party bill aiming to tax church restitutions hit the rocks in the Senate on Wednesday where the vast majority of senators rejected it as “unconstitutional“. The bill was rejected not just by the opposition parties but by nine senators from the ruling ANO and Social Democratic Party which helped to push it through the lower house.
The Senate has voted against the Communist party proposal to tax
restitutions paid out by the state to various religious organisations
including the Catholic Church and the Czech Jewish Community. Aside from
the opposition, the senators who voted against the bill also included the
Social Democrats, a junior partner in Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s
government. The proposal will now return to the Chamber of Deputies, which
can by-pass the Senate if it votes in favour of the bill again. However,
the opposition says it will bring the issue to the Constitutional Court if
Aside from returning property, the current restitution law passed enacted in 2013 counts on paying church organisations CZK 59 billion crowns divided into annual payments over a period of 30 years. The proposed restitution bill would tax these pay-outs reducing the total payment to CZK 48 billion.
The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church has hit back at a Communist Party bill aimed at taxing compensation paid to churches for property seized under the previous regime. Cardinal Dominik Duka has described the Communists’ move as a “black comedy” and says a Senate vote on the matter will determine how faith groups proceed.
The Roman Catholic Church will wait for a Senate decision on taxing
compensation paid out to churches in restitution before making a decision
on how to proceed, Cardinal Dominik Duka said after a meeting of the Czech
Bishops’ Conference. The head of the Catholic Church in the Czech
Republic said it would coordinate its response with other churches and the
Federation of Jewish Communities.
The Chamber of Deputies last week approved a Communist Party proposal to tax the compensation received by churches in lieu of properties seized under the previous regime.
Cardinal Duka described the vote as a black comedy directed by the Communists, adding that compensation was never taxed. The Senate is regarded as likely to reject the bill.
Prague Bishop Václav Malý has sent an open letter to the speakers of the
lower house of Parliament and the Senate to protest against an amendment
taxing church restitutions approved by the lower chamber last week. Bishop
Malý says in the letter that the minority government is paying the price
for Communist Party support, and argues that the bill demonstrates the
growing arrogance and unscrupulous practices of those in power.
The amendment, which was approved in the lower house last Wednesday, would tax the roughly 59 billion crowns which the state is paying out in phases as compensation for property which the state cannot return.