One of the items of information the Coopers and Lybrand person who is preparing our German income tax returns needed was religion! Before I could answer, she said "You want to say none."
The reason is, if you specify a religion, an extra 9% is collected which goes to that church! Most Germans pay, as most are born into a family which has a listed religion and a formal administrative process is required for them to swear that they are leaving the church.
I asked what would happen if someone got a windfall and preferred to give a less than mandated, although still substantial, amount. She said that it does happen and the churches are realistic about it. They donít perform an equivalent excommunication – persons who are formally "religiousless" (and their donations) are still welcome!
However, as a religious advisor the tax preparer has a conflict of interest – she is paid by the BFS, which wants the tax bill kept as low as possible since they eventually pay for our German taxes. (Of course that comes from the Federal government to whom we paid the taxes in the first place. Ever get the feeling thereís something strange here?1) In fact, they are being very aggressive this year, ("Office in the home? Letís try it") because they were criticized about the size of last yearís bills.
Unfortunately, Iíve heard that MITRE isnít equally as concerned about our U.S. tax bills (and theyíve totally excluded themselves from any responsibility relating to possible State tax obligations2). Some people have told me that the Coopers and Lybrand U.S. tax preparers are very conservative in what they include. For one thing, this makes it unlikely that they will have to attend an audit, and if you do insist, they may say that itís now your responsibility!
1Of course, the various allowances we're paid are considered to be income, and when MITRE repays us for the additional taxes we pay over what we'd pay in the U.S., it's also reported as income for the next year. You might think that our reported income would increase forever, but it actually levels off at around $200K, which a long-time site employee has attained. He's currently listed as having a higher income than MITRE's president.
2Since the previously-mentioned employee has maintained a home in Virginia so his children will be eligible to attend Virginia universities as in-state residents, to him this is a matter of no small import.