Letter: The Germans would understand you, Steffi

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The Independent Online
Your article "Steffi: proof that the rich don't go to heaven" (27 July) is unfair. When Steffi Graf said she left the financial side of her life to her father and merely signed her income tax statements this was credible - her job was to play tennis. At least she still lives in Germany, unlike the many sportsmen and TV stars who have left for tax purposes. Many have settled in Belgium, where they are taxed at a rate far lower than Belgians themselves. For men, leaving Germany young also means draft dodging.

Austria and some areas of Switzerland also have a form of Church Tax, which was institutionalised in Germany by Bismarck. Your writer's estimate of an average DM200-300 per month is exaggerated - DM80 would be nearer the mark. It applies to all denominations represented in Germany.

The Catholic church's authorities are very money-minded, even though they pay their clergy civil servant salary levels with all the accompanying perks. I don't blame Steffi for choosing to leave. Very few Germans would have felt anything other than a sympathetic understanding. If she chooses to move to Florida, or in fact anywhere apart from Switzerland or Austria, she will be free to go to church like any other Catholic.

Shirley Paffendorf

Neuss, Germany