AFP: Czech churches are up in arms against Communist Party plans to tax billions in compensation being paid by the state in return for assets, mostly land, seized by the Communists during their Cold War rule.
Under a 2012 law and deals with the state, 17 religious denominations — Christian and Jewish — are entitled to recover assets worth up to 75 billion koruna (2.9 billion euros, $3.4 billion) seized by the atheist Communist regime after World War II.
These include the UNESCO-listed Baroque church of Zelena Hora and Kromeriz castle, a former bishops’ residence in the east.
Works of art and almost 40,000 hectares (nearly 100,000 acres) of land dotted with vineyards and forests must also be returned.
Additionally, churches are due to receive financial compensation worth 59 billion koruna over 30 years for seized assets that cannot be returned in kind.
Arguing these sums are “excessive”, the Communist Party wants to slap a 19-percent tax on the compensation from 2019.
Their bill is likely to pass given the leverage the Communists have with the new minority government of billionaire populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who relied on their backing to win a confidence vote on Thursday.
“It boggles the imagination,” priest Stanislav Pribyl, secretary general of the Czech Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told AFP.
“How can you impose a tax on this (compensation)? We are the creditor and the state is the debtor here!” he added.