The federal government on Thursday introduced planned reform of the tax deductibility of donations. It is expected to be decided by the National Council in December.
The federal government on Thursday presented the planned reform of the tax deductibility of donations, which will be approved by the National Council in December. It is often linked to the non-profit status of organizations; This simplifies procedures and makes 45,000 additional associations potential beneficiaries. Recent NGO objections were met with little understanding in the presentation, but legal concerns still need to be examined.
Kogler and Brunner highlight what needs to be improved through reform
At the press conference, Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) and Minister of Finance Magnus Brunner (ÖVP) emphasized what the reform aims to improve: With the non-profit reform law, the circle of beneficiaries will be expanded to include areas of education, facilities will be provided in sports and culture, and simplifications in procedures will be made. to do. Additionally, the volunteer allowance exempt from income tax will be increased.
Kogler mentioned that an estimated 100 million Euros will be provided to clubs as a result of the reform. The voluntary sector is of great importance in Austria, with 250,000 employees and a gross added value of more than 10 billion euros. It ensures commonality and unity and is therefore “an antidote to hatred and agitation.”
Brunner was similarly enthusiastic, talking about the biggest reform to gift tax deductibility in 15 years. This is also accompanied by strengthening protection against abuse. Organizations whose behavior does not comply with the Austrian legal system will therefore be excluded from donations.
NGOs, including Greenpeace, have reached this point
At this very point, many NGOs under the chairmanship of Greenpeace came together on Thursday. According to the warning, civil society protest could lead to the removal of tax deductions for donations and thus economic losses that could threaten the existence of NGOs. Constitutional lawyer Heinz Mayer also warned of unconstitutionality because, according to the draft, the suspensive effect of legal remedies against the tax authority’s decision was excluded. However, the Constitutional Court has stated many times before that legal regulations should not impose an ultimate or even existential burden.
Kogler was not very receptive to the criticism. “The lawyers we interviewed see this concern as unfounded,” he emphasized. Based on his own background, he sees civil disobedience as a legitimate tool in a vibrant democracy. Brunner also stated that he considered the objection of Greenpeace, which he emphasized that it did not comment on the issue during the investigation phase, as “no problem”. However, the Minister of Finance still wants Mayer’s “technical claim” to be examined. “What Prof. Mayer said may be relevant to individual cases,” Brunner said: “Of course we will look, because legal certainty is extremely important.”
Criticism not only from Greenpeace
This law was criticized not only by Greenpeace on Thursday; The Attac network, “Fridays for Future”, Volkshilfe and SPÖ also participated. However, the Austrian Fundraising Association reacted very positively and promised less bureaucracy, more value on volunteer work and an attractive long-term perspective for donors.
In its assessment, the “Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations” was concerned about “disproportionate legal consequences for NGOs” regarding the sanctions. Chief executive Stefan Wallner, once the Green Party’s federal chief executive and until last year chief of cabinet in Kogler’s ministry, welcomed the reform in a broadcast on Thursday. The planned text of the law makes clear that “not all criminal activity may result in the loss of tax deductibility of donations.” Instead, a significant portion of the donations (around 10 percent, according to the judge) will have to be used. “That would be too noisy,” he said: “As far as we know, no Austrian NGO will be even remotely affected by this in the future. The authority must always comply with constitutional limits, where civil society participation is absolutely strictly protected, in particular by the right to assemble.”