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19 december, 2012

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The State wants to legitimatize good deeds

The State wants to legitimatize good deeds
On December 18, the Civic Chamber Members discussed the draft law “On Philanthropic Activities” which was introduced to the State Duma last November. Participants of the discussion tried to understand if the proposed by parliamentarians document would make the efforts of people participating in charity more easy or more complicated.
 
CC Member Darya Miloslavskaya said that “the bill speaks about the development of cultural values.”
 
“However, the basics of the laws on culture interpret the concept of cultural values as something permanent: these values could be only supported or preserved. However, development of cultural values is a new concept. Besides this, the bill prohibits any philanthropic activities to employees of state agencies and local governments. We see this norm as discriminative: citizens are always citizens, whether they are state employees or not. There are other disputable points: for example, institutions of culture receiving philanthropist’s sponsorship can provide him/her with free services in the amount of one three hundreds of the sum of annual philanthropic support. We believe this is corrupt norm. There is also no clause on the philanthropist’s right to provide anonymous support, as are no regulations of the foreign philanthropists’ activities,” she believes.
 
RF CC Member Natalya Danilina is sure “that the ‘concept of philanthropy’ must be included in the law. That said, the goals of philanthropy are formulated in such a narrow way that the majority of charitable initiatives are not subject to this concept, which is absolutely wrong.”
 
Co-founder of the M. Prokhorov’s Foundation of Cultural Initiatives Irina Prokhorova supported the idea of adoption of the law; however, some statutes of the document caused her bewilderment.
 
“First, it is strange that the sphere of philanthropists’ activities is limited to the culture exclusively. This is an extremely important sphere; however, public wealth includes social projects, medical assistance to sick people, and many other things. Second, it is not clear why it is speaking only about state and municipal institutions. The culture is not secluded in the institutions under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. In the modern society, institutions can have absolutely different characters; they might be private, public, amateur, and all of them need support. By this law, the great philanthropists of the early 20th century, whom we know and respect, are not philanthropists by law; all they had established was private: museums, galleries, and literature magazines. This statute would be worth a serious discussion. Thirdly, it is not absolutely clear why the agreement between a philanthropist and an institution must be notarized. Philanthropy is an absolutely voluntary action,” Prokhorova said.
 
The State Duma Member Maria Maksakova-Ingebergs, one of the authors of draft law, made some things clearer.
 
“I understand that some people might dislike narrowing the circle of potential recipients of philanthropists’ support, but we did this with the purpose to exclude possible violations. We need the law: there are quite a few philanthropists who would like to see adequate attitude towards them and use transparent schemes of philanthropic support.  Besides this, if the bill is approved in the first reading, we can then introduce the necessary amendments to it,” Maksakova said.
 
In his turn, Chairman of the Commission on culture and preservation of cultural and historical heritage Pavel Pozhigailo expressed his confidence that the bill will not be adopted due to contradictions with the Civil Code and argumentativeness of some of its formulations (even more so that in 1997, a similar bill had already been introduced to the State Duma and was declined in 2011).
 
“I guess it is more important to develop and adopt a series of privileges for philanthropists so that they had economic motivation,” he said.
 
“Privileges for individuals already exist: since 2012, any person donating means to non-commercial organizations (including those in the sphere of culture) can get a tax deduction in the amount of up to 25% of his/her income,” Deputy Director of the Department of Strategic Management (programs) and Budgeting of the Ministry of Economy Ilya Chukalin reminded. “That is, if a philanthropist’s income amounts to 1 billion rubles, he/she has the right not to pay taxes for the amount of 250 millions. Currently, privileges to legal entities are under discussion: our Ministry initiated a draft of corresponding amendments to the Tax Code. In accordance with them, we are planning to offer a tax deduction to companies in the amount of up to 10% of their taxable profit. From our point of view, there is no need in adoption of a special law on philanthropists.”
 
“It is enough to make two steps to solve the problem,” Associate Professor of the MSU Law School, RF CC expert Yelena Abrosimova said. “The word “philanthropist” should be included in the Federal Law “On Charitable Activities and Philanthropic Organizations.” Second, we need to make sure that this aspect is taken into consideration in the process of changing the basics of the laws on culture alteration; I am sure, the Ministry of Culture is currently working on this.”
 
Vice-Chair of the RF CC Commission on development of charity and volunteerism Larisa Zelkova resumed the outcomes of the hearings.
 
“We have already encountered a similar situation when discussing volunteers and voluntary activists. I mean the special law on volunteers engaged in the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The State Duma adopted it; with that, all other volunteers found themselves “not in the ball game.” I would love to warn our legislators not to create the same legislative collision one more time. Philanthropist is a good term which came to us from the past, and it would be good to have it as an instrument, but we need to make it in a clearer and legally more accurate way.”

RF Civic Chamber Media–Office

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