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March 24, 2023

Church cashed EUR 6 M from redirected taxes

Romanians may redirect to a non-governmental organisation or foundation of their choice a 2 per cent portion of the annual income taxes due. This year however, the bulk of such redirections went to the church instead, according to a study conducted by ‘Romania libera’ daily, a finding similar to last year’s. Few however are aware about such mechanism being in place, and even fewer exercise their option. Of the 60 per cent of taxpayers who heard about it, only 56 per cent made the effort of filling out the donation form. According to the National Agency of Fiscal Administration (ANAF), only 17 per cent of taxpayers, or 1.3 M Romanians, donated last year 2 per cent of the taxes due for 2008. Vigorously funded from the state budget, the Romanian Orthodox Church is comfortably leading in Romanians’ donation preferences, although other religious denominations and religious foundations too figure in the ranking. The Romanian Patriarchy maintains it has not centralised the amounts donated over time since they go to roughly 15,000 parishes nationwide. “The believers who donated to their parishes really see what their money goes into: assistance for the poor, able, yet poor, youth. They get the feeling they too are part of this social work,” this is how the Romanian Patriarchy spokesman, Father Constantin Stoica, explained Romanians’ preference for redirected taxes going to the Orthodox Church.

Last year, the church received nearly EUR 6 M of the taxes due for 2008, according to data provided by the tax authority. Sociologist Mircea Kivu believes it is the rural areas where the church collects the bulk of such donations from. “The church, unlike other organisations, has a direct power of influence. Greater visibility organisations sometimes engaged in vigorous advertising campaigns are other major beneficiaries of 2 per cent tax redirections.” Kivu holds that, ignorance aside, taxpayers don’t donate the 2 per cent to various field foundations as they don’t know that such organisations are in place, plain and simple. Last year, the Romanian Emergency Rescue Service (SMURD) collected about EUR 600,000 in 2 per cent tax donations, according to SMURD founder Raed Arafat. Although its majority funding comes from the state, SMURD uses donation money for special projects such as training of its staff or pilots used for rescue interventions. “Over the past few years, there have been one hundred thousand, or two hundred thousand emergency interventions, it is shorter time intervals we are talking here. The population comes out in support of this service which in turn does the same for the population,” was Arafat’s explanation for SMURD donations.

‘Save the Children’ Foundation last year collected EUR 135,000 in 2 per cent tax donations. Fund Drawing Director Mihaela Vasilache said the amounts donated double by the year. “This area matters for many people, because they have children of their own and want to help the disadvantaged. They also do it because donators are confident the funding really goes to the children.” ‘Save the Children’ Foundation quoted a study as showing that environment protection (1.5 per cent) and human rights (1.2 per cent) are benefiting the least from income tax donations. Animal rights too are not the concern of more than 2 per cent of donators. Animal rights foundation “Vier Pfoten” does not enjoy such good treatment from donators at large. “We get the two per cent from friends and relatives. That’s nothing wrong with that, this is how it goes worldwide. What a person is interested in is to receive help as fast as possible or help the children. Animals rank towards bottom,” a resigned Ruxandra Stoica, the ‘Vier Pfoten’ spokeswoman, said.

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