By Bündnis Für Gemeinnützigkeit
For the first time, the Austrian government invited representatives of Austrian non-profit and voluntary organisations to discuss framework conditions and necessary legislative changes for the sector during an official governmental summit. On 3 May 2023, promising talks were held between leaders of the Austrian government, representatives of BÜNDNIS FÜR GEMEINNÜTZIGKEIT and further delegations of the sector. Results were positive, but now it is important to put legislation forward as elections are coming up in 2024.
Both representatives of the government and representatives of the non-profit and voluntary sector appreciated each other’s willingness to jointly strengthen civil society in Austria and hence contribute to a better life for all citizens.
Major topics and next steps:
The current talks emphasise three major topics:
- Advanced tax deductibility for donations to all non-profit organisations and easier administration thereof. There is consensus that a revision of the existing law is necessary in order to not discriminate against non-profit organisations that are not yet recognised by the existing scheme. In addition, the simplification of the tax-deduction process should increase attractiveness of donations and reach new possible donors. Further negotiations are being conducted to eventually bring in a bill.
- Strengthening voluntary engagement through intensifying the promotion of a voluntary social year and extending (financial) support for participants. As a first definite result of the summit, an amendment of the so-called “Freiwilligengesetz” (voluntary act) has been published by the government and commented on by the BÜNDNIS and its allies. First steps were taken toward strengthening the voluntary engagement but, according to the BÜNDNIS, the amendment must be further expanded in order to reach the aimed outcome.
- The expansion of governmental subsidies to the non-profit sector and voluntary organisations as a response to rising energy costs. The government has already provided financial subsidies with regards to the energy crisis to a wide range of people and companies. However, it failed to reach most of the non-profit sector and voluntary organisations. During the summit, the expansion was agreed upon. However, it takes further negotiation to finalise the bill and specify the subsidies needed.
Together for the good of all
The BÜNDNIS FÜR GEMEINNÜTZIGKEIT and its members, ranging from small and local associations to large organisations like the Austrian branches of Red Cross, Caritas, Amnesty International, WWF, Transparency International or Birdlife and covering all areas of civil society – from the environment to human rights or inclusion, from culture to social issues and humanitarian aid, are confident that current talks have a major impact on the sector. With elections coming up not only at the EU level but also at the Austrian level in 2024, it is important that the non-profit sector and voluntary organisations raise their voices and take up a stance together in order to reach decision-makers and shape the continent for the good of all.