What is the most profitable non-profit association

Uniter and JouWatch : When extreme right-wing associations are considered non-profit

"Hannibal" answered the potential donor promptly. Can donations for the Uniter association be tax deductible? So to the club that plays an important role in the extreme right-wing network that, according to research by the "taz", among others, is preparing for "Day X" and has excellent relationships with various security authorities.

On February 27, 2019 at 3:51 p.m. Hannibal wrote in an email available to Tagesspiegel: "Up until now everyone could use our donation receipts and submit them to the office. We are a non-profit association under German law. So it works! Best regards, your back office . "

So are active right-wing extremists tax-privileged? The head of the extreme right-wing network is said to be André S., once a soldier in the Special Forces Command (KSK) in Baden-Württemberg, with good contacts to the Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD). His code name is Hannibal. As deputy chairman of Uniter, he led chat groups under this code name, in which members - including former and active members of special forces - exchanged information about the scenario of a collapse of the political order in Germany. Investigations are ongoing. At the beginning of February, the SWR reported, citing an informant from the ranks of the KSK in Calw, that Uniter had a "hard core of 80 to 100 people" who had set up weapons depots.

The Stuttgart-based association Uniter, with its own statements of around 1,800 members, denies being a shadow army. He also does not want to be considered a right-wing extremist. A society is being built in which former elite soldiers and police officers support each other and the soldiers help with the transition to civilian life, explains an association board member. On Tuesday, the association's press team said: "In contrast to Attac, Uniter is not politically active and our charitable status can be proven to the tax office at any time." The organization "firmly" rejects the claim that Uniter is a right-wing extremist association.

Tax secrecy prevents transparency

The statutes of the association say: "Within the structures of Uniter, no radical or extremist tendencies will be tolerated." Uniter sees itself as an "apolitical, independent and non-denominational association". Uniter states that the purpose of the association is to "promote advanced training and professional training". With these statutes, the association achieved recognition as "non-profit" at the Stuttgart tax office. Donations are therefore tax-deductible. The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance does not provide any information about the association with reference to tax secrecy. It is unclear whether the tax authorities in Baden-Württemberg have initiated an examination of Uniter's tax breaks.

The Baden-Wuerttemberg Green Member of Parliament Alexander Maier, spokesman for his parliamentary group for strategies against right-wing extremism, tells the Tagesspiegel: "It cannot be that Attac's non-profit status is canceled or that Deutsche Umwelthilfe as a non-profit organization is questioned. And on the other hand Uniter can continue to operate and rule as a non-profit organization - although this group is suspected of having founded a right-wing extremist shadow army. " Maier demands: "This dubious and dangerous underground network urgently needs to be examined in a comprehensive review."

People who have access to weapons and whose commitment to the free democratic basic order can be doubted represent a security problem, explains the Green politician.

Martina Renner, a member of the Left Bundestag, wonders how Uniter was able to maintain its charitable status at all. She told the Tagesspiegel: "While Attac, the association of those persecuted by the Nazi regime (VVN) and other associations from democratic civil society are virtually threatened in their existence by some tax offices, the extreme right has a free hand." Renner explains further: "The Uniter association does not only seem to be penetrated by right-wing soldiers from the KSK and is said to have planned an overthrow. There were even proven connections to alleged right-wing terrorists. I can't help the impression that the authorities are consciously looking the other way or someone even has reasons to keep a protective hand over Uniter, Hannibal and Co. " At the end of February, the VVN announced that various tax offices in North Rhine-Westphalia were threatening to withdraw its non-profit status because the organization was mentioned in the Bavarian report on the protection of the constitution as a left-wing extremist.

Right Hetz portal "JouWatch": move to Saxony

The dispute about the charitable status of Uniter is similar to the one about the right-wing Hetz portal JouWatch, which was awarded charitable status in 2017 by the Jena tax office in terms of tax law. It offers AfD politicians and the anti-refugee movement Pegida a platform and publishes advertisements about the identity movement, which the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has observed as a suspected case. Rescue at sea in the Mediterranean is branded as "illegal human trafficking", and there is a stir against supposed "asylum fraudsters" and an "asylum tsunami". One of the current "news": "Colored Carnival: Dark-skinned man with a white sweater rapes a woman in the green watering."

JouWatch states that the purpose of the association is to promote popular education. The portal on the right-hand side of the Internet solicited donations with the note: "You save taxes with every donation and can thus wipe out an additional factor against the 'Merkel regime'." After the tax authorities in Thuringia became aware of the discrepancy between the alleged purpose of the association and actual activity, JouWatch relocated its headquarters to Meißen, Saxony, thus delaying the examinations.

According to Tagesspiegel information, the tax authorities from Saxony and Thuringia are now exchanging information in the JouWatch case. Nevertheless, the examination of a possible withdrawal of the non-profit status turns out to be tedious. In response to a Tagesspiegel request on Twitter, Saxony's Finance Minister Matthias Haß (CDU) said: "We are big fans of Twitter and Tagesspiegel. However, it is legally forbidden for us to comment on individual tax cases checked by the responsible tax office. "

General problem: With a good tax advisor and well-worded statute, it is relatively easy for associations to be recognized as charitable by a tax office. The withdrawal in the event of abuse is much more difficult. Before that, there are often long-term proceedings before the tax courts, as was the case recently in the case of Attac's globalization critic.

In addition, in many cases the tax offices also lack the staff to regularly and thoroughly check the non-profit status. Stefan Diefenbach-Trommer speaks for the alliance "Legal security for political decision-making". He means generally: "Civil society is not for profit." In the Attac case, the Federal Fiscal Court interpreted the non-profit purpose of education "very narrowly". With regard to politically extreme associations that have been recognized as non-profit, Diefenbach-Trommer says: "In general, non-profit purposes open spaces for social negotiation of what best serves the common good - different points of view and perspectives are part of it." But of course there are limits that are already in the law. "In order to control these limits, tax offices must be appropriately equipped and qualified." To this end, the German Juristentag recommended in September of last year that national tax offices should be set up.

Greens are calling for registers of non-profit organizations

Another suggestion on how the public benefit check could be improved comes from the Green Bundestag member Manuela Rottmann. It demands a nationwide, publicly accessible register of non-profit organizations. "Nobody has to be afraid of politically active clubs and associations if their funding is transparent," Rottmann told Tagesspiegel. "With uniform disclosure requirements for non-profit organizations about their financial sources and their business activities, graded according to the size of the organization, we create transparency for donors, citizens and tax offices."

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