Sigrid Hemels, Professor of Tax Law at Erasmus School of Law, argues in the Financieele Dagblad (FD) that the fiscal term 'collective interest', used for organisations that aim to serve the collective interest (anbi), should stay politically neutral. To get the fiscal state of anbi, a charity must serve the public good. When that requirement is altered, a subjective component might be introduced, but also, diversity might decrease.
The article is a reaction to the letter of Hans Vijlbrief, demissionary secretary of Finance. In this letter, he reflects on abandoning political neutrality regarding the term 'collective interest'. He considers "the lack of possibilities to intervene in anbi's that do not serve the public good" undesirable.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1926 that it is not required that all Dutch people agree with the objective in question in order to be able to speak about 'public interest'. In 1983 this ruling was specified: broad sections of society do not have to agree or disagree with the cause. It is sufficient when it is within probable reason that the cause serves the wellbeing of the people (of the nation the anbi focuses on) unless the cause tries reaching the goal with violence.
According to Hemels, the legal framework offers boundaries and guarantees. In addition to the ruling of the Supreme Court, the integrity requirement withholds organisations from the anbi status that are convicted for hate speech, (inciting) violence, deliberately putting people or goods in danger, deliberately offending or inciting hatred or discrimination of people because of their race, religion, sexual preference, or handicap.
She also warns that society can change its' view whether specific causes serve the public good or not. Anbi's that stand up against the zeitgeist, for example, might be proven right at a later time. To fight undesirable practices, the government could criminalise this. After conviction, the anbi-status of an organisation can be taken away. Vijlbrief wants, instead of a custom treatment, more ways to intervene with anbi's that do not serve the public good according to the government.
Which opinions are (ir)relevant?
This winter, a committee has to advise how the 'public good'-character can be expressed in a "better" way. Hemels is not assured of this: "This task is almost impossible because "better" is subjective: which opinions in society are (ir)relevant?" She raises the question of what happens when another government considers abortion, religion, or opposition parties irrelevant. She highlights countries like Hungary and Poland where the pluriformity decreases and the government takes its' own opinion as a benchmark, supported by the people. She is of the opinion that the government should organise its' opposition.