On 12 June 2020 Prof. Sigrid Hemels, professor of Tax Law at Erasmus School of Law, wrote an expert contribution for the Financieele Dagblad. In this contribution, she highlights the enormous importance of amateur sport and art for society. In order to stimulate private support actions, especially in times of crisis, it is advised to grant amateur associations the PBO status (the status that is granted to a Public Benefit Organisation).
The current crisis reminds us of the importance of amateur sport and art. Not only their value for the individual but also the impact they have on the psychological and physical well-being of the population. The associations have a far-reaching influence and can, for example, increase social cohesion, prevent social isolation and both limit and reduce obesity. On 1 May 2020, Minister Martin van Rijn (Medical Care and Sport) rightly praised ‘the supporting power that sport has for society’.
The ‘Public Benefit Organisation’
Where financial support is provided for amateur sports associations, there is no specific support for amateur art associations. Fortunately, society is willing to jump in to prevent the downfall of these associations. However, these benefactors come to a strange conclusion. Where a donation to a professional art institution is deductible with the tax return due to their PBO status, this is not the case with amateur associations. The Dutch tax law does not categorize the activities of amateur sports and art association as ‘public interest’. It labels their activities as beneficial for the private interest of the participants. In the categorization of public interest, the broader benefits of amateur sport and art on the mental and physical well-being of all people in society and the restrictive effects it has on healthcare costs do not seem to have been considered. Research by the European Foundation Centre shows that amateur associations in other European countries are often categorized as ‘Public Benefit Organisations’.
Tax Law adjustment
Prof. Hemels argues that the time has come for the government to convert their appreciation for amateur sport and art into actions. By legislating that amateur associations serve the public interest, the government gives a clear signal that it attaches real importance to its activities. Granting the PBO status is an additional incentive for essential private support actions to amateur associations. After all, they cannot exist of fine words alone.