501(c)(3) – Why not in Europe?

“United in diversity” is the motto of the European Union.


In the European Union, considerable efforts have been made in terms of a unified economy, a monetary union and even consumer protection. It seems, however, that the EU has not managed to overcome being a mere representation of national governments. Simply look at the European Parliament’s limited power.

But I want to point out something different now. If you run a charity outside the U.S.A. you probably have more than once encountered the situation that you want to register your NGO on Internet, say, for eBay Giving Works or search sites with a charitable side effect, but the conditions require your charity to be based in the US with a 501(c) status.

Sure, eBay and others cannot be experts on all the world’s national non-profit legislations. Neither do they have the language skills to understand the evidence of charity status of each country.

This, I think to myself, is actually the prime example where we would need something like the European Union. Well, the EU is interested in administering their citizens and facilitating the access of European corporations to the global market. But where the heck is the EU’s support of their NGOs on the global scene?

It would be dead easy for the EU to provide an EU charity certification to go along with that of 501(c). Verification can be done on national level. Does it exist? At least I don’t know about it.

What is worse, the EU even lacks the will to enact a unified system among its member states. When a Czech charity, for instance, asks individuals in the UK for financial support, it cannot offer that donations are tax refundable. Fund-raising remains a deeply national matter and countries even have their national certification systems for transparency, their charity seals and the like. A transnational recognition does, however, work for marriage certificates, for driving licences and for academic titles. So why should it be impossible to implement an EU-wide charity status?

It seems, that systematic support of NGOs is not really a priority of EU policy. I just don’t hope that EU leaders perceive NGOs as their enemies.

In Vielfalt geeint, in Einfalt gefehlt.

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