Taxation of non-profit organizations is as dry and disappointing as its title and its grey cover suggest. The book contains the written country reports presented at the International Fiscal Association (IFA) Annual Congress in Israel in October 1999, as well as a comparative analysis of the country reports by David Gliksberg of the Hebrew University. West European countries comprise half of a total of 30 countries around the globe that are covered.
While it is commendable that the IFA, an international organization with over 9,500 members in 90 countries, chose the taxation of non-profit organizations as the subject for its Congress last autumn, it is unfortunate that the Congress proceedings published in this book add such little value to the ongoing international debate on this subject. Other publications already present information on the fiscal framework applying to non-profit organizations for most, if not all, of these countries. Instead of building on the information currently in existence, the IFA decided to ask new people to analyse and respond to similar questions. Granted the analysis of some of these tax issues might be more in-depth than in other publications, but this level of coverage also makes the publication less easy for a layperson or non-tax specialist to understand.
Another disappointment is the poor editing of the book. Whenever a publication contains reports from several countries on the same subject, the editor must ensure that the style is relatively uniform from one chapter to another as well as enjoyable to read – especially in such a technical area as taxation. Editing becomes even more important when most of the authors are writing in a foreign language, as was the case for this publication. Although, the country reporters were able to write their reports in French, English, German or Spanish, 24 of the 30 reporters chose to write in English. Bravo for those writing in a foreign language, fewer bravos for those editing the reports.
The IFA could have added more value to the debate by asking the reporters to make practical recommendations for reform and by placing greater emphasis on the comparative advantages and disadvantages of each country’s fiscal framework. We can only hope that next time the IFA will contribute its considerable intellectual resources to pushing the debate further towards concrete reform measures.
Bradley Gallop is an attorney with BDG & Associates in Brussels, where he also serves as a European Commission Expert on Social Economy Law and the President of the International Institute of Association and Foundation Lawyers. He can be contacted on +32 2 535 7272 or at firstname.lastname@example.org