NGOs dragging their feet when filing tax returns

Despite being legally bound to submit their annual tax returns by a set deadline in a bid to improve accountability, a significant number of organisations are still missing this target, the NGO watchdog has said.

The issue was flagged in the 2015 annual report of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations and debated yesterday by the Social Affairs Parliamentary Committee.

In the year under review, a total of 645 annual returns were submitted, of which 404 satisfied the criteria of the Voluntary Organisations Act. In the remaining 241 reports, the respective administrators were contacted in order to provide missing documentation or make corrections.

However, the Commissioner pointed out that due to the lack of resources available it was not possible to record the number of extensions granted to NGOs that had failed to submit their accounts on time. For this reason, priority was given to those organisations applying for funds, since this was considered a more important issue even for the national interest.

In its report, the Commissioner said that with the increasing number of organisations enrolled, which last year reached 1,228, its job of scrutinising their operations was becoming tougher.

The 2015 budget allocation of €60,000, which included the honorarium for the NGO Commissioner, required a “drastic revision” upwards, as it fell short of the Office’s basic requirements, the report said.

Moreover, proposed regulations will oblige the regulator to control and report suspicious transactions related to money laundering and the funding of terrorism.

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