Religion News Blog — Members of the Netherlands’ House of Representatives have asked questions of State Secretary for Finance, Frans Weekers, regarding tax deductions on financial donations given to the Church of Scientology via front groups.
Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool earlier this month reported that the controversial church is using a non-profit front group as a tax loophole in soliciting tax-deductible donations to the purchase of a building to be used as a so-called ‘Ideal Org.’
The Amsterdam Scientology base is using an exclusive website, accessible to members only, to try and drum up financial support among its followers for the purchase of a suitable building.
But the paper notes that ddonations to the sect are not tax deductible since the Dutch Tax Service does not view Scientology as a charitable organization.
It reports that the ‘Ideal Org Club’ advises supporters to send their money to the Nabesa foundation in Lelystad.
‘Nabesa’ stands for ‘Naar een Betere Samenleving’ — To a Better Society. Among its founders and boardmembers are several Scientologists. The foundation’s statutes say the purpose of Nabesa is to bring about improvements in society according to the ideas promoted by L. Ron Hubbard.
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For tax purposes Nabesa is considered a charitable organization in the Netherlands, creating a sneaky route the paper suggests escaped the Tax Offices’ attention.
Last Saturday, citing church documents it has seen, Het Parool said the Scientology Church Amsterdam sees the Netherlands as a tax paradise and is wildly enthusiastic about it.
Tax authorities have told the newspaper that the NaBeSa foundation complies with non-profit rules, and that it will not go into deeper discussion regarding the issue.
The newspaper says that means about half of the financing necessary for Scientology’s ‘Ideal Org’ will be provided by Dutch tax payers.
SCIENTOLOGY FRONT GROUPS
Today Het Parool reports the tax authorities consider three additional Scientology front groups to be ‘charitable organizations’: The foundation De Weg naar het Geluk (Way to Happiness) in Haarlem, the foundation Narconon in Zutphen, and the foundation Nederlands Comité voor de Rechten van de Mens (the Dutch office of the ironically-named Citizens Commission on Human Rights) in Amsterdam.
Scientology uses front groups both to recruit, either directly or indirectly, and to apparently try and gain a measure of respectability by latching on to popular causes.
The Way to Happiness Foundation is a PR front that publishes a small booklet entiled, “The Way to Happiness” — a compilation of widely agreed upon values apparently culled from various religions. The booklet was produced by Scientology-founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who broke many of his own rules. Scientology publication have referred to the publication of the booklet as “the largest dissemination project in Scientology history” and “the bridge between broad society and Scientology.”
In 2005 then State Superintendent Jack O’Connell urged all California schools to drop the Narconon antidrug education program after a new state evaluation concluded that its curriculum offers inaccurate and unscientific information.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights engages in an extended hate campaign against psychiatry and psychiatrist.
QUESTIONS REGARDING TAX LOOPHOLE
In reponse to Het Parool’s report regarding an internal letter in which Scientologists are encouraged to donate money not to the church directly but rather to Nabesa, representatives of Dutch political parties D6 and SP in the Tweede Kamer — the Netherlands’ House of Representatives — have sent questions to Frans Weekers, State Secretary of Finance.
House Representative Magda Berndsen (D66) wants to know how it is possible that Scientology, which is not considered a charitable institution, ‘now still benefits, via a loophole, from the tax deduction benefits afforded to foundations that have a charitable status.’
Berndsen also wants to know whether are any instances of fraud have occurred with organizations that have charitable status, ‘such as money laundering.’
Ronald van Raak (SP) also wants an explanation: “It seems right to take a closer look at those ancillary organizations. If they are connected to, or provide services for, an organization that does not have charitable status those organizations can also not have charitable status.”
Scientology’s Amsterdam base is currently housed in a rented building in the center of town. In 2010 the owners of the downtown building, real estate corporation Libra International, filed interim injunction procedures against the Church of Scientology for rent arrears in the amount of €78.000 ($103.000).
It was the second time that Libra had to resort to legal proceedings in order to get Scientology to pay.
In 2003 the Scientology’s Amsterdam base faced a mutiny in which ‘at least 50 of the 150 active core members’ left.
Even today passers-by usually do not notice much activity in the glass-fronted building.
In 2005 Scientology lost a long-running legal battle against freedom of speech in the Netherlands.
It is believed the organization has a few hundred ‘members’ in the Netherlands.
Het Parool says its revelations regarding Scientology’s use of the Nabesa foundation are treated according to the sect’s usual protocol. The paper says that online Nabesa board member and Scientologist Karel Jeelof talks about ‘black propaganda‘:
“Scientology, argues Jeelof, is against drugs, and therefore it is highly likely that Het Parool is financed by drugs dealers.”