Draft law on Volunteering
Citizens are entitled to do voluntary work
without hindrance, says Ilya Chulkanin
The media are currently discussing the
Volunteering Bill drafted by the not-for-profit partnership, Lawyers for Civil
Society. Special thematic hearings have taken place in the Public Chamber of
the Russian Federation. Ilya Chulkanin, deputy director of the department of
strategic programming and budgeting at the federal ministry of economic
development spoke to ASI about the relationship between different types of
volunteering and their regulation.
Correspondent: Do you think we need a Law
on volunteering, Ilya Vladimirovich?
Ilya Vladimirovich: This is a technical
rather than a substantive legal issue. In the first place it is necessary to
decide whether further regulation is needed to facilitate the development of
volunteering in Russia and which particular issues need sorting out by means of
legislation. Only then would it be possible to decide whether dedicated
legislation would be needed or just amendments to various federal laws. For
example, tax relief would need to be legislated for in the federal tax code.
Correspondent: How are the different types
of volunteering regulated today?
Vladimirovich: The basic legal aspects of volunteering are regulated by
amendments to Russian legislation introduced by federal Laws nos 383 of 23
December 2010 and 235 of 18 July 2011 respectively. These contain a definition
of the type of volunteers contemplated who are persons working for charity
without reward. The law provides that citizens are entitled to do such work
voluntarily without hindrance whether on an individual basis or in concert with
others and that they are free to choose their goals. Those who are on the receiving end of the help provided by
volunteers may be citizens or legal persons
and are called ‘beneficiaries’ in the legislation.
legislation applies the special term, ‘volonter’ (волонтер) only to persons
recruited by the management board of the 27th World Summer Universiade* 2013 in
Kazan, the organising committee for ‘Sochi-2014‘ and the Sochi city
administration. They are absolved from having to pay insurance premiums, fees
for visas or other documentation needed by volunteers, or the cost of travel,
accommodation, subsistence, training, communication services, transport,
interpreting services, insurance or souvenirs. Such benefits received by
volunteers at the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi are to be tax
Correspondent: Does that mean that
volunteers providing services to charities are recognised as such by law
without the need for any documents corroborating their status?
Ilya Vladimirovich: The law does
provide for agreements to be entered into defining the conditions applying to
charitable work but this is optional and volunteers are under no obligation to
do so. The absence of such an agreement is no bar to working as a volunteer
provided of course that their help is genuinely needed.
volunteer has to enter into an agreement only where they are receiving
reimbursement of the costs of travelling to the place where they are helping,
accommodation, subsistence, personal protective equipment, or voluntary health
insurance. If such an agreement exists, the reimbursement is free of personal
income tax or insurance premiums.
beneficiary or any legal person may enter into an agreement with a volunteer
for reimbursement of expenses within the framework of charitable activities
that the volunteer has agreed to carry out.
Correspondent: It is generally thought that
only reimbursement which a volunteer receives from a charitable organisation is
free of tax and insurance premiums…
Ilya Vladimirovich: Anyone may
reimburse a volunteer’s expenses. The issue is that non-observance of the
requirements relating to voluntary work means that the allowances will not
apply. In that case, a volunteer who receives reimbursement from a person must
pay tax on it whilst an organisation will reimburse the volunteer only out of
its net profit, witholding tax and paying insurance premiums in addition.
a written agreement gets over the problem of benefiting from tax relief.
Article 7.1, paragraph 2, of the Charitable Activities and Charitable
Organisations Federal Law No 135 dated 11 August 1995 permits voluntary
participation in the charitable work of any legal person in the interests of
citizens and other legal persons.
commercial and non-commercial organisations may reimburse volunteers, whom they
have recruited for helping the needy, the expenses incurred in connection with
their voluntary work. In such a case, the charitable help will consist of the
unpaid work of the volunteer and the reimbursement of their expenditure on
travelling, accommodation, subsistence, individual protective equipment and
should mention that for tax relief purposes reimbursement of expenditure on
subsistence is limited to 700 roubles per day within Russia and 2500 roubles
abroad. This does not mean that paying more is prohibited; however, personal
income tax and insurance premiums must be paid on the excess.
Correspondent: What if a volunteer is not
working within the framework of a charitable organisation? For example, they
might be assisting in running a conference or an event or participating in the
ongoing work of not-for-profit organisations?
Ilya Vladimirovich: If the volunteer is
helping an NGO with organising an event whose objectives accord with the legal
requirements and fall within the list of charitable objectives which is
tolerably wide, such NGO is in the position of a beneficiary and compensation
paid to the volunteer will attract relief. An analogous situation exists with
regard to the ongoing work of an NGO. If what an NGO does, falls outwith
charitable objectives, then helping in that organisation will not be considered
charitable work. However, it is not very easy to imagine this happening since,
again, there has to be almost total coincidence between the objectives of
charitable work and the aims of the NGO as expressed when it was set up.
an NGO may conclude a civil contract with a citizen who is resident for tax
purposes, under which expenses actually incurred by them and directly connected
with the performance of their work or the provision of services are reimbursed.
Personal income tax will not be paid on such reimbursement due to the
application of professional tax relief.
Correspondent: It is also proposed to
provide additional governmental guarantees for volunteers by law as regards
life and health insurance etc
Ilya Vladimirovich: Guarantees may be
provided in the case of those recruited to help with what the government regard
as priority tasks including those that are short term or occur unexpectedly,
like natural disasters. But this is not such a straightforward issue. Some
volunteers are better prepared than others, perceptions of risk to life and
health differ and some take precautions whilst others do not. These factors
have to be taken into account. A system of guarantees needs managing.
Government agencies can however use their powers to develop social welfare,
compensation and allowances for citizens recruited by them on a voluntary
basis. The Volunteer Firefighters Federal Law 2011 is a case in point. Existing
legislation already allows beneficiaries and organisations performing
charitable work to insure volunteers.
‘Universiade’ is an international multi-sport event organised for university
athletes by the International University Sports Federation.