New Russian law on volunteering: life insurance and tax exemption
State agencies and NGO representatives are planning to remove barriers that are currently hindering the development of volunteering in Russia.
It has been decided that the controversial draft Bill on “Volunteerism (Volunteering)”, which was submitted to the State Duma back in 2013, will be significantly altered. Discussions have been dragging on for a number of years but this time deputies and senators, together with community workers and lawyers, want to finalise the Bill by the end of May/beginning of June. The initial draft of the Bill will most likely be withdrawn and subsequently re-introduced, said Senator Alexander Borisov, co-author of the Bill, in an interview with Kommersant.
The current version of the Bill, which has received its fair share of criticism, explains the concept of an “electronic card” (i.e. a document that confirms the status of a volunteer). This document obliges volunteers “not to violate the rights and legitimate interests of citizens and organisations” and to “comply with Orders issued by Government officials”.
According to Lydia Mikheeva, Deputy Secretary of the Federation’s Public Chamber, this idea bears no relation to real life. “It’s strange to force people to get a volunteer’s certificate if they want to go outside in the spring and clean the yard”, she said. It’s far better for the law to exempt volunteers from paying tax. Community workers believe that life insurance should be provided for volunteers who take part in rescue operations.
The revised law on “Volunteerism (Volunteering)” was discussed in the State Duma last week. Its authors want the Russian words “dobrovolets” and “volonter” to be given equal weight in charity and NGO law. (Previously, only one of these words was used in legislation.) This would enable organisations to prescribe these terms in agreements with various institutions and help both ease the responsibility and set certain parameters on the work of volunteers.
As well as work on the law, the Volunteer Development Action Plan, prepared at the behest of the Russian President, discusses a number of important issues relating to the work of volunteers. An Inter-Departmental Commission for the Development of Volunteerism is to be introduced in July which will coordinate the deployment of volunteers in various sectors (web search engines, medical, environmental protection). In future, the Commission will need to come up with proposals for developing volunteer centres where training courses for volunteers can be organised.
A website for volunteer organisations is to be created by spring 2018 which will be useful for finding professional helpers for various kinds of events, as well as holding information on organisations and volunteers.
The Federation’s Public Chamber and the Agency of Strategic Initiatives have been tasked by Vladimir Putin to submit a package of measures to develop Russia’s volunteer movement to Government by 30 April. In the words of the Russian President “all barriers hindering the development of volunteerism must be removed”.