DAGR Non-Profit Tax Entity: Come Into My Edra!

DAGR is now a bona fide, Greek-filed, non-profit tax entity!

Photo thanks to Stacey Harris-Papaioannou

Actually, it happened just over a week ago. We finally got the tax number (ΑΦΜ) and have been working through details with the accountant. More work lies ahead, but this milestone allows DAGR to legally, and vigorously, conduct a full range of fund-raising activities.

The new ‘edra’ is a little storefront in Patissia, at Zervou Ilia 23, in the block below the Patission-Galatsiou intersection. Bus and trolley lines pass three blocks above; the train (green line) is about 10 minutes walk below. There’s a bank and a very decent restaurant just up the hill and a small hospital just below. The rent is dead low, covering the annual ENFIA and income tax on the amount collected for the ENFIA.

In Greek commercial tradition, the ‘grand opening’ will be held as soon as a bit of paint-up-fix-up is done. We’re looking at mid-to late-January and, in addition to members, plan to invite our new neighbors, including the mosque across the street. It’s a way of saying this crisis-pounded neighborhood is on the mend.

On Tuesday, a small committee made a shortlist of repairs and furnishing donations needed. Watch for more information over the holiday break. Read on for the back-story.

The new headquarters, before. Needs a bit of work. Photo thanks to George Malamo

DAGR Non-Profit Tax Entity: Rationale

Under the Democrats Abroad (DPCA) Charter, we must comply with two sets of laws: US Federal Election Commission (FEC) law and each Country Committee’s host-country laws. Like most other developed countries, Greece requires non-profit organizations to be registered and to fulfil certain reporting, and possibly tax-paying, requirements.

There was a time, here, when non-profit orgs could sort of do whatever to raise funds, and no one took much notice. As EU membership tightened a lot of laws, more orgs found it wise to officially register.

For the last year or so, ExCom has been increasingly aware of government efforts to crack down on tax avoiders and, while DAGR is small potatoes, our need to publicize events could make us ‘low hanging fruit.’ So, members who attended events may have noticed that the ticket prices have been super low (i.e. no mark-up) and collected by the restaurant or hotel.

As the Democratic Party does not have dues, DAGR’s ability to seed events or buy ads has been curtailed. We put fund-raising on the back burner and concentrated on ‘people-raising.’ It hasn’t worked out too badly. Combined with election year energy and extra efforts by global DA, membership in Greece grew some 20%. That lesson will be central as a newly revitalized Fund Raising Committee plans approaches for the next 2-year cycle.

DAGR just moved higher up the tree! (Thanks to  Antieris.nl  for loan of the graphic)

DAGR Non-Profit Tax Entity: Background

DAGR began talking seriously about a non-profit ‘syllogos’ just after the 2009 Inaugural. Nearly a year was lost satisfying problems with DPCA rules. Then, DAGR got up and running again in 2010. Money was collected, a small group of members formed up a ‘board’ to apply and had a lawyer draw up the papers. They were filed in 2012. And then the long road got longer.

Filing the ‘establishing’ papers with a Greek court (Μονομελές Πρωοδικείο, Αθήνας) and publishing the new entity in the government journal are the first steps. After that, a tax number must be applied for, and that requires an ‘edra,’ aka a base of operations, a real mailing address, not virtual post box.

Over the last four years, various addresses were sought, found, failed or rejected. Under US FEC law, only a US citizen could donate a space. Our small budget ruled out renting an office downtown. Shared space was considered, either with another NGO or in someone’s home.  The original court filing stated ‘in Athens,’ which eliminated willing officers’ homes in nearby suburbs. (Short of closing out and refiling from the gitgo, the stipulation re Athens couldn’t be changed till the tax number was acquired. Catch 22.)

Other possibilities failed because someone’s visa renewal was in delay, or someone’s past tax hassles made them hesitant, or someone’s landlord had died and the heirs had not yet got clearance to permit sharing or subletting. We came very close a year ago, when a member’s husband offered an ‘apothiki’ in a pleasant, midtown building. We joked about meeting in our closet. The tax office rejected it because it didn’t have in-space electricity, i.e. was not a bona fide address on the DEH electric grid. The lease, filed on TaxisNET, was cancelled on TaxisNET and the search went on.

Finally, in a mid-October conversation with a member about an upcoming campaign event, the penny dropped. We could afford to pay someone’s ENFIA. She had a couple of disused storefronts in a Patissia neighborhood that had been pretty vibrant before the ‘crisis.’ We explored further and came to an agreement. At that point, the accounting firm, Computax, filed the tax papers and followed through.

Small but mighty! Photo thanks to Stacey Harris-Papaioannou

DAGR Non-Profit Tax Entity: Mythology and FAQs

Imagine 30 or so intelligent adults, each with some experience of or notion about non-profit organizations and Greek tax law, gained at different times or from different knowledgeable friends. Imagine about half of them getting further information from several different Greek agencies, in Greek. Imagine the laws and agency info sheets changing from year to year. Imagine that everything should be translated from English to Greek for filing somewhere OR translated from Greek to English so any member can read it.

Misunderstandings develop and persist. Here are a few FAQs that may help:

Is the new tax entity a separate organization?

No. It is registered as ΣΥΛΛΟΓΟΣ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΚΟΥ ΚΟΜΜΑΤΟΣ ΗΠΑ ΣΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ. It’s like your Uncle George. He’s George in the US, Yiorgos in Greece. Same body, same guy.

Who decides how to collect and spend ‘syllogos’ money?

The DAGR ExCom, following the rules laid out in the DAGR Bylaws.

What happened to the original ‘filing’ members and board they elected?

In a new organization, they would be subsumed into the membership and governing board. In our case, they give over to the duly constituted board and become part of the membership (which grew explosively, almost overnight, we could say, from the original 20 some). DAGR had to submit translations of minutes from the meetings where ExComs were elected, to show continuity from the ‘founding body’ forward.

Who serves on the entity’s governing board?

Same answer. The governing board of DAGR, i.e. the ExCom, is the governing board of ΣΔΚΗΠΑΣΕ, Greek-registered tax entity. Like Uncle George, one body, one head. The new board and officers must be reported to the oversight authority after each election.

Who IS the oversight authority?

There are three, with the Athens/Attiki Peripheria being the main one now. They make sure we comply with Greek law, keep our official papers up to date and file proper tax returns.

Founding documents were filed with the Greek court, the Monomeles Protodikeio, in Athens. These included the initial ‘founding board’ AND a Greek translation of the DAGR bylaws. If bylaws are amended, or the address locale is changed, this is updated at the court.

If there’s a change in address, etc, of course, the tax office (currently Galatsiou) is notified. The tax office may change if the new address is in another (ΔΟΥ) tax catchment area.

Who files all these documents?

The Chair is responsible for filing the court and peripheria documents. The actual work may be done by an ExCom member, e.g. Counsel, or any other appointee.

The Treasurer handles the money and ledger. In our case, filing was gratis, but we’re paying a low fee for Computax to ‘keep’ our books and file the VAT or other tax reports. We’re sorting out the actual procedure, as the accountant needs a working set, while the ‘real’ books are to be available at our ‘edra’ should the tax office want to inspect.

The Treasurer has to get income/outgo receipts to the accountant. (Alec is up for this as he discovered a great little piroshky place near Computax.)

We have to pay VAT? Why?

There are two ways money comes to non-profits. One includes dues (Dem rule: we don’t have dues), donations of money and in-kind, bequests, etc. The other is from ‘commercial’ activity. That might include, e.g., getting a per-person price on a set menu of €10 and selling tickets for €15. VAT would be owed on the €5 mark up.

Details are given in Peripheria info docs available at:
http://www.patt.gov.gr/site/index.php
(Task bar, 2nd button > Για τον Πολίτη >  Εντυπα > Δ/της Αθλητισμού και Πολιτισμού)

Photo thanks to Stacey Harris-Papaioannou

DAGR Non-Profit Tax Entity: Credits and Kudos

A few thank-yous are in order:

-          the original filing ‘board’ of some 20 DAGR members of whom over half also hold Greek citizenship (a requirement) and hired Ira Kaliempetsou to draw up the Greek bylaws;

-          John Lewis, who’s pressed the idea since before 2009;

-          Alec Mally, who carried the ball for 2 years as chair and who will now shoot hoops with the accountant;

-          Alexandra Jelkes, who had the portfolio in 2014 and provided a legal advisor (pro bono to us) when she had to put it down;

-          John Bacalis, treasurer during the early effort and sounding-board for permutations since;

-          George Malamo, on call for tasks and support (‘Just tell me what you need me to do!’);

-          everyone who suggested a possible ‘edra,’ checked with their accountant or offered a prized real estate agent in the long search for an office site;

-          Gina Senduka, now officially our landlord, plus her accountant and lawyer;

-          Kostas Koufopantelis at Computax, referred by another non-profit NGO and now our accountant, and the very effective papers runner, Haris, whose smile sealed our welcome at two tax offices;

-          Charity’s table and chairs, Stacey’s truck, committee bees’ time, and in-kind donations to come;

-          Sarajane’s curtain, Nick’s floor plan, Steve’s painting party, everyone’s ideas!

Mea culpa if we’ve left anyone out here. Let us know; we’ll add to the list.