ANBI status for religious organisations

If you manage, or are considering setting up a religious institution, there is a good chance that you have ANBI status or can qualify for it. Does your organisation have ANBI status? Then you and your donors are entitled to a number of attractive fiscal benefits. Applying for and maintaining an ANBI registration comes with certain obligations. For religious organisations, these are slightly different from other Public Benefit Institutions in a number of areas. In this article, we will outline the exceptions for religious institutions.

Freedom of religion

The reason that a religious organisation has a different legal status (read: fewer obligations) than other non-profit organisations stems from the the Dutch legal system: the constitution. Article 6 enshrines  the right to freedom of religion or belief:
Everyone has the right to freely manifest his religion or belief, individually or in community with others, subject to the responsibility of each person under the law.

Founding a religious organisation

If you want to establish a church or religious community in or from the Netherlands, the usual legal form for this is a 'Kerkgenootschap'. You can also choose to register your religious or spiritual organization as a foundation or association. Please note, with this type of construction, you have fewer exemptions. You can set up a religious organisation, by registering it in the trade register at the Chamber of Commerce. The following steps are required (links below are in Dutch only):

  1. Filling out and submitting this form,
  2. Collecting and signing supporting documents
  3. Registering in the UBO register
  4. Making an appointment at the Chamber of Commerce where the registration is completed

Registering a church as an ANBI

After a religious organisation has been established according to steps listed above, you can apply for ANBI status. As an ANBI, you may be entitled to a number of interesting tax benefits. Donations and gifts to the society are then subject to favourable tax arrangements for the donating party. This makes it more attractive to support the organisation financially. In order for an ANBI application to be granted, you must meet the necessary requirements for Public Benefit Institutions. Does a new religious organisation fall under an umbrella organization with ANBI registration? Then the new society often has the same ANBI status. If not, it pays to investigate whether the new society meets the requirements and, if so, apply for the status itself.

Read  more about the conditions and benefits of an ANBI status here

Exemptions for religious organisations

The right to freedom of religion means that ANBI registered organisations and their independent parts (such as classes, deaconries and congregations) are exempt from obligations that other ANBIs must meet. We have listed the exceptions for religious communities below:

1.      Statutes and WBTR

The statutes that are formulated when a religious organisation is founded do not have to be notarized. Changes to the articles of association can also be made without a notary. For other ANBI’s, it is a requirement that articles of association are recorded by the notary. This must include provisions that guarantee that the ANBI meets the requirements of the Management Supervision of Legal Entities Act (WBTR). This law is intended to combat mismanagement by binding directors to stricter rules. The exceptional (constitutional) status of religious groups exempts them from the rules of the WBTR. The indemnification of the WBTR does not detract from the fact that it may be useful to take note of these rules and to include the requirements in the articles of association. This way, you guarantee good governance and that conflicting interests or abuse of power are prevented.

2.      Disclosure obligations for directors

Religious organisations are subject to a number of exceptions to the publication obligation for ANBIs. For example, an ANBI-registered religious group does not have to publish the names of its directors. In fact, in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion, the registration of the organisation in the Business Register may not contain any information that can be traced back to a natural person. On the other hand, as mentioned above, denominations are obliged to register UBOs. Other ANBIs do not have to do this.

3.      Obligation to publish finances

Unlike most other ANBIs, religious organisations do not have to publish a balance sheet online or make it publicly available. In addition to the statement of income and expenses, they must include an overview of intended expenditure with explanations. You  can download a standard form for religious organisations from the Tax and Customs Administration,  this should be completed and publishlished annually. The form lists exactly which information that ANBI-registered religious organisations must publish. Small ANBI registered religious organisations may also have to publish this information online in the foreseeable future. Larger ANBI registered religious organisations are obliged to do so.

Do you want to know whether your religious organisation is classified as a large or small ANBI for the publication obligation? We'll explain it here .

Want to know more?

Applying for ANBI status can be a complicated and labor-intensive process. The Tax and Customs Administration has opened an online ANBI desk, to help you apply for ANBI status. Evolupa supports (international) organizations in applying for ANBI status. From giving advice to carrying out the application: We are happy to be of service. Feel free to contact us.

ANBI status for religious organisations