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A donation is a voluntary donation for a religious , scientific , charitable , cultural , economic or political purpose . Recipients of donations can be non-profit associations , foundations , political parties , aid organizations or religious communities . Donations can consist of monetary or in- kind contributions or a waiver of remuneration for work performed ( time donation ).


Donations can be special expenses within the meaning of income tax law if certain requirements are met.

In Germany, around three to six billion euros per year are donated to around 600,000 charitable associations and 15,000 foundations. The exact amount of donations in Germany is not known. The following studies regularly survey the donation behavior of Germans:

  • Study “Balance of Help” by the Society for Consumer Research : determined donation amount of 4.7 billion euros for 2013.
  • "Deutscher Spendenmonitor" (German donation monitor) from TNS Infratest : determined donation amount of 2.9 billion euros for 2011/2012.
  • Federal Statistical Office : donations claimed for tax purposes amounting to 6.1 billion euros for 2009.

The vast majority of donations from private individuals go to humanitarian aid (2013: 79%). Other purposes, cultural and monument preservation , animal welfare and environmental protection each account for less than 10%.

According to a study by the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), German citizens who are involved in clubs or associations donate more often and more than others. This calls into question the sometimes widespread view that donations are perceived as a “substitute” for a lack of personal volunteer work. The study shows that people with a higher income donate significantly more often than the average citizen. The share of the donations in their annual net income is, however, considerably below the average.

The largest donation organizations

The German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) provides information on 227 organizations that carry the donation seal .

According to surveys by the German Fundraising Association (2011) with regard to total contributions, donations and inheritance, the 20 largest donation organizations in Germany are the following:

rank Donation organization Headquarters Donation income
1 SOS Children's Villages / Hermann Gmeiner Fund Munich € 120,000,000.00
2 UNICEF Cologne € 93,182,461.00
3 Johanniter Accident Aid Berlin € 88,841,436.00
4th Doctors Without Borders Berlin € 80,854,384.10
5 German Red Cross Berlin € 71,043,833.19
6th World Vision Germany Friedrichsdorf € 69,284,572.00
7th Children's missionary organization "The Carol Singers" Aachen € 68,922,925.70
8th MISEREOR Aachen € 62,612,478.24
9 German Cancer Aid Bonn € 61,000,000.00
10 bread for the World Stuttgart € 58,283,144.25
11 Kindernothilfe Duisburg € 55,896,683.58
12 Greenpeace Hamburg € 48,564,000.00
13 Christoffel Mission for the Blind Bensheim € 48,540,036.80
14th German World Hunger Aid Bonn € 47,658,572.98
15th Adveniat eat € 43,652,949.51
16 v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel Bielefeld € 36,608,730.90
17th Aktion Deutschland Hilft Bonn € 35,883,685.35
18th missio Aachen € 32,658,463.00
19th WWF Germany Berlin € 31,500,000.00
20th German Caritas Association Aachen € 29,580,652.44

In the 2016 financial year, the Deutsche Krebshilfe Foundation achieved first place in the statistics of the 20 leading donation organizations with donations of 249.2 million euros.

Checking the use

The tax offices check the correct use of the donations on a random basis. In addition, the use of the donations for the awarding of voluntary donation seals is checked.

civil right

The term donation is unknown to civil law . In civil and legal terms, the donation is a gift , the characteristics of which are met by the donation in Section 516 (1) BGB . It is a donation through which someone enriches another out of his or her assets if both parties agree that the donation is made without consideration . A donations contract after § 518 BGB only quite effective if the promise of donation notary certified is or the promise (§ 518 BGB 1 BGB.) Via suitable was (§ 518 BGB. 2; see donation contract ). Is the donation with an earmarking connected, there is a so-called overlay donation to § 525 BGB, in which the donor the fulfillment of its circulation may demand. If the recipient does not use the donation received as agreed, the donor can claim his financial contribution back. The donation is not given in the case of anonymous donation campaigns such as the donation can . Then it is a mere donation for a specific purpose within the meaning of Section 812 (1) sentence 2 (2nd case) BGB, which is repayable if it is used for a purpose other than intended . The right to donate in the BGB is often overlaid by the public right of street collections .

Tax law

Donations for tax-privileged purposes (e.g. to charitable organizations ), political parties or independent electoral associations are tax-deductible in Germany, but are treated differently. The donation can be claimed by private individuals in the income tax return as a special tax-reducing expense within certain limits (cf. § 10b and § 34g EStG ); Companies can deduct the donation (“ corporate donations ”) from profits up to a fixed maximum limit (cf. § 9 Paragraph 1 No. 2 KStG and § 9 No. 5 GewStG ) (but not donations to political parties).

The non-profit status of the association, the foundation or the non-profit GmbH must have been recognized by a provisional certificate of the non-profit status or a notice of exemption from the tax office, which is responsible for the donation-receiving organization. According to § 50 EStDV , the donation deduction is also dependent on the donation being proven by the taxable donor by means of a donation receipt. This donation receipt must be issued using an officially prescribed form. The latest requirements for such a confirmation, as well as the sample forms, which must be used by January 1, 2014 at the latest, result from the BMF letter of November 7, 2013. The transmission to the donor can also be done electronically under certain conditions .

There is also the possibility of an expense donation, a waiver of the payment of a reimbursement claim, or a donation in kind. The waiver is tax-deductible under certain conditions like a donation.

Membership fees are according to § 10b para. 1 sentence 8 Income Tax Act but not as a donation deductible for organizations that sports Heimatpflege / History or other "recreational purposes" (promoting animal so-called breeding , plant breeding, gardening , traditional customs, including the Carnival , Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras , soldier and reservist care, amateur radio , model flying and dog sports ) or if the members receive specific and individual services in return for their contribution (so-called fake membership fees, which represent a performance fee). However, since 2009, according to Section 10b, Paragraph 1, Clause 7 of the Income Tax Act, membership fees to development associations for art and culture are tax-deductible even if the member is granted monetary benefits (e.g. reduced admission).

Before January 1, 2007, the donation deduction was dependent on the pursuit of a charitable, ecclesiastical, religious or scientific charitable purpose recognized as being particularly worthy of support. This distinction between tax-privileged and donation-privileged, which implied that donations to tax-privileged corporations were only eligible for donations if the purpose was “particularly worthy of support”, was abolished with effect from January 1, 2007.

Effect and amount of the special expenses deduction

In the case of donations from private individuals to charitable organizations, the tax-reducing effect depends on the personal tax rate .

Donations for tax-privileged purposes are recognized as special expenses up to the amount of 20% of the total amount of income; alternatively, the maximum amount can also be calculated with 4 per thousand of the sum of the total sales and the wages and salaries expended in the calendar year ( Section 10b (1) sentence 1 EStG). The donation receipts (colloquially known as donation receipts) must be submitted with the income tax return.

For donations to political parties and electoral associations , the tax reduction is 50% of the donation amount, up to a maximum of € 1,650, or € 3,300 for spouses taxed together. The tax liability is therefore max. 825 € / 1,650 € deducted. Donations exceeding the maximum amount can be claimed as special expenses up to € 1,650. In total, one person can donate 2 × 1650 € (spouses double the amount) with tax deductions ( see also: Tax deductibility of party donations ).

If donations exceed the maximum amount, they can be carried over to subsequent years and claimed within the maximum amount (“donation carryforward”). The donation presentation is not hereditary. An additional maximum amount of one million euros within a ten-year period applies to donations to the assets of charitable foundations.

Wage donation

A wage donation is a waiver by an employee of part of his remuneration in favor of a certain charitable purpose. The employer withholds this part of the gross salary and transfers it to the non-profit or charitable institution. The retained earnings are not taken into account when determining the taxable wages. In return, no donation receipt will be issued. In Germany, the wage donation is a temporary exception that can be issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance. Such exemptions were used, for example, in June 2014 to support the victims of the floods in the Balkans and in September 2015 for refugee aid. In Great Britain, wage donations have existed as a model with no time limit (“payroll giving” or “give as you earn”) since 1987; in the USA, “payroll giving” is even more widespread.

Differentiation from sponsoring

The sponsor's expenses are business expenses if the sponsor seeks economic advantages for his company or wants to advertise his company's products, in particular in securing or increasing his corporate reputation. This is particularly the case if the recipient of the services refers to the company or to the sponsor's products in an effective way on posters, event notices, in exhibition catalogs, on the vehicles used by him or other objects. The reporting in newspapers, radio or television can justify an economic advantage that the sponsor is striving for, especially if it is involved in his public relations work or the sponsor participates in press conferences or other public events of the recipient and makes his own statements about his company or his Can deliver products. Economic advantages for the sponsor's company can also be achieved by the sponsor's use of the recipient's name, emblems or logos or other means to draw attention to his services in a publicly effective manner.

For consideration as operating expenses, it does not matter whether the services are necessary, customary or appropriate; the expenses may also be deducted as business expenses if the cash or non- cash benefits and the promotional goals pursued for the company are not equivalent. In the event of a blatant disproportion between the services and the economic advantage sought, the deduction of operating expenses must be refused ( Section 4 (5) sentence 1 no. 7 EStG).

Non-deductible "donations"

In everyday language , voluntary payments, e.g. B. for freeware or donation ware or for smaller services called donation. However, these are payments for deliveries or services ( download ). The payments are therefore not a donation that is tax-deductible. For the payee they are operating income. If a profit arises from this income after deducting the costs , this is taxable. Depending on the type of delivery or service, a trade or a freelance activity must be registered. For a payee who is entitled to input tax deduction, the payment is a gross amount from which the sales tax included must be paid.

In addition, there are now more and more opportunities, especially on the Internet, to donate money to aid organizations that are not recognized as charitable by German tax offices, for example because they are based outside the European Economic Area . In this case, in terms of tax law, it is not a question of donations, but rather " gifts ".

Collection Laws

Collections of monetary donations, donations in kind or public services in kind were previously regulated in all federal states by collection laws that stipulate an authorization requirement for certain forms of fundraising. This applies to street and door-to-door collections in which the potential donor is addressed directly and has to decide immediately for or against a donation; Advertising mail, general calls for donations and the setting up of stationary collection bins, on the other hand, are possible without permission. Today, however, there are only collection laws in Rhineland-Palatinate , Thuringia and Saarland , in the other federal states they have been repealed without replacement, and anyone can collect donations there without official permission.


According to the Fundraising Association Austria , which prepares an annual “donation report”, the volume of donations in Austria is increasing continuously. In 2010, 460 million euros were donated, in 2011 it was 490 million euros, and in 2012 the 500 million euro mark is expected to be exceeded. The number of Austrians who make donations has also risen in the past to currently 80% of the population. One of the reasons given is the gradual expansion of the tax deductibility of donations.

For a long time in Austria only donations for the purposes of science and research or for monument protection were tax-deductible. This led to repeated clashes between the government and representatives of aid organizations and non-profit associations, which saw themselves at a disadvantage compared to other European countries. Before the National Council election in Austria in 2006 , Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser prepared a draft law, which was not implemented after the election. At the beginning of 2009, as part of a tax reform, tax-privileged donations were extended to charitable organizations. There is no connection with the donation seal of approval issued in Austria .

As of January 1, 2012, the list was expanded to include additional organizations. The volunteer fire brigades , environmental protection organizations and animal shelters were added to the list. The decision was preceded by disputes with animal welfare organizations such as Vier Pfoten and the Verein gegen Tierfabriken . They complained that donations could only be made to animal shelters and not to other animal welfare organizations, although they received around 10% of all donations made in Austria. Critics of the decision suspected a "return coach" for politically uncomfortable animal welfare work. The background to this is a conflict between politically successful animal welfare associations and the Austrian state, the culmination of which is the Wiener Neustadt animal welfare process . Animal protection is thus the last major area of ​​civil society engagement that is excluded from donation deductibility in Austria, which is also criticized by other associations.

In Austria, donations of up to a maximum of 10% of the previous year's income (private individuals) or the previous year's profit (companies) are recognized.


The values ​​brought together through public collection form what is known as a collective asset .

United States

The United States is the country with the greatest amount of donation. It donated $ 410 billion in 2017, an increase of 5.2% over the previous year. That is the equivalent of over 1100 euros per inhabitant. In an international comparison, the high proportion of 70% comes from individuals (in Europe this figure is only 53%), the rest is divided between foundations, corporations and bequests.

Donations are only tax-deductible up to a maximum of 50% of adjusted gross income , although lower maximum limits apply to certain donations. Donations that exceed these maximum amounts can be carried over into subsequent years and can be used as a donation carryforward for a limited number of years within the maximum amount.

Time donations are not tax deductible in the US; only certain expenses incurred for this (costs such as food, accommodation and travel expenses, but not any necessary childcare) are tax-deductible.

Great Britain

In a European comparison, Great Britain has the highest donation per capita. In 2017, the equivalent of over 270 euros per inhabitant was donated.

In the UK there is the tax treatment of donations to charitable organizations ( charities ) no maximum limit. Donations by people who pay taxes in the UK to charities in the UK (and since the Finance Act 2010 also to charities in the EU, Norway or Iceland) are funded through Gift Aid .

A private donor must issue a Gift Aid statement to the charitable recipient stating that they are liable for tax in Great Britain and that they have paid or will pay income tax in the relevant tax year (6 April to 5 April) in the amount due on the donation. The monetary donation will then be treated as if it had been paid after tax using the base tax rate: if the base tax rate is 20%, a donation of £ 100 will be treated as a donation of £ 125 before tax and the donor will therefore be paid £ 25 ( 20% of £ 125). The taxpayer himself is reimbursed the difference between his tax rate and the base tax rate: for example, if he has a tax rate of 40% with a base tax rate of 20%, he receives the difference of £ 25 for every £ 100 donated (again 20% of £ 125 ) back.

In contrast, corporate donations are treated as pre-tax donations; accordingly, the donating company can deduct the entire donation amount to reduce profits. It is a common practice in the UK for a charity to have a subsidiary that transfers all of its profits to the parent organization. This practice would not be possible in Germany - with the exception of special-purpose companies - due to the maximum donation limit and the voluntary requirement. In Great Britain, for example, this method is used to offer paying clients a service on the one hand and to give the same service to those in need free of charge on the other. It should be noted that the subsidiary can also provide tax-free amounts in excess of its profit to the parent company. Conversely, a charity may only be economically active to a limited extent in a way that is not connected to one of the primary purposes according to the statutes ( non-primary purpose trading ), as otherwise it would lose its tax privilege. The sale of donated items, on the other hand, is regarded as a tax-harmless conversion of a donation in kind into a cash donation. A charity may also offer paid services to the public sector, provided these are compatible with the goals set out in its statutes.

Donations in kind and donations in the form of services are not tax deductible in the UK.

In sponsorship, it is widespread that the sponsor advertises with the statement that he is transferring a certain share of his income to a charity . (For comparison: in Germany only the newer legislation since the rainforest project judgment of 2005 has determined the admissibility of such advertising under competition law.)

Some companies offer to make an additional donation to the non-profit recipient organization chosen by their employees , up to a maximum limit for each wage donation (“payroll giving”) made by their employees.

Other states

In France , Spain and Hungary, a taxable donor reduces his tax liability by a proportion of the donation amount, which is independent of his individual marginal tax rate.

Cross-border donations in the EU

With the “Persche” ruling of 2009, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that due to the free movement of capital in the EU (Art. 56 EC, now Art. 63 TFEU), the donation deduction for domestic donations also applies to cross-border donations within the EU . In such a case, however, according to the ECJ ruling, the tax office is not obliged to obtain the necessary information that the foreign recipient organization fulfills the requirements for donation deduction by means of administrative assistance .

For Germany, the Federal Fiscal Court confirmed in a 2015 ruling that the obligation to provide evidence that the requirements for a donation deduction are met applies to the domestic donor and not - as in domestic cases - the recipient of the donation in the case of donations to a foreign corporation. In addition, according to this judgment, the donation receipt must meet certain requirements: It is true that it cannot be required to use the officially prescribed form in accordance with § 50 EStDV, but the foreign recipient organization must certify that it has received the donation, is pursuing the statutory charitable purpose and is using the donation exclusively in accordance with the statutes.


  • Similar to the domino effect, small donations can trigger a wave of donations, as the inhibition threshold to make a donation is significantly lower than with conventional donation methods due to the small amount of money.
  • A patron is a person who supports an institution, local authority or person with money or monetary means in the implementation of a project without asking for direct consideration.

See also

Web links

Commons : Donations  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Donation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See donation term u. a. Federal Fiscal Court (BFH), judgment of November 25, 1987, Az.IR 126/85.
  3. Balance of helping in 2014 (PDF; 1.5 MB) Deutscher Spendenrat eV. S. 6. March 5, 2014. Accessed March 22, 2018.
  5. Prof. Urselmann, Peter; Schwabbacher, Wolfram: German donation market grows to record results ", Fundraiser Magazin, 06/2013
  6. Balance of Help 2013. (PDF 216 kB) Deutscher Spendenrat e. V., March 14, 2013, archived from the original on November 11, 2013 ; accessed on January 3, 2019 (original website no longer available).
  7. Donation Seal Bulletin 2018 (PDF; 277 kB) German Central Institute for Social Issues. S. 14 December 2017. Accessed March 21, 2018.
  8. ↑ Donation balance of selected organizations 2008 - 2011 (PDF; 178 kB) Deutscher Fundraising Verband eV. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  9. , 2016 page 60, accessed on September 22, 2017
  10. Susanne Hartnick, control problems in donation organizations , 2007, p. 333
  11. GZ: IV C 4 - S 2223/07/0018: 005, DOK: 2013/0239390, BStBl 2013 I p. 1333. See also this private website for more details
  12. Law on the Modernization of the Taxation Procedure; Issuance of donation confirmations according to the officially prescribed model in the form of write-protected files (§ 10b EStG, § 50 EStDV). February 6, 2017, accessed on February 11, 2017 (reference IV C 4 - S 2223/07/0012).
  13. Jürgen Hegemann: Income tax intensive: assessment according to new law , Springer-Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8349-9891-0 . Pp. 108-109
  14. Tax measures to support the victims of the floods in the Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia), BMF letter of June 17, 2014, GZ IV C 4 - S 2223/07/0015: 011, DOK 2014/0463684
  15. Tax measures to promote aid for refugees, BMF letter of September 22, 2015, GZ IV C 4 - S 2223/07/0015: 015, DOK 2015/0782725
  16. DZI donation tips. (PDF; 24 kB) German Central Institute for Social Issues, accessed on April 30, 2016 .
  17. a b
  18. a b Tax deductibility. In: Austrian Institute for Donations (ÖIS), archived from the original on March 16, 2011 ; accessed on February 12, 2017 .
  19. ↑ Deductibility for donations remains an election candy. In: . May 30, 2006, accessed February 12, 2017 .
  20. Deductibility of donations. Federal Ministry of Finance, January 10, 2017, accessed on February 12, 2017 .
  21. Barbara Gansfuß-Kojetinsky: Donate tax -free : Animal rights activists angry. In: Mittagsjournal . ORF, June 1, 2011, accessed on February 12, 2017 .
  22. § 4 Paragraph 4 Z 5 EStG and 6 as well as § 12 Paragraph 1 Z 5 Corporate Income Tax Act .
  23. ↑ Donation report 2018. Fundraising Verband Austria, p. 8 , accessed on December 5, 2018 .
  24. ^ Charitable Contribution Deductions. IRS, accessed October 17, 2015 .
  25. ↑ Donation report 2018. Fundraising Verband Austria, p. 8 , accessed on December 5, 2018 .
  26. ^ Sabine Selbig: Promotion and financial control of non-profit organizations in Great Britain and Germany: legal forms, tax incentives and financial control , Mohr Siebeck (2006), ISBN 978-3-16-149146-7 . P. 282 and p. 284 .
  27. ^ Sabine Selbig: Promotion and financial control of non-profit organizations in Great Britain and Germany: legal forms, tax incentives and financial control , Mohr Siebeck, 2006, ISBN 978-3-16-149146-7 . P. 246 ff.
  28. Tax relief when you donate to a charity., accessed October 17, 2015 (English).
  29. ^ Sabine Selbig: Promotion and financial control of non-profit organizations in Great Britain and Germany: legal forms, tax incentives and financial control , Mohr Siebeck, 2006, ISBN 978-3-16-149146-7 . P. 247.
  30. a b Sabine Selbig: Promotion and Financial Control of Non-Profit Organizations in Great Britain and Germany: Legal Forms, Tax Promotion and Financial Control , Mohr Siebeck (2006), ISBN 978-3-16-149146-7 . P. 282 and p. 282 .
  31. Section 194, subsection (1) , Corporation Tax Act 2010
  32. Charity Commission guidance changed for payment of Gift Aid by charity subsidiary companies. Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England and Wales (ICAEW), accessed October 23, 2015 .
  33. ^ Charity trading: selling goods and services., accessed on October 23, 2015 (English).
  34. Kerry O'Halloran: The Profits of Charity , OUP USA (2012), ISBN 978-0-19-976771-7 . P. 180
  35. ^ Sabine Selbig: Promotion and financial control of non-profit organizations in Great Britain and Germany: legal forms, tax incentives and financial control , Mohr Siebeck (2006), ISBN 978-3-16-149146-7 . P. 281
  36. ^ Charities. (No longer available online.), archived from the original on November 17, 2015 ; accessed on October 23, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  37. Public service delivery: rules for charities., accessed on October 23, 2015 (English).
  38. Beatrix Tröger: Tax location Great Britain: Basics and practice of British tax law , Springer (2012), ISBN 978-3-8349-3703-2 . P. 43
  39. ^ Sabine Selbig: Promotion and financial control of non-profit organizations in Great Britain and Germany: legal forms, tax incentives and financial control , Mohr Siebeck (2006), ISBN 978-3-16-149146-7 . P. 281 f.
  40. BGH Az. I ZR 55/02 of September 20, 2005
  41. ^ Matthias Schatz: Instruments of state donation support , Hüthig Jehle Rehm Verlag (2012), ISBN 978-3-8114-5405-7 . P. 77 .
  42. ECJ, judgment of January 27, 2009, C-318/07, access no. 090437
  43. a b Donation deduction for donations to a foundation based in another EU / EEA country. Judgment of January 21, 2015, XR 7/13. In: Press Release No. 33/15. Federal Fiscal Court, May 6, 2015, accessed on November 1, 2015 .
  44. BFH judgment of January 21, 2015, file number: XR 7/13