Voluntary Organizations and Civil Society

Country Reports: Latin America and the Caribbean

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 1, Issue 2, December 1998


En espanol, Primer Seminario Hacia Una Propuesta Legislativa Para Las Organizaciones No Gubernamentales

English Summary of the Document in Spanish

Lower Chamber of the Parliament of the Argentinean Republic
October 22, 1998
NGO Subcommission

On October 22 a meeting was held in the lower chamber of parliament which brought together representatives of the public, non-governmental, private, and academic sectors. Its purpose was to establish a dialogue between the parties on a new framework legislation and to inform about the creation of the NGO subcommission. This subcommission will serve as an instrument for NGOs to access the public sector, and in particular the legislature.

The new legislation must be easy to implement by the NGOs. It was first proposed to classify the organizations in order to better help define the objectives of the NGOs. One of the two classifications suggested making a distinction between NGOs dedicated to direct action, technical assistance or research and studies. The other classification proposed distinguishing between associations defending the interests of their members, organizations supporting the needs of a population located within a territorial limit, organizations supporting others through advocacy or providing social services, and foundations created and funded by companies.

One of the concerns expressed was the fact that the procedure to become a legal entity is expensive and complicated. It was therefore recommended that non-registered organizations also be consulted in the drafting of the new legislation.

It was further discussed that inappropriate fiscal framework be established for donors. It was suggested that a workshop could identify incentives towards donors and the tax treatment of NGOs. With respect to taxation, the classification would help donors characterize the organization and therefore the possible tax relief.

Some difficulties with entering into contact with the public sector were highlighted. Organizations closer to Buenos Aires seem to monopolize information. To remedy these problems, a parliamentary registry will be created and will serve as a link between the civil society and the legislative power.

The access to public and international funding is difficult due to the misinformation and also to the lack of institutional capacity (whether administrative or formative of the employees). This issue has been addressed by the World Bank and the IADB.

With regard to human resources, the following problems were stressed. The lack of infrastructure and basic equipment, the necessity to reinforce institutions of organizations via the qualification of its human resources, the necessity to establish a legal framework for volunteers (e.g.: their insurance is a problem for NGOs), and the necessity of a just treatment of the employees.

Workshops will be created to address these issues and they will be coordinated by the NGO subcommission.

About the Author: Stella Semino is an advisor to the NGO subcommission of the Argentinean Lower Chamber of Parliament.  She can be contacted at Comision de Cooperativas, Mutuales y ONGs, HCD, Rivadavia 1829 Piso 5, Capital Federal, ARGENTINA. Te. 951 6918  o   370 7100 int 3338, alecs@pwd.com.ar.


An article entitled El Proyecto de Ley N. 4690/98 (in Spanish) (Developing State – NGO Relations in Brazil – English summary) by Anna Cynthia Oliveira can be found under the “Articles” heading in this issue of the Journal.


Tax Legislation

A new law amends the rules for income tax relief for donations by individuals and companies. Under the old law, donations to the following nonprofit organisations were allowable deductions:

  • philanthropic, cultural, educational, research, health and sporting organisations up to a maximum of 10% of taxable income;
  • state universities and polytechnics, and catholic universities up to a maximum of 50% of taxable income.

Under the new law, only donations for the following purposes are allowable:

  • culture and health promotion, provided that they have previously been approved and subsequently verified by, respectively, the National Council of Culture and the Ministry of Public Health;
  • education, philanthropy and social welfare public sector bodies and nonprofit organisations regulated by the Ministries of Education and Social Welfare;
  • projects for the construction of social infrastructure that have been approved by Executive Decree of the President, provided that the donations receive prior approval from and subsequent verification by the area where the works are carried out.

In each case the deduction is limited to a maximum of 10% of taxable income. (Law 128, Official Gazette 8 August 1998).

Puerto Rico

Tax Legislation

The Puerto Rico Treasury Department filed new regulations with the State Department on 15 July 1998, implementing various provisions of the Puerto Rico Internal Revenue Code concerning exempt organisations and unrelated business income tax with effect from 14 August 1998. Inter alia, the new provisions require that the articles of an organisation seeking exemption must limit its purposes to one or more exempt purposes and must not authorise the organisation to engage in any activity that would not accomplish such purposes. Failure to meet these requirements will lead to revocation of tax exempt status with effect from the first taxable year commencing after 31 July 1998 (Regulation File No. 5830).


Framework Legislation


(series of bulletins prepared for the civil association Sinergia in Caracas Venezuela by Miguel Angel Itriago and Antonio Itriago
attorneys at the Venezuelan law firm Dr. Pedro Itriago P.)

Bulletin N°17

The lack of central registry has led to confusion between non-profit entities using the same or similar names. This is an increasing problem with the on-going growth of the sector, especially given the fact that some entities intentionally seek to take advantage of the notoriety of other organizations in using their name or some dissident members try to establish parallel organizations. It is therefore recommended that non-profit organizations:

  • should investigate whether the name is currently in use or not before their establishment,
  • should use a symbol they can register separately or jointly with the name,
  • in case they would discover that their name is being used without justification by another person, they should, with the assistance of attorneys, obtain a written statement acknowledging the fact, require that the entity change the name or symbol used, and have clarifications published in the media.

The full text of this bulletin as well as all bulletins n° 1 to 36 are available in Spanish, a sample of which can be seen below. They can be obtained either from the office Dr. Pedro Itriago alnilak@cantv.net or from ICNL at info@icnl.org.

Messrs. Miguel Angel and Antonio Itriago have just published, with the editorial coordination of the civil association Sinergia, a book on Civil Associations under Venezuelan Law. A sypnosis and review of this book will appear in the third issue of IJNL.


Miguel Angel Itriago M. Antonio I. Itriago M. Abogados

N° 17.-

Como no existe un registro central de instituciones no lucrativas (pues cada asociación civil o fundación se inscribe en la Oficina Subalterna de Registro del lugar donde fue creada) y tampoco existe un procedimiento para impedir o al menos “filtrar” el registro de organizaciones con nombres iguales o parecidos a las ya existentes, algunas instituciones están enfrentando las reclamaciones extrajudiciales o judiciales de otras organizaciones que alegan tener iguales o mejores derechos que ellas para el uso de sus nombres. En ocasiones, el uso de nombres gráfica o fonéticamente parecidos puede conllevar desagradables vinculaciones con personas o entes mal vistos por la opinión pública o por los gobernantes de turno, a causa de sus afiliaciones a determinadas ideologias o de haber incurrido en escándalos o incumplido compromisos y obligaciones.

En el pasado, los casos de similitud de nombres normalmente se producían de manera excepcional y de buena fe (por desconocimiento de los promotores o fundadores), pero en los últimos años, el incremento del número de instituciones no lucrativas ha ocasionado una mayor frecuencia de esa clase de problemas, con el agravante de que, como se evidencia de las “aclaratorias” que se publican por la prensa, existe una peligrosa tendencia, por parte de algunos promotores, de utilizar intencional mente denominaciones, símbolos y lemas de instituciones muy respetables para aprovecharse de su prestigio; y hasta para constituir “organizaciónes paralelas” integradas por directivos y miembros disidentes.

Por ello, recomendamos; a las promotores de organizaciones de la sociedad civil: a) Antes de constituir una asociación civil o fundación, contactar a las organizaciones de segundo y tercer grados de su campo, para averiguar si existe alguna con un nombre parecido (esa vinculación puede, además, ser útil a la futura organización en su período inicial, que es uno de los más difíciles y costosos); b) Una vez constituido el ente, promover, a la par de su denominación o nombre, el uso de un símbolo, logotipo o emblema que contribuya a identificarlo adicionalmente y, por ende, a diferenciarlo de otros entes; c) Registrar en el Registro de la Propiedad Industrial tanto la denominación como el logotipo, separadamente y también como conjunto (existe una previsión en la Ley que rige la materia, que posibilita ese registro aunque las instituciones no sean de carácter lucrativo): d) Tan pronto se tenga noticia del uso indebido del nombre de sus representadas, asesorados por abogados, exigir el reconocimiento expreso y escrito de tal circunstancia; y el cambio de denominación y/o de emblemas a través de sus órganos competentes; y hacer, a todo evento, las aclaratorias a que hubiere lugar por medio de la prensa y demás órganos de información; aclaratorias las cuales en ningún caso deben ser ofensivas (para evitar que sean utilizadas en contra de la institución y/o de las personas que las hacen).

Miguel Angel Itriago Machado Antonio L. ltriago Machado