That is the conclusion of Holiday Heroes’ manager Rositsa Tomova. „For two years we have been trying to organize a debate on the issue, with the participation of representatives of the main stakeholders—the Ministries of Finance, Labor and Social Policy, Food and Agriculture, the business and other non-profit organizations like ours. Unfortunately, the government agencies have failed to respond to our invitations so far,“ she said.
The sad truth that Bulgaria throws away approximately 670, 000 tons of edible food per year looks especially bad against the shocking statistics of 1.5 million starving Bulgarians.
Why the extravagance?
According to Tsanka Milanova – Executive director of the Bulgarian Food Bank, the main problem is the Bulgarian legislation currently in force, which is a hindrance to food donations by food producers, processors and vendors. Right now, for them it is more cost effective to discard and dispose of food near its ‘best before’ date or food which is not readily marketable due to appearance, rather than donate it.
Taxation and food donation—the EU experience
The United Kingdom
VAT on food in the UK is generally 0%, which is also valid for food donations. The zero tax rate came as a result of the negotiation process prior to the country’s accession to the EU.
There is no VAT when food is donated to organizations registered with the Belgian Food Bank Federation.
Donors are not obliged to pay VAT on donated food and can avail of a tax credit of up to 60% от стойността на дарението.
Food donors in Poland are not charged VAT on their donations since 2013. If specific legal requirements are met, food donations could be treated as tax-deductible costs or could be deducted from the tax basis (up to 10% of taxable income).
VAT is not charged on food donations to specific entities (e. g. the Sate and non-profit organizations) when they are to be delivered to the needy. In addition, there is an enhanced tax deduction in place, meaning donors can deduct as much as 140% of the value of the food at the time of donation, provided such deduction is limited to 8/1000 of the donor’s turnover.
These data come from a study commissioned by the European Economic and Social Committee in response to its own-initiative Opinion on Civil society’s contribution to a strategy for prevention and reduction of food losses and food waste.
The Way Forward
There is a compelling need for amendments to the Bulgarian VAT Act and Corporate Income Tax Act to align these with best EU practices and ensure tax relief for food donors. One option is to set a value of foodstuffs that are close to their ‘best before’ date, or which cannot be sold due to their external appearance, fairly low or close to zero, as recommended by the European Commission. Another possible direction is the creation of other fiscal incentives, e.g. tax credits and tax deductions to encourage food donations.
Another powerful tool to encourage food donation is related to its environmental aspect which complements the social one. More specifically, it has to do with waste reduction through what is known as the ‘waste hierarchy’, regulated in Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive which Bulgaria, as an EU member state, is required to transpose and implement. In the said hierarchy, waste prevention comes first in the waste-management priority order. On the other hand, donations of foodstuffs that are close to their ‘best before’ date, or which cannot be sold due to their external appearance, is exactly such a preventive measure against food waste generation. The commitment of the EU, and Bulgaria, to reduce food waste is even more pressing in the context of the target adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals to be reached until that year.
The last say on all aspects and measures in relation to food donation will, of course, be the experts’. That is why Holiday Heroes and other non-profit organizations have repeatedly tried to initiate expert debate on adequate legislative amendments. One thing is certain—in one of the poorest EU countries (according to data from Eurostat), we should never turn our backs on a chance to reduce food poverty.
More on this topic in part 2 to this article “A look across the ocean—the U.S.A”