Audit office rules impermissible gambling tax funds for LGBT+ groups

National Audit Office logo.
National Audit Office logo. Source: National Audit Office

Funding for LGBT+ groups cannot come from the proceeds of gambling taxation, the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) has ruled.

The audit office says that the provision of funds for gender equality and sexual minority interest groups may not come from tax revenues covered by the Gambling Tax Act, as had previously happened, meaning alternative sources would need to be found.

The Auditor General at the National Audit Office, Ines Metsalu-Nurminen, sent a letter to social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center), outlining grants issued from gambling tax money in 2019 for LGBT+, women's issues, and related projects, and stated that these monies should have come from the Ministry of Social Affairs' own budget instead.

Grant applicants had included Estonia's LGBT+ association and NGO (Eesti LGBT Ühing) the Estonian Human Rights Center (Eesti Inimõiguste Keskus), the NGO "Own Room" (Oma Tuba), the Praxis Center for Policy Studies and the Estonian Women's Studies and Information Center ( Eesti Naisuurimus- ja Teabekeskus).

The audit office said that these projects' content does not fall within the prescribed list of uses under the Gambling Tax Act, and neither the Gambling Tax Council, which issued the funds, nor the social affairs ministry, which requested them, had correctly met the statutory definitions.

Gambling Tax Act does provide for projects for people with disabilities, health promotion issues, children's initiatives, and those for the elderly, among other things, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Projects which come under equality policy are a separate entity under the social affairs ministry's remit and aren't covered by the Gambling Tax, the audit office said, adding that while the ministry is indeed responsible for promoting equal treatment of minorities, and gender equality, supporting the projects listed above did not qualify for gambling tax funds support.

The audit office did, however, say it did not believe that the applicants for the funds had acted in bad faith.

"The National Audit Office is of the opinion that in the cases analyzed, the applicants have behaved correctly and applied for the money in good faith. The groups that received state support for their projects had and continue to have reason to expect that project support they received would be paid out of the [state] budget," Metsalu-Nurminen said.

The office recommends in future the ministry either find funding for such groups from other budget components, or amend the Gambling Tax Act to include those activities on its list of eligible recipients.

The ruling follows a letter of formal notice from family rights group the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition (SAPTK) to the National Audit Office last December, requesting clarification on Gambling Tax Act-funded projects. The notice itself was issued by LEADELL Pilv legal firm, on behalf of SAPTK.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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