The Tax and Customs Board decided on March 27 to grant Wikimedia Eesti, the not-for-profit organization that runs the Estonian Wikipedia, tax-exempt status, thereby averting a court hearing on the issue that was to take place the same day.
The organization had taken legal action against the government because of changed rules that deny it tax-exempt status as a non-governmental, philanthropic organization.
"For Wikimedia Eesti, this is certainly happy news, but unfortunately it doesn't especially help matters for other NGOs who could have used our court precedent in the future," said Wikimedia board member Raul Veede.
Veede noted that a broader goal of initiating the court case was to draw attention to the Tax Board's narrow interpretation of what comprises a charity organization which, he said, was leaving a number of NGOs and volunteer groups subject to tax, uudised.err.ee reported.
He had earlier explained that, while the text of the law had remained the same, a few years ago the Tax Board changed its interpretation of what counts as a charity eligible for tax-exempt status.
Veede said that the new interpretation now rests on two conditions: first, the charity must distribute material goods; and, second, it must serve people who are disadvantaged as compared to the rest of society. However, the Estonian-language website of Wikipedia, with its mission of content creation and information dissemination, does not meet these criteria.