The National Tax and Customs Authority (NAV) conducted a raid on Pastor Gábor Iványi’s Oltalom Charity Association on Monday because it claimed that for several years the organization had deducted employee contributions from workers’ pay but did not pay its tax obligations, the agency told MTI. But Iványi (pictured) claims that the state owes his association many times more than that, and that the raid was a political message timed for the upcoming election.
Following the Monday morning raid by armed agents, political opposition leaders, including Mayor Gergely Karácsony, arranged an evening sympathy rally in front of its Dankó Street headquarters in Józsefváros that was attended by a few hundred people.
NAV claimed that according to the current data in its investigation, the association withheld personal income tax, pension contributions, and health insurance and workforce contributions from its employees’ gross wages, but did not comply with its obligation to file and pay taxes from 2015-2019. This not only caused harm to the state budget, but also possibly to its own staff, said the tax authority.
Oltalom itself had said on social media that NAV was demanding 246 million Ft. (US $773,000) from them, mostly for employee contributions.
The tax office also determined that fourteen other institutions run by Iványi’s Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood (MET) likewise had not paid any contributions or even filed tax returns for their employees. NAV estimates that a total of 3 billion Ft. ($9.42 million) for nearly 1,300 employees has not been paid.
MET responded to these charges by noting that although NAV claims it owes 3 billion Ft. in unpaid taxes, the Hungarian state owes them four times this amount in unpaid subsidies. The religious organization says that it will settle its debts after it receives the amount it is due from the government.
MET said that all of its employees were registered. In addition, the Strasbourg Court had ruled in its favor with regard to state funding, but it is still trying to enforce the state to pay up. The religious group claims that the current situation would not be happening if the Hungarian state had not started to oppress MET for political reasons.
MET’s representatives are willing to cooperate with tax authorities as law-abiding citizens, but they are convinced that the current crackdown is a political message and intimidation tactic by the government timed for the 2022 election campaign.
At the same time, they say, many are outraged over what has happened to a significant share of EU aid and the Hungarian budget, and how political friends and family members of the Prime Minister could have become so rich.
The religious organization also sees what happened as an attack on their church. They believe that, after their group was founded 40 years ago as a persecuted religious group under the previous regime, the Hungarian government created a convoluted law on churches permitting the Constitutional Court to unconstitutionally withdraw its status as a legally-recognized and accepted church.
Despite a decade of protesting, the churched was forced to become an “association,” and has still not been able to get its former status back.
And yet, during this time MET’s kitchen has kept up its work without interruption, cooking large amounts of food for homeless and for schools.
They have also continued to fulfill their mission of proclaiming God’s Word through word and deed: feeding and clothing the poor, representing their interests, openly supporting and assisting refugees and prisoners, proclaiming freedom, and strengthening faith, hope, and love.
Freeszfe Association members were also present at the Iványi rally
Representatives of the Freeszfe Association, which grew out of professors and students from the University of Theater and Film Arts protesting government-mandated changes to the school, also took part in the sympathy rally on Dankó Street on Monday evening, writes HVG.
Freeszfe had already pledged its support to Iványi earlier in the day. The group was returning the favor to the Methodist pastor, as two years ago Gábor Iványi was one of the first notable persons to visit the university’s location on Vas Street and offer support to those protesting the changes to the University of Theater and Film.