Hungarian prosecutors charge 11 Church of Scientology members with tax evasion

The church’s financial managers have been accused of evading part of its VAT liability

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Magyar Hírlap
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Eleven people in the Church of Scientology have been indicted in a tax fraud case in Hungary.

On Monday, the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office announced only that members of “a religious association with an international background” had been charged with 600 million forints (€1.56 million) in tax fraud without naming the actual association involved, however, news portal 24.hu reports named the Church of Scientology as prosecutors’ target.

According to a statement by the prosecutor’s office, the financial managers of some of the church’s organizational units illegally avoided part of the VAT liability incurred in the business-economic activities of the units between 2012 and 2017.

Headquarters of the Church of Scientology in Hungary. (scientology.org)

The prosecutor’s office said that the income of the church’s organizational units was untruthfully classified as a fully or partially tax-exempt donation and recorded as such in their accounts, thus concealing their taxable income from the competent tax authority and failing to meet their VAT obligations.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the primary objective of some of the defendants was to generate as much revenue as possible for the department. They deliberately acquiesced in the filing of false tax returns and tax evasion.

They added that the managers, in accordance with their internal policy, sought to obtain the maximum possible revenue for the department and therefore the proceeds from the sale of the courses and related books and media on detoxification, self-analysis, and learning support were treated as donations in order to avoid paying tax.

In the case, the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office charged a total of 11 people — six women and five men — with the crime of “budget fraud causing particularly great financial loss” and other offenses. The prosecutors proposed that they be sentenced to imprisonment and fines and that one of them be banned from working as an accountant. Prosecutors also proposed the confiscation of the church’s assets.

The Church of Scientology is not officially classified as a church in Hungary, and has been on the list of organizations posing a risk to national security for years.

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