Journalists in Romania to get tax exemption

Journalists in Romania, as well as radio and television technicians, might not have to pay personal income tax on their income. The Romanian House of Representatives voted on a bill amending the tax laws, which would exempt the income of journalists and radio and television technicians, including income from intellectual property, from personal income taxes, now only pending the President’s OK. The law was initiated by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) and the People’s Movement Party (PMP).

At the vote on Tuesday, 174 members of the House of Representatives supported the bill, two voted against it, and 91 deputies abstained.

The initiators pointed out that “the press in Romania is in a very difficult economic situation” and, consequently, “the media market is shrinking both in terms of operators and workforce.” For this reason, the initiators consider that it is necessary to promote special fiscal treatment of their income in regards to salaries and intellectual property rights.

According to the bill, journalistic activity is: searching, investigating and interpreting news and public information and presenting them in newspapers, television, radio or any other mass communication channel. It also says that recording and editing visual and audio materials for radio and television programs can be considered a journalistic activity, as well as overseeing the operation of equipment for the transmission of terrestrial, aquatic or aeronautical telecommunication signals. But these last two can only be considered journalistic activities if they are regulated by a labor contract or copyright agreement.

The draft was submitted by social-democratic MP Valeriu Steriu and 27 other lawmakers from the PSD, ALDE and PMP parties.

The draft was earlier reviewed by the various House commissions, and their opinion was negative about the amendments proposed in the bill. However, the bill was then referred back to the Commission of Budget, which discussed it again on December 3, 2019, and suggested its adoption.

The bill will now go to President Iohannis for approval before becoming law.

The project sounds good, but not all journalists in Romania are happy about it. Some think that it could have a negative affect on Romanian journalism and its independence. For example, 13 well-known journalists working at different big media companies asked President Iohannis in an open letter not to announce the tax exemption law.

“We do not have the claim to represent all journalists in Romania. But time is limited, and the lack of a truly representative organization for our guild made us react in this way, a way that does not exclude anyone but represents an imperfect reaction to a real threat. A free and credible press, which confronts the powers of the state and which makes you, elected or chosen leaders, uncomfortable, is essential for a stable democracy,” they wrote.

Title image: 13 well-known journalists asked President Iohannis not to announce the tax exemption law

Author: Orsi Sarány