Open Access

Swedish Societal Transformation and the Question of Tax Incentives for Charitable Contributions to Civil Society1


The issue of how the Swedish welfare system should be organized in an increasingly market-driven economy has become an urgent one. The public sector’s retreat from its previous commitments through deregulation and new public management reforms, as well as the state’s ambition of highlighting non-profit actors as potential providers of welfare, can be understood as an illustration of two ongoing processes of transformation in Swedish society. The aim of this article is to place a legal doctrinal research methodology of the Swedish Income Tax Act´s incentive scheme for corporate and private donations to civil society at the intersection of these transformations (welfare and civil society). At the same time, it is in the understanding of the tax legislation and the advantages it can offer individuals, nonprofits or commercial actors, that changes can be brought about in both the patterns and our understanding of charity and giving. A question that arises in this context is whether it is meaningful to speak of a shift in the state’s control of the financing of civil society. The term nonprofit tax shift is introduced in the study to discuss this issue. The article also addresses how ideas, stances and policy initiatives are shaped and articulated in Swedish contemporary politics, including tax policy. The paper argues for the existence of a ressentiment driven discursive frontline, running parallel to the public dialogue on welfareand the role of nonprofits. Additionally, it examines whether these developments in tax policy have affected the notions of justice that were previously a significant consideration in designing the income tax system in Sweden.