[hackerspaces] legal entity

Lars Weiler pylon at koeln.ccc.de
Sat Sep 5 02:08:36 CEST 2009

Hi Koen,

Am 05.09.2009 um 00:44 schrieb Koen Martens:
> I'm curious how, for example, German hackerspaces have done this.  
> What choices did
> they make, and how did that work out? Experiences either good or  
> bad? Perhaps other
> countries have a similar distinction? Any input would be much  
> appreciated!

In Germany most hackerspaces are organized in  
'Vereine' ('verenigingen' or 'clubs') which are allowed by our  
'Grundgesetz' (let's say, it's our constitution) and more detailed  
described in the 'Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch' (should be similar to the  
Netherlands' 'Burgerlijk Wetboek').  Most of those Vereine are also  
registered in the 'Vereinsregister', so they become official (a legal  
person) and can act like a company. You can find out if this 'Verein'  
is registered by it's addendum 'e.V.' ('eingetragener Verein').   
Furthermore a 'Verein' can ask for the 'Gemeinnützigkeit' when their  
actions are in common public interest.  This has to be accepted by the  
'Finanzamt' (I think, it's the 'Internal Revenue Service' in the US or  
the 'belastingdienst' in the Netherlands) and gives you a benefit on  
your taxes or a donator can save taxes as well.  On the downside you  
are not allowed to keep your money or use it for the members only --  
it has to be for the public (although infrastructure is needed for the  
operation of the 'gemeinnütziger Verein').  As far as I know a similar  
organizational structure in the USA are the 501(c)(3) non-profit  

For your concerns I suggest to concentrate on founding a  
'vereniging'.  So you can affiliate members, collect membership fees  
and pay the rent or other things like an insurance.  But keep it as  
simple as possible!  Just do the work you have to do.  Have a short  
statute, elect a small board, have your (bi-)annual official meeting  
and do your tax declaration.  Be very strict with these few tasks.   
Every other task or decision can be achieved in a form of your own  
will (consensus, democracy, shouting, dictatorship, …).

I hope that I could answer your questions and I'm looking forward to a  
hackerspace-tour to our western neighbors :-)

Best regards from Cologne,

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