(Oct. 10, 2008) Taiwan's Political Fundraising Law of March 18, 2004, was extensively amended and expanded on August 13, 2008. Some highlights of the changes are as follows.
The Control Yuan, the state's highest-level watchdog organization and the central government body entrusted with accepting political fundraising disclosure statements, may now entrust the election commissions of directly administered municipalities or of counties (cities) to handle fundraising disclosure and matters involving the approval, alteration, and revocation of special bank accounts. The Control Yuan is to pay the expenses for these entrusted duties (art. 4).
The revised Law limits donors of political funds to those individuals, political parties, civic groups, and profit-making enterprises that are not included among 11 listed categories (e.g., religious groups; people, legal persons, groups, or other organizations from abroad, from Mainland China, or from Hong Kong or Macao; and persons who do not yet have voting rights) (art. 7, para. 1). The former version of the Law had essentially the same list, but with the additional category of financial group legal persons. The new Law, unlike the former one, does not include a definition of “religious groups.” It does have an added definition of “cumulative loss” with regard to profit-making enterprises and of “primary members” in connection with foreign, China mainland, or Hong Kong and Macao legal persons, groups, or other institutions (art. 7, paras. 2 & 3, respectively). In addition, in a new paragraph, the amended Law provides that, to assist political parties, political groups, and potential candidates in checking whether the funds they have received come from permissible sources, stipulated government agencies are to post the relevant data on their websites to facilitate inquiries. If the data is not posted, the parties, groups, or potential candidates can request an inquiry in writing, and the receiving agency cannot reject it. The government bodies involved include the Ministry of Economic Affairs and agencies in charge of related official functions, the Public Construction Commission of the Executive Yuan (Cabinet), the Ministry of the Interior, and the Control Yuan (art. 7, para. 4).
A newly added article prescribes that upon receiving a political donation, political parties, political organizations, and future candidates should issue a receipt (art. 11). When donations are received that under the Law must be returned, the Law now specifies the means for that return (art. 15, new para. 2). For example, collected monetary political donations that have already been deposited in a special account should be returned by means of a check from the special account, issued by the financial institution where the account was opened.
The revised Law stipulates the circumstances in which which tax deductions for political donations will not be allowed to donors (art. 19), expanding the circumstances from two to five and elaborating on the two that had been in place. The latter situations of non-granting of income tax deductions include: 1) when the donation is made to persons not yet registered as candidates according to law or to those whose candidate qualifications have been canceled after registration and 2) political party donations when the average proportion of votes obtained by the party's recommended candidate does not reach 2% in an annual legislative election (if a non-election year, the proportion of votes obtained in the previous election; for newly established political parties, the proportion of votes obtained in the next election year). Among the newly listed types of situations under which tax deductions are not permitted are where receipts for received donations have not been obtained in accordance with the new article 11; where donations have been returned or handed over to a government body [i.e., in general, the Control Yuan] in accordance with the Law (see below) for transmittal to the treasury; or where donations have been received in violation of other articles of the revised Law.
Under article 23 of the revised Law, candidates are to return any remaining undisbursed political donations to the relevant authority within four years from the day of making their fundraising disclosure as stipulated under article 21. The Law had previously stipulated a two-year period for the return of the funds (under former arts. 21 and 19). Among other changes, article 23 now stipulates in a new provision that future candidates' surplus collected donations that are used to contribute to a political group or political party or to an educational, cultural, public welfare, or charitable institution or group cannot exceed NT2 million (about US$62,210) annually to any one group or institution and that if the contribution is more than NT100,000 (about US$3,110), it should be remitted from the candidate's original special account for political donations.
A new article 24 stipulates that the donated money deposited in a special bank account by political parties, political organizations, or future candidates will not be subject to compulsory execution. However, this does not apply to debts incurred from engaging in campaign activities or other politically related activities.
Finally, the penal provisions of the Law (arts. 25-33) have also been revised. For example, both the former version of the Law and the revised Law prohibit taking advantage of the powers of office, an employment relationship, or other form of livelihood interest to interfere with or harm the donation of political funds and make such acts punishable with a fine of from NT200,000 (about US$6,220) to NT1 million (about US$31,105) (art. 28, para. 1, and art. 25, respectively). However, a new provision in the revised Law stipulates that public officials who carry out these acts will face a punishment of up to one year of fixed-term imprisonment upon conviction (art. 28, para. 2). (Amendment to the Political Fundraising Law, 6817 THE GAZETTE OF THE OFFICE OFTHE PRESIDENT 24-39 (Aug. 13, 2008), available at http://content.glin.gov/summary/208314 (with English summary of contents and full Chinese text of the revised Law); Cheng-chih hsien-chin fa [Law on Political Fundraising] (as amended on Mar. 31, 2004), Historical Laws and Regulations, NATION-WIDE LAWS AND REGULATIONS DATABASE [in Chinese], http://law.moj.gov.tw/Scripts/FLAWDAT0801.asp?lsid=FL029130&ldate=20040331 (last visited Oct 6, 2008).)