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Laïla Rochat

Antoine Amiguet

Fondations d'utilité publique et finance durable.

Workshop on the occasion of the ISIS seminar of 20 November 2019 entitled "La fiscalité de la philanthropie".

11/2019
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Cas pratique n° 1

La Fondation Z. est une fondation de droit suisse, constituée le 15 juin 2015, dont le siège est situé dans le canton de Genève. Its purpose is set out in the articles of association as follows5: "La Fondation Z. has as its objective the protection of nature in order to preserve and promote the diversity of species of fauna and flora, as well as the protection of the environment in order to preserve the natural basis of the harmful effects of human activities.

La Fondation Z. est par ailleurs une entité d'utilité publique au bénéfice de l'exonération des impôts directs (à savoir, l'impôt fédéral direct - IFD et l'impôt direct cantonal et communal - ICC) depuis sa fondation en 2015.

En outre, les ressources principales de la Fondation Z. sont constituées de la cotisation de ses membres, des revenus de la fortune de la Fondation Z., de subsides officiels, de dons et legs.

Enfin, la Fondation Z. concrétise son action notamment par l'entretien de réserves naturlles par des bénévoles, l'établissement de rapports ensuite échangés avec les organisations ayant un similaire ainsi que par la dispense de manifestations de formation, séminaires et lectures à titre gratuit en particulier auprès des jeunes aan de sensitiser aux questions de protection de l'environnement.

En 2019, les pluss donateurs de la Fondation Z. l'ont interpellée afin que cette dernière investisse sa fortune d'une manière cohérente avec sa mission d'utilité publique. Ainsi, en 2019 la Fondation Z. a décidé d'investir 50% de sa fortune de manière durable par le biais d'Investissements d'Impact de Référence (Impact Investing). More concretely, these impact investments are made through placement funds whose purpose is to invest in ESG impact, with a particular focus on the environmental dimension. La Fondation ne détient pas de parts de fonds supérieurs à 0.5% (pas d'influence).

D'un point de vue réglementaire, cette fondation peut-elle effectuer des investissements d'impact ? From a fiscal point of view, do the new investment principles adopted by the Z. Foundation call into question its status as an entity with a public utility purpose that is fiscally exempt?

Cas pratique n° 2

La Fondation GreenWay est une fondation de droit suisse, constituée le 20 septembre 2019, dont le siège est situé dans le canton de Genève, haut lieu de la finance durable en Suisse. Monsieur Y., résident suisse à Genève, riche héritier d'un industriel indien, est le fondateur de la Fondation Z. à laquelle il apporte à la constitution CHF 10'000'000.- (capital de dotation). Mr. Y. is well acquainted with the world of entrepreneurship and finance and is particularly sensitive to sustainable investment.

The statutes of the GreenWay Foundation "favour the respect of the principles of sustainable development for companies in Switzerland. A cet effet, la Fondation octroie des prêts à des conditions favorables et déterminées au cas". The statutes of the Fondation Greenway are a good example of how the Fondation Greenway invests in a part of the fortune de manière traditionnelle.

La Fondation GreenWay a édicté une Charte contenant les "Principes de Développement Durable". The principles of sustainability envisaged are, in particular, the preservation of the ecosystem, means of combating climate change, the reduction of environmental degradation and deforestation, the improvement of practice at the level of agriculture, the reduction of potable water and the maintenance of biodiversity.

En outre, la Fondation a fixé dans un document intitulé "Principes d'investissements" les conditions d'octroi des prêts (ci-après les "Prêts"). The document indicates that a Prêt will be granted at a rate corresponding to 20% of the rate envisaged for an "Investissement d'Impact de Référence" in the form of a Prêt granted to a company with a similar commercial activity. In sus, l'Investissement d'Impact de Référence devra prévoir un taux inférieur à celui du "Marché de Référence". Furthermore, the document indicates that each grant will only be awarded if the beneficiary company undertakes to achieve the environmental protection objectives set out in the Charter and defined on a case-by-case basis by the Foundation in the contract concluded with the beneficiary company.

The Foundation also stipulates in its Articles of Association that in the event of dissolution or liquidation, the surplus of assets shall be distributed to a public utility entity exempt from taxes whose purpose is the protection of the environment or a similar purpose. The statutes also stipulate that the assets of the Foundation are to be irretrievably allocated to the realisation of its purpose and that no return to the founder or other contributors is possible.

The Board of Trustees is made up of professionals in the field of sustainable finance and scientists recognised for their work in favour of the environment. The members of the Board of Trustees are not remunerated, subject to the reimbursement of expenses, the principle being, however, that of volunteerism.

In the first few months since its constitution, the GreenWay Foundation has granted grants to a number of Swiss fishing companies with the aim of supporting and encouraging responsible and sustainable fishing. In particular, the GreenWay Foundation aims to ensure that fisheries meet the following environmental criteria:

  • Assurer of the purity of the population of poissons: respect for the seasonality of the product, with respect for the natural cycle; interdiction of the survey
  • Protection du milieu lacustre: Préservation des habitats lactustre et maintien de la diversité de l'écosystème
  • Road traffic and pollution: promoting environmentally friendly management and logistics (reduction of intermediaires, profitable transport during deliveries/distributions, etc.).

The returns generated by the GreenWay Foundation (including the returns related to the prizes) are regularly reinvested in the same way (new prizes granted) with the aim of supporting enterprises in accordance with their purpose. Finally, the purpose is that 70% of the assets of the GreenWay Foundation are subject to grants. The remainder of the assets, i.e. 30%, is invested in the traditional manner (management of nostro assets), which includes impact investments.

From a regulatory point of view, can the GreenWay Foundation make investments in this way? La Fondation GreenWay envisage d'approcher les autorités fiscales afin d'obtenir l'exonération fiscale pour entité à purpose d'utilité publique. Quid ?

Cas pratique n° 2 - variant 1

The GreenWay Foundation now stipulates in its statutes that the purpose of the GreenWay Foundation is to "promote respect for the principles of sustainable development by companies located in Switzerland. To this end, the Foundation makes grants under favourable and defined conditions on a case-by-case basis or acquires holdings in companies that are committed to applying these principles". The Articles of Association also provide that the Greenway Foundation may invest part of its assets in the traditional manner.

La prise de participations pose-t-elle un problème au view de l'exonération fiscale pour purpose d'utilité publique ?

Cas pratique n° 2 - variant 2

In this variant, the statutes of the GeenWay Foundation stipulate that it may also support foreign companies.

Elle envisage un investissement sous forme de Prêt respectant les conditions favorables déterminées dans les Principes d'investissement de la Fondation GreenWay à une entreprise minière au Pérou.

S'agissant de l'entreprise minière, les objectifs ESG sont les suivants:

  1. Accès à la terre et à l'eau: conservation, recyclage et contrôle de la qualité de l'eau; gestion responsable de l'eau.
  2. Respect for biodiversity and ecosystems.
  3. Energy consumption and emissions: improving energy efficiency and integrating renewable energies; reducing emissions; taking account of climate change in planning and investment decisions.

La Fondation GreenWay peut-elle bénéficier de l'exonération pour purpose d'utilité publique à raison de cette activité "étrangère" ?

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