Comparative Studies in Cooperative Economies – EU and USA

By Rebecca Lurie

María Pilar Alguacil Marí, Professor of Financial and Tax Law at the University of Valencia, recently spent time at the Murphy Institute for Labor and Urban Studies/CUNY, where she has carried out various academic activities and taught two seminars.

The first seminar, “Academic Study of Cooperative Economics,” was held on April 2nd and dealt with the different methodological concepts around social economy and cooperatives, such as the nonprofit, or “third sector” approaches, as well as other emerging concepts: social enterprises, collaborative economy, and more. The relevance that these subjects have in the university studies in Spain and Europe was also explored. The seminar ended with a debate among the attendees, who described the situation around cooperative economic education at CUNY, and expressed the need to increase university training in cooperatives.

The second seminar had the theme “Laws and Taxation that can promote Solidarity Economy.” Here, we analyzed the policies of the European Union in relation to the social economy, social enterprises and cooperatives, in terms of their importance and their needs, among which are: sufficient legal regulation, financial assistance measures, adequate tax treatment, and better regulation to facilitate their access to public procurement. At the European level, issues such as the recognition by the Commission that social services should be classified as services of general economic interest, or that the differences between cooperatives and other companies justify a differentiated tax treatment (Paint Graphos ruling by the European Court of Justice) were discussed.

Lastly, a roughly comparative overview of the tax treatment of cooperatives in most countries of the European Union was carried out.  All of this stood in contrast with the legal framework and tax treatment of coops in the US. The professor had the invaluable help of the work previously done by her colleague from the University of San Sebastian, Sofia Arana Landín, who had made a critical analysis of this situation during her stay at the Murphy Institute for several months in 2017.

During her visit at the Murphy Institute, professor Alguacil also attended the founding meeting of the NYC Community Energy Cooperative, which is bringing cooperative ownership models in the city for shared solar energy production.  We also met with the staff of the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs of to help with exploration in policy and best practices in social economy development.

We were delighted to have Professor Alguacil with us for this visit!