Before you choose a Danish sperm bank (or an anonymous sperm donor), please try and remember that many donor conceived people want very badly to connect with their half siblings and/or donors.
February 01, 2008
STUDENTS OF AARHUS BREATHE RELIEF
Danish Sperm Bank Deposits to Remain Tax-Free and Anonymous
By Daryl Lindsey
For a while, it seemed the stream of male students visiting the Cryos sperm bank in Aarhus, Denmark might dry up. But a recent decision by the Danish Tax Ministry means that donors can remain anonymous and won’t be forced to report their earnings to the tax man.
For the better part of two decades, young men could step into the offices of Denmark’s largest sperm bank in Aarhus and make a deposit. For their trouble, and depending on the quality and quantity of his semen, the average Lars, Anders or Niels could earn anywhere from 267 to 500 crowns for a few minutes of his trouble. A perfect way for a cash-strapped student to earn book money.It was also, the government thought, a great way for the state to earn a bit of extra money. In 2004, the Danish Tax Ministry began an offensive that threatened to tax sperm donors — thereby eliminating anonymity and endangering the supply of donors coming through the doors. Indeed, it is only now, after long negotiations with the government and a decision by the Tax Ministry to allow donors to remain anonymous that Cryos International, one of the world’s leading sperm banks, can breathe a sigh of relief.
“We started giving out a questionnaire,” Cryos CEO Ole Schou told SPIEGEL ONLINE, “and it turned out that only 7 percent would continue (to donate) if they had to register. People just didn’t want to give up their anonymity. It sent us a strong signal that if the Tax Office succeeded with its policy, we were going to have major problems. We probably would have had to close down in Denmark.”
The problems started when Tax Ministry officials decided that donating sperm should be considered the same as any other taxable labor — no different from pulling a pint or working as a soda jerk. But the reporting requirement would have required donors to register by name. Furthermore, for students, who make up the bulk of sperm donors in Denmark, reporting those earnings might have meant a loss of student loans and other subsidies.
Schou says the intense media coverage of the tax office strife contributed to a significant drop in sperm donors at his Aarhus bank in 2006. When the maelstrom calmed in 2007, though, Danes started lining up again.
And late in December, the media reported this week, the Tax Ministry partially backed down, saying the country’s sperm banks could continue their practice of accepting anonymous donations. Although fees paid by sperm banks in Denmark to donors had always been tax deductible, in 2004 the Tax Office moved to force banks to report the names of donors who had received the payments. The Tax Office has now dropped that requirement. Technically, sperm donors are required to claim such payments on their taxes, but the new system relies on good-faith and has no controls in place to conduct witch hunts of sperm donors who don’t declare their earnings.
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Under new European Union regulations issued in April 2007, member states are required to register sperm donations, but there are no rules regarding anonymity. In Denmark, anonymous donations are permitted under what Schou describes as a “politically responsible” policies that ensure a steady supply of sperm donors and prevent the creation of black markets or the promotion of “fertility tourism” to other countries. Britain two years ago passed a law requiring the disclosure upon request of donors once the children conceived with their sperm came of age. Other European countries have also imposed similar or more limited restrictions on anonymity, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and Austria.
In its 20 years in business, Cryos has become an international force — selling its Danish sperm around the world and helping around 15,000 women to become pregnant, Schou says. The Danish English weekly Copenhagen Post has even described it as “one of the country’s great export success stories of the last decade.” That accomplishment even earned Cryos headlines in the English-language press — most, of course, based on caricatures of Scandinavia: “Vikings’ test tube invasion,” “The Vikings Are Back for Britain’s Women,” or “Tall, Blond and Danish?”
But Schou, who is not a doctor and has a business degree — downplays the blond-hair, blue-eye factor. Indeed, the Cryos homepage shows a quartet of babies representing a handful of ethnicities. “It’s actually a problem for us that we can only supply donors from Denmark who are blond-haired and blue-eyed,” he says, “but we have to take what we get, and about 90 percent of the Danish population is blond. But we also have a few brown-eyed donors.”
Cryos, though, is expanding internationally, and it soon hopes to offer a bank of 1,500 sperm donations a year from offices in different parts of the world, including a new branch in New York. Schou is banking on the fact that Cryos will soon have a bigger gene pool to sell.