Country reports


Expert author: Marko Lõhmus
Last update: April 16th

On Friday March 13th, the Government of Estonia declared an emergency situation, which includes the following measures: all public gatherings are prohibited; museums and cinemas will be closed to visitors until May 1st; all performances, concerts and conferences are prohibited; and libraries will remain open to a limited extent.

Since March 16th, all schools (primary, basic, secondary, vocational, hobby, higher education) are required to suspend regular classroom studies and switch over to remote working and home studying. All sport competitions are prohibited until May 1st.

The Estonian Government approved a package of measures, which includes some measures that directly influence the cultural sector. The state compensates the direct costs of events (culture and sports) cancelled due to the coronavirus in March-April, up to EUR 3 million.

The Estonian Music Council distributed a questionnaire to concert organisers and musicians/choirs/orchestras/ensembles, to chart lost revenue from concerts, including royalties, and expenses incurred. On Friday March 20th, a special commission started working on different scenarios as a result of this data: 1) for the crisis lasting until May, 2) for the crisis lasting until the end of the Summer and 3) for the longer term.

The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will cover the wage reduction within the labour market under the following conditions: 1) the benefit can be used by a compliant employer to cover the period of two months, from March to May 2020; 2) the benefit of no more than EUR 1000 per month per employee in need of support is paid in gross amount; 3) the benefit is calculated based on the gross wage of the employee in the previous 12 months, plus remuneration for the employee by the employer which should be a minimum of EUR 150 in gross amount. The Unemployment Insurance Fund and the employer will pay all labour taxes on wages and benefits.

For the period March-May, the state will compensate the first three days (that were not already compensated) of sick leave for all incapacity leave applications.

Self-employed persons are subject to an advance social tax support measure: they do not need to pay social tax for the first quarter.

At its meeting on March 31, the Council of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia decided to establish special measures to support the fields of culture and sports.

Special scholarship

In order to maintain the activities of creative persons in difficulties caused by a COVID-19 virus outbreak, the Council of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia established a measure allowing sub-endowments and county expert groups to maintain their activities. The limit of the special scholarship in expert groups is up to EUR 500 and in sub-endowments up to EUR 2000.
All legal and natural persons can submit proposals for the special scholarship to creative persons affected by an emergency situation. The period for applications is from April 6th up to April 30th.
On the basis of the received proposals, the sub-endowments and expert groups make decisions on initiating special scholarships depending on the financial possibilities of the endowment or the county expert group.

Medical subsidy

The Council of the Cultural Endowment established a fund for people who have excelled in the field of culture, for medication assistance. Underlying this idea, is the assumption that in the current crisis (especially) older people with chronic illnesses may need expensive treatment immediately. In these cases, the Cultural Endowment can help pay a part of expenses for necessary medications, which are not covered by state health insurance. Natural persons or legal entities can apply for this fund on behalf of a natural person.

The 2020 State Budget Supplementary Budget Act

On April 15th, the Estonian Parliament passed the 2020 State Budget Supplementary Budget Act, which helps to cover the unforeseen costs of the coronavirus emergency situation, and also to stimulate entrepreneurship and the labor market during the economic and health crisis. Some tax measures were also approved. The size of the crisis package in the field of culture and sport is EUR 25 million.

The subsistence support amount for natural persons in the field of culture and sport is EUR 5,2 million. This will be done by adjusting the terms of application and qualifying criteria of the existing Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act. The support scheme is meant for freelance creative people (EUR 4,2 million) and for choir conductors and mentors of dance groups, who participate in the song and dance celebration process (EUR 600 000).

The 2020 Supplementary Budget Act provides amounts for partial compensation of the costs already incurred due to canceled cultural events or cessation of activities of culture organisations; partial compensation covering unavoidable fixed costs for the organisations that had to close their doors. The total amount of the scheme is EUR 19,8 million. The support will be allocated to museums (EUR 6 million), theaters (EUR 4 million), music field (EUR 4 million), literature and publishing (EUR 500 000) and design (EUR 500 000). Also, festivals, foundations and collectives will be supported with EUR 2,6 million. There will be EUR 600 000 to support visual arts and EUR 600 000 for the audiovisual field to help relaunch film production.

The Ministry of Culture will not request reimbursement of funds already used to carry out activities that have been canceled or changed due to circumstances related to the spread of coronavirus. Every such case will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Tax administration measures include:

– the abolition of the advance payment of social tax for self-employed persons for the second quarter of 2020;

– the calculation of tax interest is suspended by the state for two months (March-April);

– payment of tax arrears is deferred for 18 months (currently up to 6 months) and with a lower interest rate on tax arrears;

– the VAT rate for electronic publications will be reduced to 9%, i.e to the same level as newspaper publications;

– the VAT rate on e-books will be reduced to 9%, i.e. to the same level as printed books.