Friday, 13 April 2012
Every time the government comment on the charity tax proposal it seems to get worse.
We now have HMT talking about dodgy european charities, seemingly unaware it is the HMRC who police the scheme for tax relief for foreign donations. There are strict regulations. They are administered by HMRC. So if HMT are saying there is dodgy behaviour why haven't they sorted it out ? Instead of making wild accusations perhaps they might like to look in their own backyard and sort it. If there are officials not doing their job- as seems to be implied by Ministers, then surely they should be removing them?
Instead these unsubstantiated claims are made which do further damage to our sector's standing and reputation.
It is simply unacceptable to attack charities in this way. It must stop before more general damage is done.
I have had a reply from the Charity commission CEO but who, in respect of the claims being made by HMT state,
"We have been in touch with HMRC this week and there are no relevant cases that have brought to our attention in recent weeks”
So, either HMT and HMRC are sitting on cases of fraud which they are not investigating or there are none and this is a desperate attempt to shore up an increasingly untenable position.
And then I'm back home after a round of the studios on this very issue and I hear Danny Alexander MP making the absurd claim that he has been talking to small charities and they are not concerned! So Danny, every thing is alright even though you are being told by Cancer Research, by Unicef, by Wateraid, by Macmillan; that they will be hurt, is it? But at least his colleague Vince Cable has seen sense and is calling for change. Indeed we know a range of Cabinet ministers are privately urging change, as are many MPs. Let's hope they are successful.
The test of leadership is shown when if presented with evidence that what you are doing is damaging you rethink. Instead we get behaviour that is causing more fury and anger amongst charities and philanthropists.
Time for a rethink before it gets worse.
And it was sods law that today when I decided that as I only had internal meetings I wouldn't wear a suit. Or shave. And then I get requests to do a round of media interviews down at Milbank. Not good but I guess it just added to my general grumpy demeanour. But if it all helps make the case for change that's good- there were also stirling performances from my colleague and former Chair John Low, who with patient logic demolished the case for a cap on charitable giving. David Bull of Unicef was impressive in an impassioned plea for change- he pointed out lives are at risk if their fundraising is hurt ( did you hear that in HMT ? ). And Dame Shirley for the philanthropists was scathing in her attacks. Her performance on Newsnight against the Treasury minister from whom she demanded an apology was magnificent. You ought not to get on the wrong side of this lot frankly!
I was impressed with the Times editorial this morning. As they say pointedly,
"Regardless of immediate political cost the PM must give an unequivocal indication that philanthropy is both valued and essential to Britain's future. Then he must safeguard loudly the structures that enable it. Its the Big Society, stupid ".
Instead of digging holes how about a phone call? Time to talk about a way forward I say to Government.