Friday 18 May 2012

To the Tower!

I'm sure one of my knightly duties must be to despatch arrant knaves? Obviously I'm opposed to the death penalty but I'd like to send Lord Wallace to the Tower for a penitentiary spell to reflect on his recent foolish remarks.

His crime? He said, à propos supporting the charity tax cap ( 16 May ), “not every single charity is as public-spirited and determined to spend every single penny on public benefit as every other one.”

When the Government first proposed a cap on philanthropic tax reliefs, ministers made similar statements suggesting that dodgy charities were being used as vehicles for tax avoidance. This caused real anger in the charity sector, at the Giving Summit and in private meetings.

David Gauke MP at least apologised for this kind of language and stressed that the Government was not basing policy on the premise that the tax system is being abused by philanthropists and charities working in tandem to defraud the Exchequer. Now I see the idea has returned.

If the Government does believe that there are charities that are not public-spirited, or not spending every penny on public benefit, and whose income it is therefore a good idea to reduce by capping tax reliefs, it needs to tell the public and the Charity Commission which those charities are.

Or perhaps the Government are planning a new policy on gift aid where they only allow relief on charities they approve of? Perhaps they will publish a GAC list; Government Approved Charities? This sort of twaddle from government ministers needs to stop.

Lord Wallace is entitled to give his money where he wishes. I'm entitled to give where I wish to give. And, building on hundreds of years of lawmaking in this area, parliament has set out the criteria charities need to meet if they are to benefit from reliefs such as Gift Aid.

The Government have made a mistake by introducing a cap on philanthropy. They've done quite enough damage as it is. Rather than icing the cake with insults, they should get on and drop the cap.

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