The Times today reveal a tax scam by a charity many of us had never heard of “The Cup Trust". It is reprehensible for rich people to use gift aid to avoid tax. When this is exposed it must be stamped out. The behaviour The Times reports does not represent charities in this country - what they describe are morally bankrupt people driven by greed, who have hijacked a scheme that benefits vulnerable people to enrich themselves. Such behaviour should be punished to the full extent of the law. But do not tarnish people who give to charities or those who receive money by association with these people.
For me the astonishing fact is the failure of the Charity Commission. It would be one thing if they had not known about this, but as The Times points out it was glaringly obvious. According to the report, The Cup Trust accounts disclosed that it was controlled by an off shore company set up by well known tax avoidance advisors and spent an amazing £97m buying government bonds that it transferred back to investees at minimal cost. This apparently generated a cool £46m in tax reliefs for them.
But the CC did know about them. They had a 2 year investigation and then, rather than stamping this abuse out by closing the charity they “offered advice and guidance".
Let's be clear. Our regulator has failed in its key role. We now need to know why and I expect that that at the very least the new Chair, Mr Shawcross orders an immediate enquiry and tell the sector why they failed.
I was also surprised in the light of this evidence from The Times the Commission had no comment. They have been free with their views on many issues not necessarily the role of the regulator; the welfare state, chuggers as a blight - but now silence on this? No doubt they are now looking at this but clearly the Commission has to account for its actions. They need to tell us what action they will now take.
We also need to know what the HMRC were up to. When we had the big row on tax reliefs and Ministers said there was abuse I demanded publicly to know who these charities were and what action was being taken to clamp down. No answer did I get. Well we know now about one. This abuse must be stamped out.
Our sector cannot afford to suffer any loss of trust. The commission must now act to stop this.