Belfast Telegraph

Charity boss hits out at ‘crude’ tax relief cap on gifts

By Tom Moseley

One of Northern Ireland’s leading charity bosses has slammed government plans to cut tax relief for donations.

Seamus McAleavey said the province’s key voluntary sector would be hit hard when gifts from wealthy donors fell away because of the changes.

He pointed to large donations made to Northern Ireland’s two largest universities and Belfast’s Lyric Theatre and said many smaller charities could also feel the pinch.

Ministers insist it is “only fair” to limit tax relief for charitable donations to £50,000.

However, Mr McAleavey (right), the chief executive of Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), accused the Government of sabotaging its own flagship Big Society agenda.

He said: “Anything that sends out a negative message to major donors is not a good thing.”

Tory Conor Burns said the Government should do “a very quick review and retreat on this” while ministers said yesterday they were “very sympathetic” to concerns, and promised further discussions before the policy is finalised.

But the Treasury insisted it was “not right” that wealthy individuals could use tax relief to reduce their tax bills almost to zero year after year.

Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, told the Belfast Telegraph: “We have capped benefits, so it is only fair to cap income tax relief for society’s very wealthy.”

He said a vast majority of donations would be uncapped as they would be below the threshold.

David Cameron has also suggested that ‘bogus’ charities have been used in some cases, which receive huge donations but carry out little work for good causes.

Mr McAleavey said: “It seems a very blunt and crude instrument, just to deal with a small number of people who are abusing the tax system.”

He added: “If there are people doing underhand things, they should be dealt with rather than messing things up for all the other charities.”

Northern Ireland had created a Charities Commission to tackle so-called bogus charities, he said.

”The Government can do one of two things – help or hinder charities. This is firmly in the hindering capacity,” added Mr McAleavey.

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