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Charity tax relief scheme is subsidy for the wealthy

By clumsily introducing a £50,000 ceiling for tax relief on giving, George Osborne has done us a favour by shining a spotlight on yet another way that wealthy and influential people can exploit their money and position.

The abuse of the Parliamentary expenses system was small beer. Next we learned about the huge bonuses earned by bankers and corporate chiefs.

More recently, we have found out more about how individuals and companies wield financial power to influence Government policy by lobbying.

Now the scandal over charitable donations demonstrates that there really is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us.

I am content that my taxes are used to fund services that are agreed by a process that has the mandate of a general election. I may not agree with everything that is decided, but it is a system to which all taxpayers are bound.

Paying income tax is a fundamental responsibility of all citizens, therefore we feel highly aggrieved that the wealthy can escape this requirement by donating to whatever charitable cause they choose.

That many of these causes are worthy is not the point. If, as a wealthy person, I choose to donate large sums of money to, let's say, a rabbit sanctuary or a housing scheme for retired clergy, I am unilaterally deciding how what I might otherwise have paid in tax will be spent.

Worse, by choosing not to pay taxes to maintain schools, hospitals and so on, I am obliging other taxpayers to contribute more. This is a subsidy for the wealthy.

PATRICK COSGROVE

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