Belfast Telegraph

Nothing charitable about big tax breaks for the rich

Every day, I'm asked to support a charitable cause - to do a funny drawing, send a signed book, go on a group walk, donate a pair of specs, or a frock.

Sadly, it rarely involves just sticking my hand in my pocket, handing over cash or writing a cheque. It's as if charities think they need to sugar the pill of donation by coating it with a 'fun' activity - so donors get something in return for their generosity: an object bought at auction, the completion of a physical feat, like a marathon.

Once people ran long distances, walked across countries and climbed mountains for the pure challenge and the sense of accomplishment; now 99% of the time, these activities have to be carried out for a good cause.

What a shame the simple act of giving has been turned into a sport, an entertainment, a telly programme. These days, charity has to give us something back in return for our bucks. Successive governments went along with this notion, giving tax-relief on charitable donations.

And as many of us ran out of cash, they increasingly relied on funding a huge part of our education and cultural offerings by making charity hot and sexy.

I disagree. Why should the mega-rich get handed a load of tax-relief simply because they've handed over some of their excess wealth to the less fortunate?

As far as I'm aware, Jesus didn't specify that, by helping others you got a bit closer to heaven with a generous tax-break thrown in, as well as your name immortalised on a plaque.

Even worse, these days wealthy donors get another accolade which really gets my goat: they are routinely awarded gongs - for their 'charitable works'. In any religion, doing good for others is a moral imperative, not a foot on the ladder to a knighthood.

The super-rich not only legally minimise their tax, they launder their image by using charitable donations to promote their businesses and get to mingle with the people who run our country.

As for Chancellor George Osborne's new proposal to cap the amount that the wealthy can give to charity and set against tax at £50,000, or 25% of the donor's income, what's the problem?

Our whole relationship with charity is already too skewed in favour of the rich. I'd impose a blanket charity tax of 10% on anyone earning more than £150,000.

We are told that the building of hospitals, universities and museum extensions will suddenly stop if Osborne has his way. I hope he calls their bluff - rich people always whinge (it's their default reaction, usually issued by their expensive PR agencies) whenever anyone implies that perhaps they could pay a tiny bit more towards the running of Britain.

Lower down the income scale, middle-class families have seen a far greater fall in their disposable income.

Food prices have risen, the number of women and young people out of work is at an all-time high and we're asked to feel sorry for millionaires?

Such tosh is written about our 'culture of giving'. The truth is: those who can afford the least already give the most.


From Belfast Telegraph