Charities should be grateful to Gordon Brown[QQ] I am sad that Stephen Burgess, charities director of Saffery Champness, does not know any non-taxpayers who give to charity (‘Give charities a helping hand’, 24 February). I know many pensioners and students who give some of their tiny income to help others in places such as Mozambique. Mr Burgess thinks that having to state that one is a taxpayer is likely to put off many givers. He forgets that a charity can always decide not to ask the question about whether the donor is a taxpayer, and the charity will receive the gift, but not get the 28% tax reclaim. Both charity and taxpayer are thus free to decide whether replying to a simple question is worth the extra 28% – I know which option I would choose. Is it not time for the charity sector to show a modicum of thankfulness to Mr Brown for making it so much easier for them to reclaim tax on their income, without having to go through the rigmarole of four-year covenants or a minimum £250 donation? This is a windfall change which will result in charities being millions of pounds better off. If any organisations should express their gratefulness, it is charities. This continual whingeing demand for more concessions ill becomes a sector which depends on goodwill. Andrew Maclay, Amersham Poor are more generous In the congregations of many churches are elderly and unwaged people whose income is below their personal allowances but who feel that they must return to God a portion of their income. The same people also often respond generously to national disaster appeals and support third world development charities. Jeff Christopher, Pontypridd Obviously Stephen Burgess has never heard of the widow’s mite, where Jesus commended the widow putting two copper coins in the Temple Treasury in contrast to the flourish with which rich Pharisees displayed their wealth. It is a fact of life that people with little (and therefore likely not to pay tax) are proportionately more generous than their tax-paying counterparts. One survey in 1998 showed that out of 7,500 families in planned giving schemes, 38% were from those unable to reclaim tax under a covenant. Mike Tyrrel, Leamington Spa Shortcomings of the NAO When will someone tell the truth about the National Audit Office? Ten years ago one of its directors told me it was not able to audit what it called accruals accounts. It could only understand cash accounts. Since then it has tried to improve. It has, but it will always be disadvantaged by the fact that given the choice between joining the NAO, where the best you can reasonably hope for is to one day become an audit manager on £50k a year, or joining one of the big five firms and eventually becoming an FD in a top 100 company, the best students choose the big five. Also, the NAO suffers because it is not exposed to competition. I have sat on appointment committees for perhaps 50 firms of auditors and I have also seen the NAO at work on many occasions. I have never met anyone from the NAO that I would have appointed. Yet we now have the comptroller and auditor general claiming that somehow only he and the NAO have the skills necessary to audit public bodies, or that unless they do the work there is no ‘accountability’. What nonsense. The NAO is good at value-for-money studies but it should leave audit to commercial firms. J Wager, Bucks All letters should be sent to: The Editor, Accountancy Age, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG Tel: 020 7316 9236 Fax: 020 7316 9250 Or e-mail us on: Accountancy Age reserves the right to edit letters for space or clarity. Please include your title, company name and a daytime telephone number.

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