Comment – Give charities a helping hand.

If you thought that your work on the tax review was over and all you had to do was wait for 21 March and listen to the chancellor declare a bucket full of incentives for giving, you had better think again. The Inland Revenue draft regulations for the 2000 Finance Bill have been published and present one or two unexpected stings in the tail. These are not because the chancellor has suddenly lost his philanthropic nerve, but simply because some Treasury ministers may not be quite as up to speed on how the public gives as you believe. Government officials have made it plain that they will listen to concerns about operation of the new reliefs, and charities had better make sure they are heard before it is too late. First there is gift aid. Of course, removal of the £250 gift aid limit is great news, as is the fact that all income and capital gains tax, paid by donors, may be relieved. So why is it necessary to place a ‘you must have paid sufficient tax’ warning notice on donation forms or have charity fundraisers recite something similar over the telephone? How does this complement the warm feeling we want to give donors when they give money? Having their eyes drawn to the small print as if it was a loan application: how many members of the giving generation will that turn off? And, what is it all for? I don’t know many people who give to charity that aren’t in the tax bracket. In fact, I don’t know of any. Surely, the vast majority of people who can afford to give to charity earn enough to pay tax. So, is making charities go through all the fuss of verifying the fact worthwhile? From April, the extra tax reclaim is worth another 28% to charities. Knock off 10% for those who don’t like signing forms, and 5% to cover the extra cost of administration, and half the benefit has gone. And, there’s another thing. Why is it that if you give via the Internet you don’t have to sign a form, and if you make a donation over the phone you don’t have to sign a form but, if you give in person or by mail, a signature is required? The official answer is that the Internet and telephones don’t use paper and, if there is a piece of paper available, it should be signed. Pardon? The government has declared itself ready to listen. Let’s make sure that enough charities shout loud enough for them to hear. Forget the ‘must pay tax’ health warning on gift aid. Forget the need for a signature on forms. We need more sensible benefit rules and we need them to extended to payroll giving too. ?:

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