Charities worried over tax-cap plan

  • 12 April 2012
  • From the section UK

Government plans to limit tax relief have been criticised by some charities, which fear a cap will result in a drop in donations from wealthy benefactors.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in last month's Budget there would be a £50,000 cap on tax relief - or 25% of income if that was higher.

BBC News has spoken to a number of philanthropists and charitable organisations for their reaction.

The donor: Matthew Bowcock

As a higher-rate taxpayer, any donation that philanthropist Matthew Bowcock makes from 2013 onwards will be subject to the tax-relief cap.

Image caption Philanthropist Matthew Bowcock fears the charity that he chairs will suffer

He estimates that the Community Foundation Network (CFN), which he chairs, could face a 20% drop in donations if the legislation is introduced.

The CFN helps provide funding to community projects by bringing donors, businesses and voluntary community groups together.

"What the Treasury don't seem to realise is that tax allowances for charitable giving are quite different to other allowances, because they don't benefit the taxpayer.

"No-one ever got richer by giving away their money and, to claim tax relief, a donor has to give away more than twice what they would pay in tax.

"All bona fide donors and charities would support tighter proportionate regulation, because fraudulent schemes damage the reputation of the whole sector, but please don't treat philanthropists who give large sums of money to causes they care about as suspect.

"Britain needs these people to share their wealth more so than ever and the contrast between the "culture of responsibility" that the Government has been promoting and this measure is stark".

National Council for Voluntary Organisations

The umbrella organisation, which represents the voluntary and community sector in England, estimates that nearly half the money donated to charities by individuals comes from just 7% of all donors.

Most of these are higher-rate taxpayers likely to be affected by the forthcoming cap, NCVO said.

Chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington said: '"These findings really hit home the scale of concern about the proposed cap and the dire consequences that it could have for charities, arts organisations, faith groups, educational institutions and their beneficiaries.

"There have been disgraceful government attacks on charities and the motivations of people who give to them in recent days. The generous should be supported, not pilloried."

Cardiac Risk in the Young

Founded in 1995, Cardiac Risk in the Young (Cry) campaigns to raise awareness of sudden cardiac deaths and for improved heart screening.

The charity has seen a surge in public awareness following footballer Fabrice Muamba's recovery after his heart stopped while playing for Bolton Wanderers in March.

Chief executive Alison Cox MBE said smaller charities like Cry would not be so hard-hit because they did not rely on big donations from the wealthy. "We welcome them and want more, but Cry's funding and what we're able to achieve is because of the efforts of bereaved families.

"This is not something that will have an impact on us at this stage. It's just the massive charities that are affected, but they will always be massive".

Maralyn and Kenny Bowen have raised £450,000 for Cry since the death in 1996 of their 19-year-old son, Ian, who suffered from Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, an undetected heart condition.

Mrs Bowen said: "Cry depends on bereaved families like ours who have lost a child to keep it going. We raise money with everything from marathons to raffles, pie and peas suppers and quiz nights."


The world-leading aid and development charity described the chancellor's proposal as potentially very bad news for the voluntary sector.

Finance director Bob Humphreys said: "We know from speaking to our high-level supporters that the tax relief cut will certainly influence their thinking and potentially affect their donations.

"It is also important to remember that initial significant donations are often the start of a longer-term relationship with Oxfam, with particular programmes and communities depending heavily on their continuing support over several years. So the potential risks of these changes to tax relief for some groups of vulnerable beneficiaries are far-reaching".

Oxfam has joined other charities in calling for the chancellor to reverse his decision and exempt charitable donations from plans to cap tax relief.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Almost all the £150m spent by the RNLI in 2011, came from donations and gifts in wills.

James Vaughan, its fund-raising and communications director, said: "Relying on public donations... including large donations from generous benefactors, this proposed legislation is of serious concern.

"In fact, like all charities, anything that might discourage donors is concerning, especially in the current challenging economic climate when fund-raising is increasingly difficult.

"We would be disappointed if any proposed legislation detracted from our donors' generosity or discouraged them from contributing to the RNLI, especially at a time when the government is trying to encourage charities to play a greater role in society."

Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan is the largest cancer-care and support charity in the UK. It is calling on the chancellor to meet charities and review his plans.

Fund-raising director Lynda Thomas said: "We recently helped open a new cancer unit - the University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre (in London) - worth £100m, which will deliver high-quality services to thousands of cancer patients. This is precisely the type of project that needs commitment and sizeable donations.

"Macmillan wants to continue to provide these types of services as the number of people with cancer in the UK is set to double to four million by 2030.

"It is important the government meets with charities like Macmillan to discuss the proposed tax-relief cap. If they are serious about supporting major charitable donations and philanthropy, they must review their proposal."

Help the Hospices

The charity raises funds for hospices and campaigns for improved end-of-life care.

The chancellor's plans risk "jeopardising" the charitable sector, Help the Hospices' director of fund-raising warned.

Maxine Trotter said donations from wealthy individuals could fill the gap left by the squeeze on other income sources. As on average only 30% of hospices' funding comes from the government, they are reliant on donors who would feel "undervalued" if tax relief was capped, she said.

"There are other ways to tackle tax abuse rather than jeopardising the charitable sector as a whole."

Save the Children

Save the Children helped three million children in 2010, according to its website. A spokesman for the charity said: "We are very concerned that the plans to limit tax relief on charitable donations will deter philanthropists from supporting our vital job saving and caring for the world's most vulnerable children.

"It could have a huge impact on many charities as well as our own, and the move appears to be completely at odds with the government's plans for a Big Society.

"We strongly urge Mr Osborne to rethink this plan and do the right thing."

Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the association, which represents 2,000 heads of charities, called on the government to drop the plans.

He said: "I think we need to see some real leadership from the government now. There is strong evidence that this cap will hurt charities, will damage giving and it's a sign of leadership to say that, 'in the face of that evidence, we'll drop this proposed cap'.

"They're mixing up tax avoidance with giving to charity. We all want more charitable giving - the government does - and charities need that giving in the light of the problems that we face, so let's just change the policy. Let's be sensible about it."

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