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We give to help, not for our financial gain
THE death of Claire Squires near the finishing line of the London Marathon is a stark reminder of how strenuous the race is.
We are so used to seeing tens of thousands of fund-raisers completing the 26-mile course, many of them with self-imposed handicaps of fancy dress, that it is easy to forget how incredible their achievement is.
Nor do we see the hundreds of hours’ preparation each runner puts in as they pound the streets or work-out in gyms.
Their only reward is the applause from the crowds and the knowledge that they have raised £100, or £10,000 or whatever for charity.
An indication of the value that everyone else gives to their self-sacrifice is the £700,000, and counting, that has been given to Claire’s chosen charity, The Samaritans, since her death.
I would be surprised if any of the 60,000-plus who have contributed to her justgiving page will set their donation off against income tax. The average donation is slightly over £10, many of them with Gift Aid.
These donors are probably like me, and the vast majority of people, who give from their income after tax by putting coins in collection boxes or sponsoring others. Yes, I also give through Gift Aid, but I have to pay the tax before the charity can reclaim it from the Government.
Either way, the act of giving doesn’t benefit us materially. It is pure philanthropy, the type that leaves you out of pocket.
So I have little sympathy for the rich who are complaining they won’t be able to set all their giving off against tax in future.
Let’s get one thing straight. There is absolutely nothing stopping them from giving as much as they have in the past, or indeed increasing it, except themselves.
The charities will be delighted to receive the same size donation, the Treasury will not lift a finger to stop them. All the Treasury is doing is making sure the rich donor, like the rest of us, pays his or her tax.
But the charities are right to be worried that donations will drop. People who have a lot of money tend to be those who are very good at keeping money.
Forget about their cries that this is a matter of philanthropy. It is about the rich donor wanting to have his cake and eat it – gaining in unpaid tax what he gives to charity.
What makes them different from the rest of us on PAYE, who don’t have the option of giving to charity while keeping the same amount of money in our purse? Why should the public purse that funds the public services be smaller so they can feel good about giving to charity?
We need to remind them that charity giving is not an accountancy procedure but a way of helping others.
Perhaps we should encourage them to go down the Renaissance route. That fantastic flowering of the arts and learning was mainly funded by rich princes and merchants wanting to promote themselves and their cities, especially the members of the Medici banking family.
They may have had big egos, but would we have had Michelangelo or Leonardo di Vinci without their open-handed attitude to culture?
Let us loudly applaud those who give £1 million to the National Gallery, to the British Health Foundation, to The Samaritans. Let them speak out about what they have given. Let them bask in the glory of their philanthropy.
Of if they feel too shy, how about a Gift Aid scheme for the very rich, at the top tax rate, so the charities get even more.
But that means the donors have to pay tax first. Poor them.