Letter: Charity and tax

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You suggest that the Government should decide for us which organisations are sufficiently "good" to be allowed to benefit from tax-breaks on donations by individuals(leading article, 19 March).

However, tax relief on charitable donations is given to individuals (who are thereby enabled to contribute more than they might otherwise have chosen to do). The underlying principle is that the donor agrees to forgo some of their gross income for the benefit of others, and thus pays tax only on what remains. An appropriate test of eligibility for such tax relief is therefore whether the donor obtains any resulting personal benefit which they would not otherwise have received.

On this basis genuine donations to, for example, developing-world charities, churches and even political parties should qualify for tax relief. Membership subscriptions of all kinds, and payments such as school fees, should not.

STAN ZACHARY

Edinburgh

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