Save the Arts: Minister backs campaign for tax relief

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The Independent Online
The Independent and Independent on Sunday campaign to stop the crisis in the arts by giving tax relief to people donating money to theatres, galleries, museums and orchestras, has won the significant backing of Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Mr Smith is said by department sources to be fully supportive of the campaign, and is talking to the Chancellor Gordon Brown about changing the tax regulations which deter individuals from giving money to their favourite arts organisations.

Like all Cabinet ministers, Mr Smith is forbidden to make any public statements in the period leading up to the Budget on 17 March. Yesterday he would only say: "Any decisions on changes for tax are obviously a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer."

But behind the bland statement, action is taking place to try to convince the Chancellor to make the simple tax changes urged by our campaign, which would transform the prospects for the country's beleaguered arts companies.

A senior source at the Department of Culture said that Mr Smith was seized by the idea of increasing arts funding through an US-style system of tax breaks for donors. And he was having talks with the Chancellor to try to convince the Treasury to reform the convoluted and contradictory system that prevails in Britain.

Mr Smith seems to be of the same view. He has told colleagues he agrees that existing arrangements provide little incentive for donors, who should, as we have argued, be able to offset donations against their own tax bills, as in the US.

Major figures in cultural life including the director Sir Peter Hall, the playwright Alan Ayckbourn and the actresses Fiona Shaw and Harriet Walter, have already expressed support for our campaign.

We are urging Mr Brown to introduce a change in taxation law to enable people to make tax-free donations to arts companies and venues.