Letter: Tax-free arts donations mean money for the top

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TAX-FREE donations are an indirect subsidy to the arts, since the Exchequer forgoes revenue it would otherwise collect ("Government plans tax deal to boost arts funding", 18 October). The preferences of donors rather than that of policy-makers determine where this subsidy is spent. Donors who pay higher rates of taxation are the ones most likely to contribute to the arts. Should they choose to make all their donations to the Royal Opera House, no one could say nay. This makes a mockery of a policy on the arts that emphasises greater access.

It could be argued that funding for the arts has been "democratised" via the National Lottery, which is a "voluntary tax" that gives in part to the arts. But lottery players are not able to choose which organisations receive their "subsidy", as are donors. There is no obvious political accountability. Any measure that breaks the routine cycle of subsidy to the arts being spent year-in year-out on large, elite, London-based organisations is to be welcomed. At least in principle, who gets what from direct subsidy can be controlled. Not so with indirect subsidy.


School of Business and Economics, Exeter University