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Tuesday 17 April 2012
Letters: Tax relief
By clumsily introducing a £50,000 ceiling for tax relief on giving, George Osborne has done us all a favour by shining a spotlight on yet another way that wealthy and influential people can exploit their money and position.
The abuse of the parliamentary expenses system two years ago was small beer. Next we learned about the bonuses earned by many bankers and corporate chiefs; more recently we have found out more about how individuals and companies wield financial power to influence government policy by lobbying. Now the scandal over charitable donations demonstrates that there really is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us.
I am content that the tax I pay is used to support services that have been agreed by a process that has the mandate of a general election. I may not agree with everything that is decided, but it is a system to which all taxpayers are bound according to a common set of rules. I regard my payment of income tax as a fundamental responsibility of all citizens; therefore feel highly aggrieved that the wealthy can escape this requirement by donating to whatever charitable cause they choose.
That many of these causes are worthy is not the point. If, as a wealthy person, I choose to donate large sums of money to, let's say, a rabbit sanctuary or a housing scheme for retired clergy, I am unilaterally deciding how what I might otherwise have paid in tax will be spent.
Worse, by choosing not to pay taxes that maintain schools, hospitals and so on, I am obliging other taxpayers to contribute more. This is a subsidy for the wealthy.
Chapel Lawn, Shropshire
Mary Dejevsky (Opinion, 13 April) makes a good case for reducing the tax benefits for donors to charities. Even when the cause appears good, the donor's motives are often not entirely altruistic.
While some donors give with a requirement of anonymity, others do so with the expectation of some form of acknowledgement, and they may gain many benefits. For example, UK universities have bestowed honours and position on many major donors, and included the donor's name in the titles of academic departments, or the names of colleges . Thus the taxpayer is often subsidising the purchase of prestige and influence.
I had some sympathy for the charitable sector when the Budget proposals were first examined. But the philanthropic donations under threat appear to benefit institutions not on my list of charities.
Not for them VSO, Oxfam or Barnardo's. Instead of paying income tax and making a contribution to the social services, health and education costs of this country, these donors find it more satisfying to help the old school, the old college and that splendid little theatre in town.
Anyone should be allowed to donate as much as they choose to the charity of their choice. However, they should not be allowed to donate our money to that same charity. It is for taxpayers through the democratic system to decide where our national income, a large part of which comes from income tax, should be spent.
George Osborne is right on this one – but he should also be tackling the real tax-dodging that is widespread.
Rather than impose a "philanthropy tax", couldn't the Government insist that hot pasties be served at all those charity fundraising dinners?
Just what objection do philanthropists have to contributing to good causes such as schools, hospitals, roads and our protection?
Bradford on Avon
High-bred horses relish the thrill of the race
There is a Chinese saying about a good horse: "He is of one mind with man and achieves great merit". Horses and humans share this ancient symbiotic relationship because they are both adrenalin addicts; certain humans and horses have a huge desire to be first in a charge, to dominate a herd, the winner takes all and sometimes the devil or death will take the hindmost.
Two horses died in Saturday's Grand National. We all, mortal creatures, die at some time. Animals have the advantage of not knowing when that might be.
Our duty is to make sure that while they are alive they have the best quality of life possible and when they have to go, it is quick. If you could ask a thoroughbred racehorse, such as those that took part in Saturday's race, whether he would prefer to moulder in a paddock without risk or glory or run his heart out on a racecourse, I am sure I know which he would choose.
High-bred horses become a liability to themselves and to people when short of purpose.
We humans, when young and male especially, are the same, and that's why this partnership has been going on for thousands of years, in war and in peace.
P A Reid
Saturday's Grand National showcased the best and the worst of jump racing, but the notion that 600kg of racehorse will jump if it doesn't want too is pretty laughable, witness Vic Venturi's refusal. Every person getting on a horse knows that they risk injury, let alone those who take on numerous fences at high speed; a jockey's death is just as possible as a horse's.
If a horse can be saved every effort will be made to do so. If, on the other hand, the attempt (not with guaranteed success) is going to cause the horse months in a sling, being sedated, powerful muscle wastage and possibly pneumonia, then the immediate attention of the vet and mercy given before pain is even felt are preferable.
Perhaps a better campaign would be to educate drivers on passing horses slowly and carefully in vehicles, considering the number of road deaths of horses in a year – that would save far more horses suffering.
So the Grand National is much safer this year, is it? My idea of a safer Grand National is all the horses finishing alive, not dying in such distress on the course.
These beautiful, sensitive animals deserve much better than this. Anyone who genuinely cares about horses can surely not condone this race; it is pure mob entertainment.
James Lawton's comparison between steeplechasing and boxing is ridiculous (16 April). A horse does not have the same capacity to agree and willingly participate that a human being does.
To suggest that Synchronised "died doing something of his own volition" is risible. The horse is a herd animal, where the weak and injured get attacked by predators, so when Synchronised fell and lost his rider, he felt at risk, so tried to run away. He was not continuing to race because he was happy and enjoying himself, as Mr Lawton seems to be suggesting.
The horses were racing because they were being hit with whips and kicked with spurs. I'm sure Mr Lawton would try to throw himself over Bechers Brook in the same circumstances
And, an aside to Chris MacGrath, it wasn't a "great, great race" – it was a race in which two horses died for the entertainment and enrichment of humans, and that puts the Grand National on a par with dog fighting, badger baiting, fox hunting and cock fighting, and these are banned because they are cruel.
Israeli sports clubs' ancient roots
The recent anti-Arab riot opposite the football stadium in Jerusalem is to be condemned, and if the perpetrators are identified, they should be given short shrift. Several years in jail should suffice. Those responsible are definitely racists; racism, unfortunately, is prevalent in all societies.
The article by Catrina Stewart (24 March) includes the following: "The attacks are the culmination of a long record of violent and anti-Arab behaviour by ultranationalist fans at Beitar, a club identified with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party".
This is a distortion of the truth. All sports clubs in Israel have a root in political parties, but from an era before the establishment of the state. The Maccabi teams are in honour of the Maccabeans who fought against the Greek-Syrians of old. The Hapoel teams who are the "socialist" parties sport teams.
The Beitar sports teams are indeed from the right-wing Revisionist Zionists. This has nothing to do with modern Israeli politics. In fact, many right-wing Israelis regard Netanyahu as a traitor for even agreeing to talk to the Palestinians.
Maale Adumim Israel
Postal-vote fraud is exaggerated
In her article about postal voting (16 April), Mary Ann Sieghart makes wild charges about abuse of the electoral system. If she has such information she should report it to the police. If not she should read the recent report of the Electoral Commission which shows how few cases of fraud are reported each year and how few stand up to scrutiny. This showed only 16 cases of alleged voting malpractice last year (down from 38 in 2010 and 40 in 2009). Almost none of these proceeded to court. And that was in an election with 19.5m votes, 5m of which were postal votes.
John F Spellar MP
House of Commons
In the article about "supermovies" (14 April) Tom Shone is quoted as saying "John Carter is based on comics that hardly anyone has read". In fact Carter was originally the hero of a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan. A Princess of Mars, the first in the series, is published in the UK by Penguin Classics.
Lord Carey, in his submission to the European Court of Human Rights, claims that Christians in Britain are being "vilified" and "persecuted". Twenty years ago, when he was Archbishop of Canterbury, he accused those who couldn't support women's ordination to the priesthood of "grave heresy". No doubt the European judges will make allowance for his colourful use of language.
Chichester, West Sussex
How to fix NHS
Christina Patterson's 10-point manifesto for change in NHS hospital care is excellent (14 April), but I would add an 11th point – require all MPs to depend exclusively on the NHS for their own and their families' health care. That would really focus the minds of those who determine the structure of the service and hold the purse-strings.
Frankly, I'm all Titanicked out. I've counted 147 Titanic programmes on TV during the past week alone. You almost start to wish the boat had never sunk in the first place ...
Richmond upon Thames, Surrey
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