A victory that needs to be front page news

Last week’s front page of The Times made many people’s hearts sink – including mine.

The Times had exposed a scam that takes advantage of charity tax relief to enable unscrupulous individuals to claim millions of pounds without actually making any meaningful contribution to charitable activity.

Unsurprisingly, some made the link between this revelation and last year’s Budget which attempted to cap charity tax reliefs. Along with many others, I had argued at the time that it was mathematically impossible to enrich oneself by donating, despite widespread public suspicions that tax avoidance was a major motive behind philanthropy.

So thank god for the news, reported in Third Sector, that the attempt to defraud the tax system and damage the image of philanthropy has failed.

But it is still an awful shame that this story was not nipped in the bud the moment it surfaced. The Charity Commission’s statement that it was “not comfortable” with the set up is hardly the kind of firm regulation we need to ensure public confidence in giving and philanthropy.

I hope the Times gives equal, front-page coverage to the news that this scam has failed – otherwise our chances of growing a stronger culture of philanthropy in the UK will become that bit more remote.

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