Charitable giving – £210 million of tax relief for the best off in society?

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As Simon Sweetman notes at AccountingWEB, the Revenue have published a report on charitable giving. As he concludes:

it seems that tax reliefs make little difference, with most givers professing not to understand them.

I read the report a week or so ago and came to the same conclusion, although my over-riding impression was that the analysis was weak.

But what no one seems to have asked (until now) is what is the intellectual, moral, or financial justification for giving higher rate tax relief on these donations? This tax relief costs £210 million a year. Why is it that if a wealthy person gives to charity their doing so should be rewarded in this way but if a basic rate tax payer does so they see no personal benefit? I see no logic in this at all.

I suggest that if Gordon Brown wants to boost the development budget he scrap this higher rate relief and put the money paid into the development pot instead. It will only be a gesture, but it would be an important one. It would show that wealth was being reallocated from the richest to the poorest. And isn't that the direction of travel we'd expect?