Charity abuse – the sickness of tax avoiders

December 16th, 2009

Another aggressive scheme sparks charity tax crackdown – Accountancy Age.

Accountancy Age reports:

HMRC has foiled another charity tax avoidance scheme, leading to a governmental overhaul of the rules governing relief for charitable donations.

The scheme is the latest arrangement the taxman has nipped in the bud after the well-documented case against Vantis, which has seen two of its directors hauled to the High Court.

As the Age notes though:

The scheme exploits the relief available for donations of listed shares and other types of qualifying investments such as land to charities and HMRC has issued draft legislation to counter it.

As part of the changes which are effective immediately, anyone gifting shares to charities will only be able to claim relief on the lower of the acquisition value of the shares, or the current market price.

It is particularly offensive that individuals seeking to avoid tax do so in a way that exploits charity tax reliefs

The government respone is appropriate:

Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury branded the arrangement an “artificial, aggressive and offensive tax avoidance scheme that seeks to abuse those tax reliefs available for donations to charity.”

This Government will not tolerate tax avoidance or tax evasion, and will act promptly to tackle both of these, so I am today announcing changes to be made to legislation, with immediate effect, to counter these schemes.”

I added the emphasis.

It’s appropriate.

This scheme was morally offensive and abusive. Those who argue what is legal is acceptable should be ashamed of themselves.

It is time the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and other institutes made it clear tax avoidance is beyond the pale. Until they do accountants stand alongside bankers in the scale of social acceptability, which, unlike bankers, we have room to correct.

And the government too should take action: there is need for radical reform for charitable tax relief. I‘ve outlined how here.

Written by Richard Murphy

Follow @FinTrCo