The charity sector must develop "much better arguments" to defend itself against policies aimed at reducing the sector’s tax reliefs, the Charity Finance Group tax conference heard yesterday.
Karl Wilding, head of policy and research at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, told the conference in London that the recent campaign against the proposed cap on tax reliefs for philanthropy had highlighted several weaknesses in the policy stance of charities.
"I don’t believe our evidence at the moment is strong enough," he said. "We’re almost an evidence-free zone in terms of policy. We struggled to come forward with arguments about what difference tax relief makes to donors. We were scrambling around for evidence."
He said that the level of generosity of charitable tax reliefs made it much easier for the sector to lose than to gain.
"We’ve been so successful that I worry that the only way is down," he said. "How do we deal politically with the fact that we’ve had so much success?"
Wilding also revealed that some charities had opposed the Give it Back, George campaign, run by the NCVO and the Charities Aid Foundation to fight the introduction of the proposed cap on tax relief for charitable donations.
"There were an awful lot of charities that thought this was the wrong thing to do," he said. "We got a few letters from members telling us not to go ahead."
He said the campaign highlighted an antipathy towards charities in many corners. "The vehemence with which charities were attacked by some of the commentariat was astounding."
He said that even in left-leaning newspapers the attitudes displayed by writers and in the comments below stories on the internet were not supportive of charities. "It makes me wonder if we’re doing enough to protect the charity brand," Wilding said.