Ballard urges tax break for time

The Government should promote corporate involvement in the voluntary sector by introducing a tax credit that galvanises businesses to give their employees time off to volunteer, according to RSPCA director-general Jackie Ballard.

Chancellor Gordon Brown used his address at the NCVO annual conference last week to announce plans for a national campaign to promote corporate involvement in volunteering and mentoring schemes, but he did not specify details of what exactly this would comprise.

Ballard believes that the Chancellor should investigate a "give time as you earn" system where, for every hour of their own time that an employee gives to a registered charity, the Government enables them to give another hour of their working time by providing a tax credit to their employer.

"The Government has done much to encourage people to give money to charitable causes, but in my view they need to do more to encourage us to give our time," said Ballard. "Very many employers do not give time off to employees to pursue voluntary activity - but they could if encouraged with tax relief.

"I don't know what the cost implications of such a system would be, but I do think that the Chancellor should look into it and if he thinks that it is not a feasible plan, he should come out and explain why.

"As a representative of a large employer, I believe that we should be doing more to encourage our staff to get involved in volunteering. In fact, it is something that I am looking into at the moment."

However, Ballard also stressed that charities must do more to attract supporters and make volunteering more attractive.

"Voluntary organisations are increasingly competing with each other and with myriad other leisure activities on offer to anyone with a bit of spare time or cash," she said in her address at the Kingston Smith Charity Lecture at the Chase conference last week.

"We have to make ourselves a more attractive proposition - and I believe we can start by working together more and cutting across our traditional boundaries and rivalries.

"We need to change the image of volunteering and to convince people that the elusive happiness they pursue can be found, not through dumbed-down I'm a Celebrity-type TV programmes or weekend drinking binges, but by helping others to realise their positive potential and by contributing to society in an active way."

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