Finance News: Give Back The Vat - Coalition plans to launch attack on EU's 'hostile' taxation regime

Europe's charity taxation system and legislation will be the target of an international campaigning coalition that voluntary sector groups expect to establish at a conference starting today, 14 September, in Brussels.

The coalition is likely to be a key outcome of the two-day conference, entitled International Philanthropy: Creating the Right Climate. It will discuss barriers to cross-border donations and what organisers call "the illogicality of allowing tax relief on giving, only to tax the expenditure of charities" through VAT.

Drawing together voluntary sector groups in many parts of Europe, the coalition will aim to establish pro-charity VAT rules across the EU's 25 nations, and to encourage states to begin creating a single market for charities by allowing tax-efficient donations between any two countries.

The conference has been organised by the European Association of Planned Giving and the European Charities Committee on VAT (ECCVAT), with support from the Charities Aid Foundation, legal experts Farrer & Co and the King Baudouin Foundation. Speakers include European tax commissioner Laszlo Kovacs.

Cross-border giving is a growing global issue. Earlier this year, the King Baudouin Foundation launched the website givingineurope.org to document the complex rules that permit or prevent cross-border donations, and both the Asian tsunami and the New Orleans flood disasters have prompted significant worldwide giving.

Ahead of the conference, Helen Donoghue, director of the Charities Tax Reform Group and organiser of ECCVAT's London secretariat, said: "We are hoping for a positive response to the call for this new coalition.

"ECCVAT will still have plenty to do within what should be a far larger informal network, which will be able to share experiences, review best practice and take good ideas forward. With EU expansion, it's particularly important we reach out to charities in the new member states."

With opportunities for charities to influence a review of the VAT regime due by 2006, Donoghue added: "We hope the coalition will force the European Commission to take notice of these vital issues."

The next steps in the UK VAT campaign will include a major meeting of voluntary sector bodies and the Parliamentary All-Party Charities Group at the House of Commons on 13 October.

KEY POINTS

- International Philanthropy: Creating the Right Climate starts today, 14 September

- A coalition hopes to address Europe's charity taxation regime by establishing pro-charity VAT rules across the EU's 25 nations

- The conference has been organised by the European Association of Planned Giving and the European Charities Committee on VAT

- Speakers at the conference include European tax commissioner Laszlo Kovacs

- Voluntary sector bodies and the Parliamentary All-Party Charities Group meet on 13 October.

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