The Treasury must set clear proposals and a straightforward timetable for Gift Aid reform if a forthcoming forum with third sector organisations is to be a "productive process", chief executives body Acevo and the Institute of Fundraising have warned.
After publishing the results of research into the issue (Third Sector Online, 16 December), the Treasury has told third sector representatives it will hold a series of meetings on reform of Gift Aid for higher-rate taxpayers.
But in a joint letter to Ian Pearson, economic secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, and Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the institute, insisted that any timetable for reforming Gift Aid on donations from higher-rate taxpayers must produce results before the next Budget.
The two organisations called on the Treasury to limit the number of options for reform to the three discussed in the research rather than adopting an "open-to-all-options policy".
The research results examined the options of transferring tax relief from high-earning donors to charities or introducing a composite rate of Gift Aid at either 30 or 37 per cent to cover donations from all UK taxpayers.
"Without a clear steer from you on the two above points, we fear it would be difficult for us to work together with you in the productive process of engagement that we would hope for," says the letter, seen by Third Sector.
Ralph Michell, head of policy at Acevo, said his organisation and other third sector bodies had been speaking to the Treasury about Gift Aid for two years and were frustrated with the lack of progress.
"We want constructive dialogue with the Treasury," he said. "But if we don't have the things we've asked for, discussions would be a waste of their time and ours. We aren't asking for the moon. They've published research; they've said they want reform. We think this is sensible, not demanding."
Louise Richards, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, said the research backed charities' arguments for reform.
Cathy Pharoah, co-director of the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at Cass Business School, said the Treasury's research had not proved that any of the three proposed reforms would help charities.
In particular, Pharoah said, it did not contain enough information about the potential reaction of donors who were higher-rate taxpayers and gave substantial amounts to charities.