The Ulster Unionist Party has opposed plans by the Westminster Government to limit tax relief on charitable donations. The proposals, as outlined in the recent Budget brought forward by the Chancellor George Osborne, would mean that from 6th April 2013 the maximum donations will be £50,000 per year, or 25% of the donor’s income.
Ulster Unionist Finance Spokesman, North Down MLA Leslie Cree said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party recognises the important work of charities in Northern Ireland and right throughout the United Kingdom.
Educational charities, such as our Universities, are essential in providing the economy with the skills and knowledge to grow the private sector and keep Northern Ireland in its current position as a region renowned for its skills base. Others address the issues associated with learning difficulties and many others deal specifically with the important issues of poverty and social deprivation.
All these types of charities rely heavily on the goodwill of donors to fund some of their activities, however, this may be affected after the proposals outlined by George Osborne to change the amount of tax relief which donors can receive in respect of large donations to charities in his budget last month.
Whilst tax avoidance should not be tolerated and I commend any attempts to ensure that those earning the highest incomes pay their fair share, it seems to me that this particular measure would hinder the very organisations we should be encouraging.
One positive aspect is that the Prime Minister has indicated that he is willing to listen and a full formal consultation will now occur. I certainly hope he will review his plans on charitable taxation given that this proposal is not going to be introduced until next year.”
The Party’s Social Development spokesperson, Michael Copeland, endorsed Mr Cree’s position.
The East Belfast MLA said:
“my party believes that the Coalition Government are absolutely right to seek to cut the colossal sums which some of the richest people in the United Kingdom seek to off-set against tax.
The Coalition have been left with a record deficit inherited from the previous Labour government in 2010. In March the UK government borrowed more than £18bn. That’s more than it takes to run everything in Northern Ireland for a year. The total borrowing for the 2011/12 fiscal-year total came in just below £126 billion and our total debt now stands at £1.0225 trillion.
The fact that Hundreds of millions of pounds of income tax is avoided every year by people using legal loopholes does not help the matter.The Conservative Party’s own Zach Goldsmith perhaps summed up the reaction to the measure perfectly when he said if ministers did not produce a "more intelligent measure which deals with the loopholes", they would be remembered as the government that "destroyed the charities sector".
Last week, after news spread of the death of a young Lady, Claire Squires in the London Marathon, the generosity of the British people shone through. Before the race she had raised £500 but following news of her death, thousands of well-wishers have left donations totaling more than £1 million. That should be something that is applauded and encouraged; well-intended charitable donations should not be infringed upon by rushed and ill-thought-out budget proposals.”