Thomas Hughes-Hallett, chair of the Philanthropy Review, has told MPs at a Public Administration Select Committee meeting on increasing giving this week that the UK needs to mimic the USA in being more proud and vocal about charitable giving.
Hughes-Hallett, who is chief executive at Marie Curie Cancer Care, related a story where friends called him a ‘show-off’ in jest, for donating £100,000 to a charity, saying that in the USA it was absolutely ‘standard’ to be proud of charitable giving:
“I want to see a culture where charitable giving is talked about around the water cooler,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, Hughes-Hallett also said that national recognition of charitable giving was not sufficient, complaining, to the astonishment of MPs, that the honours system had no specific category for philanthropy.
During the meeting Hughes-Hallett also convinced MPs to consider including the Treasury in talks on incentivising and encouraging philanthropy and individual giving.
He said it was notable that the government’s recent Giving Green Paper contained no mention of a commitment from the Treasury on giving, saying tax reform was essential to incentivise giving:
“If an individual wants to donate a painting they must pay capital gains tax, although the painting is just sitting there not earning money, therefore most will choose not to donate. Fiscal reform is necessary.”
Hughes-Hallett urged the committee to also press the Treasury on the issue of lifetime legacies.
PASC chair Bernard Jenkins and a number of MPs at the meeting said the committee would strongly consider inviting the Treasury minister, as well as the minister for the Cabinet Office, to further discussions on charitable giving.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, who also gave evidence at the meeting, added that slow progress on gift aid reforms was hindering giving:
“The gift aid system is still cumbersome and paper-based. We’ve asked HMRC if it can be done electronically but it says it can’t afford to do it.”
PASC chair Bernard Jenkins suggested asking all credit card companies to store individuals' National Insurance numbers with their card details and extract it for gift aid when a donation is made.
The group also debated whether assumptions about what the state provided affected giving. Etherington said that it could be true that the expectation that one already paid for services through tax could discourage some charitable giving.