The charity tax row raises serious questions

The charity tax row is the latest in a string of tax rows that raise serious questions. Credit: PA

Nearly two years into the coalition and the fresh-faced team has developed a dose of political acne.

The spots have popped up in the last month caused by panic buying of petrol (even before there was a strike!) the so-called "granny tax " in the budget, "Pastygate" and even a "Conservatory tax".

But the biggest blemish of all the Government has to deal with at the moment, is the charity tax row which cannot be concealed any longer.

The Treasury still insists that one in 10 people earning more than ten million pounds a year is paying less that the 20 percent basic rate of income tax (though they haven't revealed how many of those are using charitable donations as a "loophole") and insists that, while they will look sympathetically at the plight of charities, the overall policy of ensuring the wealthy cannot dodge tax will remain.

With so much opposition to the cap, including the poll of dozens of Coalition MPs today, the question marks keep coming.

Among them:

  • Why wasn't there a good chat with charities before the policy was announced in the budget when Treasury ministers could have been warned they were about to travel down a road where the political manhole covers had been removed?

  • Who decided £50,000 or a quarter of income before the tax kicks in were the right figures to announce when many donors give so much more?

  • Did no-one think that it was just possible that the policy would tend to brand philanthropists as "tax dodgers"?

  • Is it embarrassing to have your own Mp's say they are "ashamed" and that the Government has "declared war" on the very people it should be helping?

  • Will the prime minister be uttering the words " The Big Society" anytime soon?

I can't answer the first three questions but the answers to the last two are " Yes" and "No" in that order.