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Monday, April 9, 2012

George Osborne's charity tax

George Osborne, the man that believes that
philanthropy should be tax
That the Tories at the heart of the UK coalition government are dishonest is undeniable. Everyone should remember David Cameron's pre-election claim that there would be no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS, swiftly followed by the launch of the biggest top-down reorganisation in NHS history. A reorganisation opposed by a huge majority of health care professionals and the public alike.

That they are corrupt is also hard to deny, given that their co-treasurer Peter Cruddas was forced to resign after attempting to sell political access in return for massive cash donations and that the majority of Tory donations come from the financial sector that they have steadfastly refused to reform, despite the huge economic crisis precipitated by reckless financial sector gambling.

That they are a divisive influence is also well evidenced from their incompetent handling of the tanker driver dispute. Instead of acting as a neutral mediating force in a safety dispute between tanker drivers and their employers, the Tories decided to wade in on the side of the employers, engage in a bit of trade union bashing and provoke a nationwide fuel buying panic in the process.

The latest of a long line of Tory scandals to break is yet another cack handed piece of legislation from the office of George Osborne. Under the guise of a "tycoon tax" Osborne has decided to launch an attack on philanthropy by imposing taxation on large charitable donations. Under Osborne's so called tycoon tax, exemption will be removed from charitable donations over the value of £50,000 or over 25% of the donors income. What this means is that rich philanthropists who decide to donate large amounts to charitable causes will be stung with enormous tax bills. The move has been widely condemned by an alliance of aid groups, charities and arts organisations, who have pointed out that taxing charitable donations runs entirely counter to the culture of giving at the heart of David Cameron's so called "big society" idea.

Nick Clegg, assuming his normal role as a Tory shit deflector.
Osborne's "charity tax" has also been condemned from across the political spectrum, including several prominent Liberal Democrats, such as Lord Oakshott who said that "It's insulting nonsense to pretend people give generously to charity to dodge tax."

There are even calls for an u-turn from the barkingly right-wing Conservative Home website, on which Jill Kirby makes the unfounded accusation that "the decision to include charitable donations in the tax relief crackdown is said to have been urged by Nick Clegg". As much as I find Clegg and the Lib-Dem liars distasteful, the fact that many prominent Lib-Dems have openly criticised Osborne's charity tax suggests that the Tories are once again simply using Nick Clegg as a convenient shit deflector.

If this "charity tax" is not rescinded, it would serve as absolute proof that Cameron's "big society" idea was just another piece of PR guff aimed at conning the public into believing that the Tory party are "compassionate conservatives" but if it is withdrawn it would show that Osborne is a blundering idiot that is completely out of his depth.

The fact that Osborne can't back down without looking like the fool that he is, makes it almost certain that he is not going to budge. A Tory spokesman said that the Chancellor will "proactively explore with philanthropists ways to ensure the new limit will not significantly impact upon charities that depend on large donations". The salient point is, that if Osborne had actually thought through the consequences of this legislation before announcing it he wouldn't have to proactively seek reactive solutions to his own legislation.

This "charity tax" legislation is so obviously crazy that it should leave you asking the question "are the Tory party completely incompetent or just plain evil?"

The case for incompetence is a strong one, given the fact that this government has been hit by hit by a never-ending storm of scandals (Coulson-Wade-Muroch, Adam Werrity, Peter Cruddas & cash-for-influence, the granny tax, pastygate, the fuel panic....) but there is also the case to be made that this is just another example of Tories living up to their "nasty party" reputation.

If you look more closely at the neoliberal ideology that drives modern Conservatism, the whole philosophy is founded on the idea that people should be nothing more than self interested automatons (the homo economicus theory). The idea being that the economy is most efficient when everyone acts in their own personal self-interest, based on the Randian idea that greed is the only true virtue and that all other ethical considerations are aberrations. The Conservative excuse for the spectacular failure of the neoliberal model has been that we just weren't neoliberal enough, that the greed-is-good ideology has been undermined by excessive state intervention and that the state should be cut back and sold off in order to prevent "welfare" from undermining the free-market.

The Tories are opposed to state intervention to prevent social harm, and have been hell bent on reducing the role of the state via harsh austerity cuts, mass redundancies, privatisation sell offs and dodgy outsourcing contracts. Yet their concept of "the big society" stepping in to fill the gaps goes against their beloved neoliberal (economic Darwinism) theory. If their belief that the economy functions best without ideological interventionism, the charitable sector must also be seen as an obstacle to true-neoliberalism, meaning that the hardcore neoliberal would actually approve of measures aimed at reducing donations to charitable causes.

The Tories have always been the party of the rich, however this assault on charitable donations suggests that Osborne would prefer it if the rich would stick to the task of being greedy and completely self interested, rather than donating some of their excess wealth to charitable causes and undermining his beloved neoliberal economic system.

Either this "charity tax" legislation demonstrates that the government don't know what they are doing and won't rescind their mistakes because of political inertia, or it shows that they know exactly what they are doing, that compassionate conservatism is just so much PR guff to obscure their hard line neoliberal agenda and that the negative consequences of their actions for the poorest and most needy simply never come into Tory calculations.



 If you enjoyed reading this post, maybe you could buy me a beer? £1 would get me a can of cheap lager whilst £3 would get me a lovely pint of real ale.

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