George Osborne, the British chancellor of the exchequer (i.e. finance minister), has now delivered his annual budget to the braying mob in the houses of parliament.
In the light of my own particular interests, I searched his report for sexy words like "museums", "culture" and "heritage". The welter of problems facing the economy meant that these were hardly likely to feature very heavily.
However, one aspect of note did crop up. This concerned charitable donations made by wealthy philanthropists. It transpires that tax relief on this sort of giving is now capped at £50,000, or 25% of the giver's annual income.
Why do this? The answer, it appears, is in order to "curtail... excessive use of [tax] reliefs."(1)
And yet, mindful of the negative impact this might have, the Budget Report is quick to add:
The Government will explore with philanthropists ways to ensure that this measure
will not impact significantly on charities that depend on large donations.(2)
Let's hope that their exploration is a fruitful one! The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) fears that the measure might "strangle" major donations.(3)
Given recent reductions in state support for culture and the present administration's supposed interest in non-governmental "big society" initiatives, it is surely bewildering that a disincentive of this nature should be introduced at this time.
Can any charitable soul kindly explain the logic behind this sort of political schizophrenia?
Please note, however, that they must not under any circumstances devote more than 25% of their time to coming up with a plausible answer.
(1) Budget 2012, §1.192 (available at http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/budget2012_complete.pdf).
(2) Budget 2012, §1.193.
(3) "Budget 2012: Charities could lose big donors", BBC News, 21/03/2012, accessed 21/03/2012 at, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17458362.