Should we be a bit less charitable?

  fourm member 08:44 03 Dec 2013

This is not about Paul Flowers. If you want to talk about Paul Flowers please start your own thread. But it is, of course, Paul Flowers that has led me to post.

There has been criticism of the Charity Commission for its handling of the Flowers' affair with people saying it is a toothless regulator.

That has been my personal experience with the commission and I think it may be because there is a fear of making charities appear bad. It seems to me that there is a reluctance to 'out' bad practices for fear of undermining the whole sector.

It makes me wonder if we should re-define what a charity is. Most of us, I believe, think in terms of helping the poor or children or victims of disasters or animals but there are plenty of other charities.

A quick search of the Charity Commission website find charities that provide a society for people of a particular profession to join (physics, engineering, chemistry etc.). Charities that provide training in vocational skills. Charities that run competitions for expertise in various areas of knowledge. Charities that operate sporting clubs.

For many of these the charitable status is all about being exempt from tax.

Is there merit in establishing rules for 'tax exempt organisations' so that 'charity' can be kept for organisations that are all about the sort of things people think charities do?

  natdoor 10:53 03 Dec 2013

In my view the most obvious anomaly is the charitable status of public schools.

  spuds 10:58 03 Dec 2013

Charities have their purpose in life, and that includes making as much revenue as possible by whatever means. But having said that, then I have serious doubts about how some of this revenue is administered, whether its more to support the people running the charity or perhaps the original intent of said charity?.

Regarding the role of the Charity Commission being a toothless tiger, then I have to agree, but doesn't other supposed 'watchdogs' follow the same remits, with their gently approach, when things appear to be heading in the wrong direction?.

Perhaps moving from the charity taxation issues, there appears to be quite a lot in the news lately of 'avoidance' by major national companies. Only the other day, I was reading about my local water board and their ten year agreement with the government about their future tax affairs?.

  namtas 11:00 03 Dec 2013

Making rules for charity exemption is already done (one has to justify it to the Inland Revenue, I believe),

You only have to notify the Charity Commissioners if you are applying for a registered charity number, in which case you will need to meet a fairly strict criteria and accountability regarding accounting. But anyone can set up and advertise as a charity (the word charity being a loose term) and operate without a number. and then the only restriction is local authority licensing for collecting in a public place. A definition which I would consider would be that they should be a "Not for profit organisation"

  caccy 12:37 03 Dec 2013

I have no problems with "charities" being tax exempt and believe that they perform a very necessary function but, their overheads should be legally restricted to no more than 2 to 5% of their total income.

  Kevscar1 12:53 03 Dec 2013

I was absolutly astounded to find there are 996 caancer charities registered with the commision there can be no need or justifiable reason for that many

  fourm member 13:05 03 Dec 2013

Kevscar1 raises a very good point. The Charity Commission claims that it tries to prevent a new charity being registered if the subject area is already covered but that doesn't seem to stop 'celebs' from setting up their own foundations for things that other charities have been doing for years.

namtas also says something that I'm not sure many people realise. I had a situation when someone was trying to raise money for himself by telling people his employer had set up the widget trust to deal with a situation. The commission said that anyone can call an organisation a trust or, as namtas says, a charity. The significant word is 'registered'. But, does anyone check the registered number before handing over their money?

I don't share natdoor's concern in that I don't see the difference between a public school being a charity and, say, a learned society for highly paid professionals.

There are lots of bodies that wouldn't get registered today but there is no action to change the status of charities registered when criteria were different.

  namtas 14:02 03 Dec 2013

But, does anyone check the registered number before handing over their money?

We find that it is only businesses or corporate organisation that ever ask for charity numbers. Incidentally when you are registered you have by law to display your charity number at every public contact point you must include your registered Charity number on every bit of information, letter poster or programme or collection receptacle.

  fourm member 16:06 03 Dec 2013


As I'm sure you know that 'every bit of information' includes emails. It is quite hard to get everyone to add the charity number especially if it is just a quick email between trustees.

  Forum Editor 20:28 03 Dec 2013

"Is there merit in establishing rules for 'tax exempt organisations' so that 'charity' can be kept for organisations that are all about the sort of things people think charities do?"

My response is a whole-hearted and unequivocal 'Yes', and I thank you for making such a commonsense suggestion. I wish I had thought of it.

  bumpkin 21:10 03 Dec 2013

I think that there are too many "charities" jumping on the bandwagon. Don't make a profit, just pay yourselves nice fat salaries for administration.

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