Philanthropy, death and taxes; part 2

27 February 2018

In this week's episode, the second of our 'Death & Taxes' two-parter, we look at the link between tax and philanthropy. Topics covered include:

  • Importance and Controversy: Why does tax relief on donations matter to understanding the role of philanthropy, and why has it proved controversial over the years? We touch on the current US situation in light of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and look at previous political attempts to meddle with tax breaks on donations, such as Gladstone's one-man crusade in the late C19th and George Osborne's ill-fated 2012 Budget.
  • Justifying Philanthropic Tax Breaks: We explore three possible theoretical justifications, based on the work of Stanford academic Rob Reich, and conclude that only one works. We then see whether any of these has been used in practice, and compare the deliberate introduction of the US Charitable Deduction with the accidental introduction of donation incentives in the UK.
  • Do Philanthropic Tax Breaks Work? We look at whether tax incentives on donations are actually effective. We see that there is evidence they are correlated with greater generosity, but room for debate about how they are structured and at what level they are offered. We consider the difference between credit and deduction systems. We also look at recent findings from the University of Birmingham that Gift Aid might not be that effective as an incentive, and ask what this might mean for policymaking.

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society.  Since launching in May 2017, the podcast has become recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate. 

In each episode Rhodri Davies, Director of our Giving Thought Think Tank, and guests, take a contemporary issue in philanthropy and civil society and break it down into three manageable chunks, giving an overview of the extensive work they have done on the subject.  Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



Speaker profile: Rhodri Davies

Rhodri's specialist areas include philanthropy, history of philanthropy, the future of giving, Blockchain/Bitcoin and charity, artificial intelligence and giving, augmented/virtual reality and charity and the science of charitable giving.


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Giving Thought think-tank

Giving Thought is where we consider the key challenges facing civil society globally, explore how and why people give, and test radical new ideas that could shape the future of charity.