2016 publications

Donation States: An international comparison of the tax treatment of donations

Tax incentives can play an important role in encouraging people to give money to charitable causes. However, there has been surprisingly little research into where and how they are offered around the world.

Donation States: An international comparison of the tax treatment of donations, compares the tax incentives on offer for giving and the system through which they are offered in 26 nations. The report details not only the relative values and limits of incentives but also profiles how civil society organisations (CSOs) gain donor incentivised status, how donors claim incentives, and the various forms that incentives take.

The report looks beyond the old democracies of Western Europe and North America to nations that are still developing their approach to encouraging giving. By including nations as diverse as Peru, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Vietnam we have been able to shed light on the potential for the growth of giving in some of the world's future economic giants. This builds on previous work within the Future World Giving project which aims to establish a framework of recommendations for maximising the potential of future generations of global donors.

This new report provides the in depth analysis to compliment Rules to Give By: A Global Philanthropy Legal Environment Index, which profiles the basic rules that underpin philanthropy in all 193 UN recognised nations. Like that report, which was produced in conjunction with Nexus and McDermott, Will & Emery LLP, Donation States benefited hugely from pro bono legal support through Trustlaw – an award winning initiative by the Thomson Reuters Foundation – through which we were able to work with DLA Piper, Doulah & Doulah, General Electric Company, and Grünkorn & Partner Law Co., Ltd.


Donation States makes a number of striking conclusions. It finds for example that too many countries risk crowding out ordinary donors due to incentives regimes which are only accessible, or are disproportionately more generous for wealthy people. It also finds that some countries, particularly in emerging economies, offer more generous incentives for corporations than for people. The report warns that whilst such a policy might be implemented for pragmatic reasons, it is likely to damage public trust and limit widespread engagement in charitable giving in the long run.

The report will be of interest to those with an interest in a trend that has become known as the closing space for civil society whereby governments are seeking to restrict the advocacy and campaigning activities of CSOs. It finds that by offering incentives only for causes which align with the governments agenda, some countries are skewing civil society and silently marginalising its independent voice.

As well as publishing this report, CAF is also making available detailed notes for all 26 nations.

View and download Donation States: An international comparison of the tax treatment of donations

View and download Country Notes for 26 Donation States

Back to top