The budget was a rather mundane affair, a fact highlighted by the next morning’s front pages which were dominated by the 1p reduction in fuel duty. However, a 10% cut in inheritance tax for those who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity did offer a small silver lining in these dark times. The move could also be an attempt by Cameron and Osborne to rejuvenate the Big Society project. The graph below shows the sizeable contributions the voluntary sector receives from inheritance.
It is worth looking at this information in a bit more detail. Given the enormous squeeze on voluntary organisations and charities, this tax relief should come as a welcome move that will hopefully drive an increase in legacy giving as well as the extra revenue previously heading to the taxman. However, the latest data from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) shows that 90% of legacy income goes to Large and Major organisations. Micro and Small organisations which many believe will be at the heart of the Big Society receive just 1%.
Ipsos MORI data shows 82% of people believe charities provide society with something unique and 73% think charities are effective at bringing about social change. Coupled with this, trust in charities remains high: nearly nine in ten (87%) have a high level of trust and confidence in charities (rate them 5 or higher on a 10 point scale). However, our more qualitative data suggests that the public still need more evidence before they agree that the voluntary sector should be involved in delivering public services.
Public attitudes to charities could be pivotal factors in the success of the Big Society; particularly as charities will be increasingly reliant on donations as state funding becomes more scarce. But as much as George Osborne’s inheritance tax initiative may look good for the Big Society project, there is a real chance the community groups and voluntary organisations at the bottom of the pile won’t feel the effects: the question is, what will the state be doing to help some of the smallest charities in the country to thrive?