Nicholas Hytner asks the government to “rethink” tax relief cap

Natalie Woolman

Nicholas Hytner, the artistic director of the National Theatre, has said that the government’s claims that some wealthy individuals give money to charities as a means of tax avoidance are “frankly slanderous”.

Writing in The Guardian, Hytner hit out at plans to cap tax reliefs at £50,000 or 25% of earnings (whichever is greater), including philanthropic donations. The cap, which is due to come in in 2013, is part of a strategy to curb tax avoidance.

He said: “It is frankly slanderous to suggest that any of them are involved in tax avoidance. It is also ridiculous. To qualify for tax relief of £2,500, a higher-rate (40%) taxpayer would have to give £10,000 to charity. In other words, the so-called tax avoider would be down £7,500. Call me a financial illiterate, but I can’t see what’s been avoided here – and many wealthy philanthropists give millions away each year.”

Hytner added that the fundraising department at the National had been contacted by one potential donor who was no longer sure he would be able to give £250,000 to the venue’s capital campaign as a result of the move. The artistic director said he assumed “we’re all the victims of some kind of last-minute budgetary stitch up” as the government has “completely undermined its own position” on philanthropy.

As shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman did yesterday in a letter to Jeremy Hunt, Hytner finishes by asking the government to “rethink” the issue.

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