Should Churches pay more tax?

This week another group of clergy have told us we need to give more money to the poor. To do so will require that we take more money from others in tax. So today I have a question for the clergy. Would they like their Churches to pay more tax?

Churches legally avoid large amounts of tax. They receive substantial donations from some of their richer members on death. These gifts are free of Inheritance Tax.

They receive substantial donations from their living members. Much of this money is gift aided, so the Churches receive large sums from the state as repayment of the Income Tax which the donors had paid before their gift.

The Churches, led by the Church of England, have tax free Endowment funds which generate income and capital gains that are untaxed. Some of this money is used for current spending. The Church Commissioners manage a fund worth around £5,500 million.

I personally am quite relaxed about the Churches enjoying large tax privileges. However, I do not think we need to raise taxes generally in order to boost the £220 billion benefit and state pension budget. I think we need to spend it wisely and ensure the help does reach those most in need. Those who do think we need to tax and spend more might like to answer the question who they wish to tax more. The Churches might like to answer the question, why do they pay so little tax, if they think taxes are generally too low?

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81 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Personally I would get rid of all the tax breaks both for charities (many of which have very little indeed to do with real charity) and for all religions & churches. They are mainly left wing “BBC think” pressure groups (or often worse just scams and cons) perhaps raising money on the promise of an afterlife – rather a nice & very economical business model.

    Many “charities” are even funded by government largely just to propagate state think drivel, rather like the BBC in fact.

    Then just fire the half of the state sector that does nothing useful and get the actual tax rates down for all. Leave the money with those who actually made it and will spend it far more wisely on average than government.

    VAT at 20%, NI (both) at about 22%, capital gain tax 28%, income tax at 20-45%, the new compulsory pension tax too soon, stamp duty, fuel duty, alcohol duty, road tax, congestion tax, parking taxes, motorist fine traps, council tax, building control tax, planning tax, Energy Performance Certificate tax, licence fees everywhere, filing fees, late fees, rates, land registry taxes …………… and if you have any left after all those they then steal 40% IHT off you when you die. (Is Osborne ever going to de-rat on IHT he might as well promise it again as he will not be around to rat a second time in 14 months?)

    Then they waste in on HS2, propaganda through bogus charities, expensive green energy, the EU and soft PIGI loans to support the EURO, pointless wars and endless other drivel & nonsense.

    Mind you I rather like charity shops – so much more interesting and early church music but we have all that now anyway.

    • Greg Tingey
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      You seem to have forgotten the RC church & islam, both of which (do not have leftwards ed) their leanings.
      Err ….

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Yet despite all these absurdly high tax rates we still have, as reported today, “the weakest surplus on the U.K.’s public finances in four years”

      Why does Cameron not just stop all the endless waste and fire all the people who do nothing of any use? Start with the green crap subsidy & HS2. I see in the economist that new designs of solar PV panels may soon make them competitive (and more efficient at conversion) with conventional energy production (in sunny places anyway) without all the silly subsidy. Just a shame the government have littered the cloudy UK with redundant betamax/squarial/eight track types of solar PV installed all over peoples’ roofs and fields.

      All thanks to huge & damaging tax payer subsidy from the loons.

    • Hope
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      You would have thought the Tories have done enough damage to the Church through enforcement of gay marriage without this blog. Perhaps they now think it is their God given right to tax them from existence!

      The arrogance of Cameron has no bounds he now thinks he has the right to exclude or include who he wants in political TV debates irrespective of the electorate. I do not like Lib dumbs, but Cameron went I to coalition with them to change his party and now seeks to exclude from the TV debate to coerce people to think it is a choice between him and Miliband. He ought to grow (a pair) some courage and join the debate with Farage and Clegg. The public could make judgement what he stands for in relation to Europe.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        How could Cameron ever agree a debate with Farage?

        Cameron simply simply has no rational arguments to put:- not on the EU, not on fake greenery, nor on his cast iron ratting, nor on HS2, nor on high taxation (and his IHT) ratting, nor and gender neutral insurance and pensions, nor or uncontrolled immigration undercutting wages, nor on not wanting to become a Greater Switzerland/Norway.

        Simply no rational arguments that he can put or anyway would ever dare to put.

        I do not want the UK to become like a Greater Switzerland because I like our population to be much poorer, have higher crime, uncontrolled immigration, worse pensions, housing, healthcare and schools, to have a weaker currency and a large public sector deficit. Perhaps he could say that in the live debate? Or perhaps he just has an aversion to fondues and cheese with holes in it?

  2. lifelogic
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    “The Churches might like to answer the question, why do they pay so little tax, if they think taxes are generally too low?”

    I think not. This is not the sort of question they are ever likely ever to address though I suppose they might say god moves in mysterious ways or something equally meaningless. Perhaps a mention of bankers – the Vatican bank perhaps? The politics of envy, the rich man and the eye of a needle and the magic government money tree is usually the message.

    It is rather similar to when someone survives an earthquake or other huge disaster. It is always a miracle from God that saved them, but they never address the problem of the other thousands wiped out by whomsoever thought that a huge earthquake might be just the thing at that time.

    • Hope
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      JR ought to concentrate his tax views about MPs to help raise the standard of their behaviour to us normal folk rather than create one set of rules for us plebs and a different one for MPs ie tax expenses.

      Reply The main expenses are the costs of support staff. People in other jobs do not have to pay for their own support staff nor do they get taxed on the incomes of their helpers!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 22, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        What about Maria Miller’s (substantial sum ed) (tax free one assumes) (for her housing allowance ed)? Is this ever going to be repaid. Is she a Cameron A list person?

        Can I get my company to contribute for accommodation for my dependent parents, tax free? It seems rather unlikely and this is with money my company has made not taken from the public purse?

        Reply This matter is the subject of an enquiry where the facts are contested.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted February 22, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

          Why is Laws in the Cabinet too?

          I see the fake green C Huhne has gone has flow 12000 miles to go on holiday (in the do as I say not as I do/Prince Charles manner).

          Let us hope he stays there saving the carbon of the return.

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Indeed should churches be allowed to restrict access to state funded schools to those of certain faiths, those of whom they approve or those who have attended church X times and thus ticked the belief box? Does this help with integration?

    Indeed should religions be protected by law from criticism when rational thoughts are not protected and should they be allowed to indoctrinate young & often vulnerable minds?

    • arschloch
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      These schools are massively oversubscribed because they get results due to them being run with Christian ethics. Secularism and a lack of religious belief that you seem keen to promote usually goes hand in hand with a crap education.

      • DadOf3
        Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        You may believe that, but it doesn’t make it so.

        Several studies have shown that the better results achieved by faith schools is not due to the quality of the teaching but rather the indisputable fact that they are (covertly) selective. E.g. In 2005, 20.1% of children in non-religious primary schools were eligible for free schools meals, compared with 11.3% in CofE primaries.

        And yet, there is a higher proportion of atheists among the university educated than among the general population. Indeed, the proportion of atheists increases consistently with the level of education. You may argue the whys and wherefores (please do; there are many interesting issues to explore in this area), but you can’t deny the facts. Atheism does not go “hand in hand with a crap education”.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        No they mainly get better result because of the better input students with parent who care and have specially sort out the better school. Then with the better children and parents you find it easier to get recruit the better teachers too.

        Inertia then keeps it going. I do not think the Christian bit has that much to do with it.

      • forthurst
        Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        “Secularism and a lack of religious belief that you seem keen to promote usually goes hand in hand with a crap education.”

        With secularism, there is not just an absence of religion, but also an opportunity to substitute more dangerous and damaging belief systems, usually ones which are both culturally destructive and which substitute malign forces for mass idolatry, as we are experiencing in the West, which is why the Bolsheviks had a campaign of mass murder and destruction against the Christian Church, a process which the conservative politician, Vladimir Putin, has reversed.

      • Jennifer A
        Posted February 22, 2014 at 12:59 am | Permalink

        Exclusivity. Nothing more or less.

        Parents supportive of the headmaster, that’s all.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted February 22, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Good schools are good schools, its nothing to do with superstitious mumbo jumbo, or forcing parents to comply with the pretence they buy into the superstition. They look better because they are to a large degree selecting the pushy parents using false pretences.
        The way schools allocation and selection works now, based on the price of the accommodation your parents can afford, and their compliance with superstitious mumbo jumbo, is the worst of all worlds. Its neither comprehensive education based on equal access, or selection based on merit. It’s corrupt and places are handed out to the favoured few who know the right people to get the priest to bend the rules and get a signature allowing access.
        There is no way this nonsense should be allowed to continue.
        Give the parents buying power, and allow the schools to select on ability. Get the state and the churches out of school allocation.

  4. Richard1
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    It is very odd that all these bishops think spending even more on welfare will improve the condition of welfare recipients given all the evidence of the pernicious effect of dependency and worklessness. Why don’t they come up with a coherent alternative to the reforms if they are against them? The attempt by the Church – if these bishops do speak for the Church officially – to obstruct much needed reform of welfare is profoundly immoral.

    Perhaps they aren’t really interested in the condition of welfare recipients they are just in favor of fostering high state dependency, like the Labour Party.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      It is very odd that all these bishops think spending even more on welfare will improve the condition of welfare recipients given all the evidence of the pernicious effect of dependency and worklessness.

      Care to provide some of this evidence.

      Why don’t they come up with a coherent alternative to the reforms if they are against them?

      Given that these reforms are worse than the previous system scrapping them and returning to the previous system is a coherent alternative.

      • Richard1
        Posted February 23, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        I do hope the Labour party at the next election adopts your argument that there is no problem with the welfare system, we should go back to how it was under Labour. That should ensure a large Conservative majority.

        Have you watched Benefits Street?

  5. Mark B
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    No, I do not believe that they should pay more tax, and neither do I believe others should either. What I so believe, is that one should practice that which they preach !

  6. arschloch
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Erm and what is the size of a CoE vicar’s stipend in comparison to an MPs salary and generous expense account? For some MPs even that is not enough and they need to steal some more. How much of the church’s wealth is spent maintaining buildings of great architectural value or would you prefer that they were knocked down or converted into B2L fodder? Clergymen would not have to get involved in running soup kitchens and foodbanks, if you had bothered to really sort out the UKs unfit for purpose system of handouts. Its been four years now all I can think of what Dave has achieved is “gay marriage”. This being at the expense of diminishing his party membership and failing to even win over the gay vote.

    • Jennifer A
      Posted February 22, 2014 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      Being ‘nice’ hasn’t worked.

      It’s not been appreciated, has it.

  7. Andyvan
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    The moment clergymen call for increased taxation for ordinary people their huge tax breaks should be removed. What argument do they have against that? Why should an archaic and completely unproven belief system insulate you against state theft? Simply because you think that a magic being created the world and have managed to accumulate very large amounts of wealth by convincing others that you’re right should not mean that they pay tax and you don’t. I do not believe in the power of the state to rule me against my will so am I able to avoid taxes? By all means do away with taxes and the state but the height of hypocrisy is to call for others to be forced to do something that you are not.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      The moment clergymen call for increased taxation for ordinary people their huge tax breaks should be removed.

      Good thing they’re only calling for the wealthy to pay more taxes, so these tax increases won’t effect ordinary people.

      Simply because you think that a magic being created the world and have managed to accumulate very large amounts of wealth by convincing others that you’re right should not mean that they pay tax and you don’t.

      Actually they pay less tax because under the Charities Act they provide a benefit to the public.

      By all means do away with taxes and the state but the height of hypocrisy is to call for others to be forced to do something that you are not.

      They tried that in much of Somalia and the results weren’t good. I suspect the UK will have the same problems if we do away with the state.

  8. Narrow shoulders
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Interesting politics Mr Redwood,

    I would be uneasy of opening the sluice gates of taxes on donations or reducing giftaid however a wealth tax on idle assets levied upon all charities would be a profitable precursor to further debate on corporate and individual taxation.

    Personally I would rather government reduced its interference and addressed empire building within the public sector prior to raising taxes as these tend to be punitive to those at the lower end of any thresholds or on paye who do not retain accountants.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      From today’s BBC website

      “UK government finance figures for January showed a surplus of £4.7bn, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

      It is less than the £6bn surplus recorded a year ago, with the fall due mainly to higher government spending./

      Higher spending! How is the 80/20 austerity ratio working out?

      The tax from my PAYE payslip has markedly increased since 2010 (by more than 20%) yet we are still building new school places for immigrants’ children.

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I am not relaxed about churches paying a little amount of tax if this is true. A blogger argued that the money is held in property and land and if higher taxes involved selling off these assets , subsequently making land available to have more clutter and small houses built I would not agree.There has to be a limit to how many more houses we can cram in to England to accommodate the growing population. There are other countries with much more space.

    If what is meant is income tax then the standard should be applied. ” And all went out into their own cities to be taxed”

  10. Jennifer A
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Note that the Church can be outspoken so long as it is only on leftist issues.

    Where it could be asserting its values in a way that reduces our welfare bill (sex outside marriage) it is strangely mute. Were it to do this the left (the BBC) would come down on it like the proverbial tonne of bricks.

    Sorry to go off topic owing to urgency:

    The EU which our people allegedly voted for now has many more member states than they were told were going to be involved. In fact the EU now seems to seek expansion to the Middle East (Turkey) right up to the Urals.

    The unelected EU High Representative Baroness Ashton dangles the EU carrot before the Ukrainian people (the UK’s free welfare and work the gemstone) to cause half of the people to rise up against their elected president causing much bloodshed.

    Putin offers hard cash and gas. All the EU can offer is debt and deceit and a promise to dilute its own peoples’ wealth to share out among those willing to make the trip.

    I can assure you. NO ONE here voted for this. Our people were lied to and still are being lied to.

    • Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Jennifer A,

      Who said “sex outside marriage” was a leftist issue?

      Don’t go around saying that. Do you really want to concede on the argument that a votes for the Tories might mean more opportunities in economic affairs, but less opportunities in other kinds of affairs?

    • Richard1
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      This is a good point. On the rare occasions when a senior clergyman speaks from the right – as for example does Archbishop Carey and Bishop Nazir-Ali -they are typically on their own and ar fast denounced by leftist media and politicians.

    • Hope
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      The unelected Ashton representing a dictatorship speaking to others about elections and democracy. Where is the outcry from the FCO?w hat right does she even have to speak, no citizen from any of the 27 nations vote do or her to speak on their behalf.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      Note that the Church can be outspoken so long as it is only on leftist issues.

      So opposing contraception, abortion, women priests, and gay marriage are all left issues according to you.

      In fact the EU now seems to seek expansion to the Middle East (Turkey) right up to the Urals.

      Turkey has been trying to join the EU since the 1950′s, so it’s hardly a new development.

      The unelected EU High Representative Baroness Ashton dangles the EU carrot before the Ukrainian people (the UK’s free welfare and work the gemstone) to cause half of the people to rise up against their elected president causing much bloodshed.

      Remind me again how the people rising up against their government is undemocratic.

      You might also want to look as the history of Ukraine to try and understand why many people in Ukraine don’t like the Russians. I recommend starting with the history of the Crimean Khanate.

  11. James Matthews
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    “The Churches might like to answer the question, why do they pay so little tax, if they think taxes are generally too low?”

    Good question. They are also prone to quote the parable of the good Samaritan. He of course did his good works with his own money.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Indeed his own money – unlike Cameron’s tax payers’ money is no object pledge for the flooded levels.

  12. M Davis
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    There should be a level playing field for ALL, including the Churches. KIS.

  13. Lewis
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    A churchman feels that he owes a great debt to his fellow man … which debt, he proposes to pay off, using YOUR money.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Just like nearly all lefty politician.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    As I recall the Church of England lost heavily on its investments during the late 1980′s property crash, and I’m not sure its finances have ever fully recovered.

    • Jim
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Not true, at least the not recovering bit. The CoE assets reached an all time peak of over £5.5bn in c. 2008, then crashed by over a billion due to the recession, but have subsequently recovered to £5.5bn again by the end of 2012, and will undoubtedly have risen again since then due to the recovering property market. Probably over £6bn by now, an all time high. They are a prime recipient of the Quantative Easing program of the BoE, which has driven asset prices far higher than they would otherwise have been.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Perhaps they should seek some investment advice from a higher authority.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    A good question! And one that should be asked of all measures that provide tax relief or subsidy. In principle charitable giving is a good candidate for tax relief. But before doling out advice to others on how to manage cash and other assets, the church would be well advised to get a grip on its own vast estate of property and buildings.

  16. Horatio McSherry
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Another good post Mr. Redwood. It’s the eternal hypocrisy of socialists of all ilks and strengths that more money should be given to the poor and needy…so long as it isn’t their money. It’s very easy for anyone to voluntarily pay more money than required to the treasury, but I have never known – personally or anecdotally – anyone with socialist tendancies to do this. It’s always someone else who has to “care” on their behalf.

    Over the issue of taxes going to the “poor and needy” I have been called uncaring (semi-jokingly) by a couple of friends who are teachers. Yet they cannot grasp the concept that because they have plenty of spare money, someone who’s even further left than them might say they too are uncaring because they don’t give that superfluous money away to people who need it.

    Part of the reason the government spends/wastes so much money is that when you tax people to pay for moral issues, the problem you introduce is that morals are sujective; and there’s always someone with higher, grander and opposing morals to you.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      “It’s very easy for anyone to voluntarily pay more money than required to the treasury, but I have never known – personally or anecdotally – anyone with socialist tendencies to do this.”

      Did not a deceased little old lady bequeath an amount to the government of the day to do good with? This was snaffled by the ruling parties at the time for their own coffers until the bequest became public knowledge.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Another good post Mr. Redwood. It’s the eternal hypocrisy of socialists of all ilks and strengths that more money should be given to the poor and needy…so long as it isn’t their money.

      Well most socialist tend to fall into the “poor and needy” category, mainly as a result of the capitalists hoarding all the wealth.

      Over the issue of taxes going to the “poor and needy” I have been called uncaring (semi-jokingly) by a couple of friends who are teachers. Yet they cannot grasp the concept that because they have plenty of spare money, someone who’s even further left than them might say they too are uncaring because they don’t give that superfluous money away to people who need it.

      That’s because you’re making a false analogy. Unless these teachers are millionaires those further left won’t target them as long as there’s people who are paid millions of pound every year.

      Part of the reason the government spends/wastes so much money is that when you tax people to pay for moral issues, the problem you introduce is that morals are sujective; and there’s always someone with higher, grander and opposing morals to you.

      How exactly is that causing money to be wasted? Also since when has ensuring that people have food and shelter in one of the richest countries in the world been considered a moral issue?

  17. Bert Young
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    From what I have gleaned , the accumulated wealth of the churches has been badly managed in the past ; indeed , at times abused . Protecting their assets is part of their approach – and I don’t blame them for that ; what I do object to is their posturing on politico/economic matters . It is difficult to challenge the pulpit , however , when they decide to go to the media , they must expect the full force of criticism .

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Well surely they made a bit from the poor and desperate with Wonger did they not? I suppose they foolishly invested in green crap religion like Cameron though.

  18. Bob
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    No, the churches should not pay more tax.
    Tax should be reduced across the board, and with more money in their pockets the people who worry themselves silly about the residents of benefits street should use their tax savings to donate to whichever “good cause” takes their fancy, whether that’s the poor starving children in the UK, the third world or the Indian space program.

    Government should leave charity to the charities because the charities will not hidebound themselves with rules that oblige them to support the indolent and feckless without demanding something in return.

  19. Atlas
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    John, I hope you are not getting at the Church leaders just for pointing out that the DWP administration is not working properly and so causing real hardship by unneccesary delays. I’m not arguing the welfare reform principles here – I’m just saying the DWP is not working properly. For this IDS is surely accountable?

  20. Helen Moller
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    As a practising Christian within the Anglican communion I think it would be an
    excellent thing to deprive all churches in this country of their tax breaks, and let Christianity sink or swim on its own. Perhaps it might encourage our bishops to ensure their sheep are properly fed, which is partly why pews are empty. God is not mocked, nor will his patience last forever.

  21. Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Reply to Bert Young at 9.47:

    The accusation of posturing on politico/economic matters by churchmen was levelled at me by this blogs host just two days ago. Let us be accurate and say that churches don’t posture, only men and women.

    I am a churchman, not in a pulpit, but commenting on a blog in public and happy to be criticised for what I write, which, to the best of my ability, will reflect what I believe.

    Above all, I believe that the Christ calls His followers to tell the truth in love, rather than claiming a heavenly mandate for their private opinions.

    The truth is that this nation, a constitutional monarchy, is a nation founded on the Christian faith. Our Queen was crowned during Christian worship, in which She accepted to govern according to our constitution and to uphold the faith of the Church of England.

    There are many, including some of those who comment here, who wish otherwise, and those of that ilk in Parliament are busy trying to change things in order to avoid the safeguards against dictatorship which the constitution provides.

    Do not believe this on my words alone. Read for yourself Article 37 at the back of the Book of Common Prayer, The Declaration of Right 1688/9 (available on the internet) play the DVD ‘A QUEEN IS CROWNED’, the official record of the coronation in 1953, The Treason Act 1848, still in force. Do not believe those who tell you that England does not have a written Constitution. Read the documents yourself.

    As for taxes, at whatever level or arrangement, if they are set by unlawful authority, they are set without my consent and according to Magna Carta, I am not bound by them.

    John Wrake.

    Reply. You can not live in a dream world where you choose few texts from our past constitutional documents which you accept in full, whilst ignoring all the subsequent law and changes to our constitution. You do have to accept the legality of the current taxes levied on you, and clearly pay them. Magna Carta is silent on the modern IHT, CGT and the rest! The UK has an established Church in England, but a long tradition of tolerance which allows people to choose which Church to follow or allows people to follow none.

  22. ian wragg
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    O/T but related. Last night on Eastenders, Denise (I think) said the Poll Tax was Maggie trying to ruin the country with this unfair taxation of the poor.
    Ian (everyone’s enemy) Beal was left to defend Maggie in a rather half arsed way. Is this really what the licence fee is for so silly left wing propaganda can be included in day to day viewing.
    No the Church shouldn’t pay more tax, nor should I or anyone else. The Government should be aiming at 25% of GDP and watch the countryprosper.

  23. behindthefrogs
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The government should stop taxing people on a living wage. Why should they pay 20% income tax on a quarter of what they earn in a full working week even after the libdems £10k startng level? Why should they pay 12% NI contributions on nearly half of such earnings? Why does the government encourage part time working by starting employers NI contributions at around the same level?

    Employees NI should be completely abandoned and replaced by increasing all rates of income tax (by around 10%? ) to produce the same yield. The highest rate should probably only be increased to 50%

  24. stred
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Is it only the C of E, or can other churches and religions avoid tax? The C of E has many churches with small congregations and needing expensive repairs. These have to be paid for by the local members, as the Church Commissioners are committed to managing their large property portfolio and investments. If they used this wealth, as proposed by J.Christ, it would be once only and there would be little left for pensions and salaries.

    It is reported that the tax tax in January was much less than expected. In my case, last year, the online tax calculator told me to pay almost double the amount that the calculation showed. This demand was on the page after the calculation and before the payment page. I queried this and was told it was normal to pay another lot in advance. This year my tax was less and I queried again why it was asking for another large extra amount. How could it be that I was paying more every year?

    After speaking to two helpful HMRC advisers, in which they referred to the system as ‘IT’, they told me that IT always doubles up the demand on tax over £2000 and the calculator does not know how much you have already paid! It is up to the taxpayer to work this out. This year I received a large refund for the overpaid amount from the previous year and a much reduced demand by letter from the helpful person that I talked to. I wonder how many other people had the same experience. Lucky Churches.

    Reply All Churches can use the charity exemptions from tax

  25. Antisthenes
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    The christian church has a good record when it comes to giving succour to the poor and ill as there have been times in the past when they were the only ones who did so. Also they along with Islam have been the custodians of knowledge without which much would have been lost and our lives would today would be the poorer for it. However they have also been instrumental in causing strife and division which has resulted in vicious conflicts and many millions of innocents suffering and dying. They now perhaps can be seen as something of an anachronism as reason has largely debunked their dogma and those attracted to it especially in a position to promulgate that dogma are people who are well meaning but the fact that they can believe in something based on faith alone calls into question their ability to apply objectivity when considering emotive matters. The partnership between church and state has been a long one not often one that has been in the best interests of citizens and parishioners. The time has come for that partnership to be discontinued and secular government should be total and religion left to it’s own devices and to the personal choice of individuals on whether or not to be part of it. The church has no right to special privileges except that which covers it’s charitable work but certainly not it’s religious work.

  26. Robert Taggart
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Good question Johnny, but, why do politicians never raise such questions ?
    The CofE – it used to be said – was the Tory Party at prayer !
    Given the leftwards lean of the CofE over the last c.fourty years – this surely be not the case any more ? – certainly not in ‘the pulpits’ !
    Ergo, time for Parliament in general and the Tory Party in particular to give up the ghost – the Holy Ghost – of the established church.
    Set all religions on an equal footing – tax them to the maximum (but not so much as to put them out of business !) – and put them to one side.
    Remove the twenty-six CofE Bishops from the ‘Upper House’ – it be the ‘Lords’ work !

  27. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Philanthropy often involves a power component; some examples:

    (1) The National Lottery is a partial backdoor nationalisation of charity. A State appointed body determines what the good causes are. In John Major’s day, supplying funds to a rowing club for a new clubhouse was thought to be a good cause. In Labour’s day, the NHS received some back door funding.

    (2) Bill Gates, the great philanthropist, was recently interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. After Bill Gates outlined his philosophy and his support of good causes, Paxman asked him if he would be willing to pay higher taxes. Gates changed the subject. Paxman asked again, as his wont. This time, Bill Gates’s eyes blazed with anger and he gave an emphatic ‘No’ in reply. He, Bill Gates, would decide what the good causes were on which he should spend his money.

    (3) Charity shops get tax concessions. The State determines what organisations are eligible for charitable status.

    (4) The State is happy to allow the Church to have charitable status. And the State is happy to fund ‘free schools’ that are faith schools, even to the extent of financing religious instruction in normal school time. If an atheism based school applied for ‘free school’ status, would it receive it? If not, why not?

  28. Posted February 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Certainly there are a lot of charities which are not true charities, but even so get tax relief. I would argue that charities should be taxed if they get more than, say, a third of their income from the state, whether this is a direct payment by a government department, or from a Government Agency, the NHS or a local authority. Churches in my view should get tax relief as their income is from donations from the public not the state. It is also worth noting that there are over a hundred Anglican Bishops (too many in my view, but that’s another matter) and less than a third signed the published letter.
    I think that the Canadian Prime Minister had it right when he was pushed to increase tax for some reason and said that he did not stand for parliament and as leader of his party to be in the business of increasing taxation. The Tories could well adopt the same approach.

  29. Iain Gill
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Tax em.

    And stop church bells being exempt from noise pollutions regulations.

    There are better places to spend the money.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      I do remember, when in London, not being able to use my garden for hours on Wednesday summer evenings due hours of endless bell ringing practice.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted March 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Worse than that… I was discharged from hospital still pretty ill, covered in bandages, to a house next to a church practising bell ringing all day. I even got out of my sick bed, bandages and all, so it was obvious how ill I was, and went and asked them nicely if they couldn’t leave it out for once. Their ever so Christian answer was no, they carried on with those bells all day.

        Outrageous.

  30. JoeSoap
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    It is all very well putting the boot in to the churches for not practising what they preach; what about your ol’ friend Dave Cameron? A golden chance now to state his crystal clear position on Europe, and debate with those bêtes noirs UKIP and the Libdems. He could even freeze Ed Miliband out of the debate…..
    But no, he’s “too busy”. I’ll be “too busy” to vote Conservative, then thanks :-)

  31. formula57
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    The Church relinquishing its right to impose chancel repair liability upon property owners would be a commendable step it could take in priority to any tax breaks were it minded to be decent and fair.

  32. Keith Sloan
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    If I check my local PCC’s accounts at http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk website.
    My PCC and another neighboring PCC I checked only give a meager 4% of their income to what I as an atheist would recognise as a charity, like MS society, Local night shelter etc. The large majority goes on paying Diocesan Parish Share and Building upkeep, the rest is spend on clergy/staff costs. My understanding is that the Parish Share goes on buildings, people costs and pensions. So the well off who donate their winder fuel allowance to the church would in my view do better to donate straight the the charities and cut out the middle men.

  33. Keith Sloan
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    If I check my local PCC’s accounts at http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk website.
    My PCC and another neighboring PCC I checked only give a meager 4% of their income to what I as an atheist would recognise as a charity, like MS society, Local night shelter etc. The large majority goes on paying Diocesan Parish Share and Building upkeep, the rest is spend on clergy/staff costs. My understanding is that the Parish Share goes on buildings, people costs and pensions. So the well off who donate their winter fuel allowance to the church would in my view do better to donate straight to the charities and cut out the middle men.

  34. Mike Stallard
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I am a Catholic.
    I notice that our Church and the other Christian bodies in our town provide night shelter for the homeless, we provide a daily meal for the drunks, we look after the wounded after their brawls, we spend hours translating, giving legal advice to criminals, teaching English and even do the food bank.
    We are surprisingly efficient with it.
    Much more efficient than the uncaring state.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted February 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Well done you. The state is run mainly for the benefit of staff 9-5 weekdays or often 10-4 now, and they often do not even answer the 0845 phone lines after you hold for ages.

  35. uanime5
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Would they like their Churches to pay more tax?

    John you justified reducing the 50% tax rate because you claimed it would result in the richest 1% a tax paying more in tax revenues. Are you planning to give these churches a similar tax cut to somehow increase the amount of tax they pay?

    They receive substantial donations from some of their richer members on death. These gifts are free of Inheritance Tax.

    Are donations to other charitable bodies also tax free? If so then churches aren’t benefiting more than other organisations providing a benefit to the community.

    They receive substantial donations from their living members.

    So do political parties. Though Churches generally doesn’t alter their manifesto to suit these donors.

    Much of this money is gift aided, so the Churches receive large sums from the state as repayment of the Income Tax which the donors had paid before their gift.

    Well the Coalition did try to remove this repayment but for some reason the wealthy objected. I guess they have no objection to the state giving money to whatever charities they support.

    I think we need to spend it wisely and ensure the help does reach those most in need.

    Given the poor results shown by the Universal Credit, Atos, and the Work Programme it seems that the money spent on these projects hasn’t been well spent. Scrapping them will provide more money for the needy.

    Those who do think we need to tax and spend more might like to answer the question who they wish to tax more.

    Well we could try to reduce the billions lost due to tax avoidance by large companies and tax evasion.

    Reply One of your more muddled and hopeless replies. The Church pays very little tax on its income because so much of its income used legal avoidance measures – the Church does not pay anything like 50% tax! Gifts to political parties do not benefit from the tax reliefs the Churches enjoy.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 23, 2014 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      The Church pays very little tax on its income because so much of its income used legal avoidance measures – the Church does not pay anything like 50% tax!

      That doesn’t change the fact that you claimed that cutting the 50% tax rate for the wealthy will produce more tax revenue, yet are now claiming that increasing the taxes churches pay will increase tax revenues. Care to explain why you believe that cutting taxes for the wealthy will increase tax revenues while for everyone else increasing taxes will raise tax revenues.

      Reply I am not asking to increase tax rates for the Churches – I am asking that they stop avoiding all taxes on much of their income if they are so keen on more public spending.

  36. Bill
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    As someone who is a trustee of more than one charity it is worth noting that in order to merit their charitable status, charities have to show their aims have social (and educational?) benefits.

    Gladstone saw the churches as being like the soul of the nation and others think Protestant critique provides a national conscience. I for one am glad we have organisations like the Salvation Army or the Samaritans at work in British society.

    Who will stand up to political power? We surely cannot expect celebrity-obssessed journalists to do this.

  37. Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    I commented on this post this morning from a churchman’s point of view, but it seems that our host doesn’t want anyone to see it. It was addressed to Bert Young after his comment at 9:47.

    John Wrake.

    • APL
      Posted February 23, 2014 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      John Wrake: “but it seems that our host doesn’t want anyone to see it.”

      Mr Wrake, Is it possible you are unfamiliar with the mechanism of posting comments?

      It is often the case that when a comment is awaiting moderation, the person who wrote the comment will be unable to see his own comment. After moderation, and editing, it should be visible by everyone.

      I also note, there is a ‘Reply’ button at the bottom of most comments, from what I can see, you may not be availing yourself of that facility.

      If I am in error, please accept my apologies.

      PS. your comments are interesting and thought provoking.

  38. Neil craig
    Posted February 21, 2014 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    £220 billion is only 1/3rd of government spending (& even then I suspect includes a lot of relatively unnecessary salaries). There are undoubtedly necessary parts of the remaining 2/3 too – police, cleansing, er um – but clearly an awful lot of state spending could be cut before reaching welfare. I suspect “you can’t cut when there are one-legged babies walking 40 miles a day to visit foodbanks” is a shield qangocrats use when they want not to have their own jobs cut.

  39. alan jutson
    Posted February 22, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    We seem to have far too many people in this country wanting to spend other peoples money.
    We also seem to have a complicated list for tax breaks, for listed buildings, heritage sites, charities, churches, and of course donations to political Party’s
    The simple solution:
    Perhaps time to limit those who vote, to only those who pay income tax.
    It would seem to be a simple qualification at first thought.
    No doubt it would upset many, and we would have the usual complaints about so called democracy, human rights, etc etc

    But perhaps worthy of rather more discussion, because the present system simply is not working.
    It would certainly make the politicians think twice about promises at election time as they would be only preaching to those who have to pay for it all, and not trying to get votes from those who they could bribe with a huge range of benefits.

    • uanime5
      Posted February 23, 2014 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      The simple solution: Perhaps time to limit those who vote, to only those who pay income tax.

      So no votes for anyone who isn’t working; such as the sick, pensioners, and the unemployed. Don’t expect that to be tolerated in a democracy.

      It would certainly make the politicians think twice about promises at election time as they would be only preaching to those who have to pay for it all, and not trying to get votes from those who they could bribe with a huge range of benefits.

      What about all the people who work and claim benefits, especially those who claim more in benefits than they pay in taxes? What about all the people who have unemployed or sick relatives? They’re not going to vote for a government that won’t help these people.

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 23, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        Uni

        Many people who do not work pay income tax

        Pensions are taxed
        Income on savings is taxed
        Your workers on tax credit I assume would also pay tax.

        No where in my post did I say that people who were unemployed or sick would not be, or should not be, looked after.

        I simply suggested that those who pay should have a say in where their money was spent.
        Just like going shopping really. You pays your money you make a choice.

  40. Posted February 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    Thank you for finally re-inserting my comment addressed to Bert Young. Better late than never!

    As for your reply to that comment, I quote ” You can not live in a dream world where you choose few texts from our past constitutional documents which you accept in full, whilst ignoring all the subsequent law and changes to our constitution. You do have to accept the legality of the current taxes levied on you, and clearly pay them. Magna Carta is silent on the modern IHT, CGT and the rest! The UK has an established Church in England, but a long tradition of tolerance which allows people to choose which Church to follow or allows people to follow none.”

    That reply demonstrates a remarkable lack of understanding about our constitution and constitutions in general.

    By using the word ‘few’ about the texts included in our written constitution, are you suggesting that they are therefore invalid? Does something which is old therefore lose all its value?

    I am not ignoring subsequent legislation and supposed changes to our constitution. I am stating that those laws and changes, because they are contrary to our written constitution, are unlawful. Parliament does not have the right to make changes to constitutional documents which were not written by Parliament. Parliament may opt to withdraw The Bill of Rights for that was a Parliamentary Statute. It cannot rescind the Declaration of Right, on which the Statute was based, because that was NOT a Parliamentary document but a constitutional one.

    Your comment on modern taxation not being covered by Magna Carta is fatuous. Modern taxation is the result of the doctrine of precedence as covered by Common Law. Whether precedence has been correctly applied in some cases is a moot point. I do not have to accept taxes which have been levied by unconstitutional action on behalf of a foreign jurisdiction.
    Valid taxes are those to which the people have consented, not those imposed by foreign laws.

    The Church of England has a long history of toleration of other Churches and other Faiths. That does not invalidate the statement about sovereignty contained in its formularies. Those words from Article 37 are closely akin to the words of the Petition of Right and the Declaration of Right. All three forms are part of our written constitution and no Parliament has the right to change them.

    John Wrake.

    Reply A crucial principle of our constitution (unfortunately modified by the UK’s assent to EU Treaties) is the supremacy of Parliament. Parliament can and does change our constitution on a regular basis. The Bill of Rights modified Magna Carta. The Union of Scotland and England changed lour constitution by Act of Parliament. The extension of the franchise, the establishment of local government, devolution etc were all constitutional changes that proceeded by Act of Parliament and modified the ancient settlement.

    • Bob
      Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Any “unmanifested” constitutional changes should be subject to referendum.

    • APL
      Posted February 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      JR: “A crucial principle of our constitution [snip] is the supremacy of Parliament.”

      Parliament may dispose of those powers it owns, that is to say none! The authority of Parliament springs from the consent of the governed[1].

      Parliament did not seek permission to take us into the Common Market before the act was undertaken, rather an ex post facto endorsement of an unlawful act was sought, and lied about to facilitate. Regardless of the subsequent attempt to justify the original act, it is nonetheless still, unlawful.

      JR: “Parliament can and does change our constitution on a regular basis.”

      Parliament may repeal such statutes as a prior Parliament has lawfully passed. Common law is not a statute and pre-dates Parliament, and is the source of lawful authority in the Kingdom.

      [1] Consent can hardly be claimed to have been given, when so much trickery and double speak, and deceit is practised by the political class.

      Reply Common law is guided by Statute.

      • APL
        Posted February 24, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        JR: “Common law is guided by Statute. ”

        Exactly the reverse of the true situation.

  41. Posted February 23, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, your reply to my comment at 12:48 begins with a nonsensical statement, because it says that a crucial principle of the constitution has been modified. If it is capable of modification it cannot be crucial. Secondly, you state that the crucial principle is the supremacy of Parliament. This is also incorrect. Englishmen did not revolt against the Divine Right of Charles the First in order to give Divine Right to Parliament. They quickly discovered that a dictatorial Parliament was no better than a dictatorial King. They were not content with a dictatorial Army either, which was why Charles the Second was invited back.

    Parliament is not supreme in a Constitutional Monarchy, being only part of the balance of Monarch, Lords and Commons, to whom the people lend their sovereignty for limited periods, provided no one of the components misbehaves.

    Parliament has no right or ability to change the constitution, despite its claims, because Parliament did not produce the constitution. It can, and has, claimed to amend the Bill of Rights, which was a Parliamentary Statute, but that has no effect on the Declaration of Right, written earlier in that same year at a Constitutional Convention.

    The Declaration of Right, on which the Bill of Rights was based, re-affirmed the terms of Magna Carta which had been neglected.

    The Act of Union extended the English Constitution to Scotland, with provisos to safeguard the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

    Administrative changes to meet changing circumstances are not constitutional issues, provided they accord with Common Law and the doctrine of precedent.

    Most of our current confusion was instigated by Blair and his sofa government, seeking to avoid the constraints on dictatorial and deceitful actions by ministers which the constitution provides.

    We now have a Prime Minister who thinks that he can legislate to change the meaning of words AND you continue to support him.

    John Wrake.

  42. Tinxx
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    The whole Gift-Aid concept is flawed and widely abused. It should simply be scrapped.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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