爱思英语编者按:慈善事业既是经济事业发展的晴雨表,也是调节贫富差别的平衡器。通过市场实现收入的第一次分配;通过政府调节实行收入的第二次分配;在习惯与道德的影响下,个人出于自愿将可支配收入的一部分或大部分捐赠社会,乃是不可小觑的第三次收入分配。它有助于缩小两极分化,有利于社会的和谐。

Charities, tax and politics

慈善,税收和政治

One hand giveth

一只手赠与

Why the dispute over tax and charity is so politically toxic?

为什么有关税率和慈善的争议会产生这么大的政治影响?

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IT HAS been a kind of reverse crime drama. The culprit was clear: George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer. The crime scene was the budget statement in Parliament on March 21st. But what was the main offence? At first Mr Osborne was lambasted for restricting pensioners’ tax allowances; then came a class-inflected dust-up about the cost of pasties (the kind you eat, not the kind you wear). But his most grievous measure, it turns out, was to restrict the tax relief available for philanthropy. The ensuing row reveals much about the state of British politics.

这看起来就像是反犯罪连续剧。罪犯很明确:乔治•奥斯本,英国财政大臣。犯罪现场是3月21日在议会公布的预算案。不过罪名是什么?一开始是限制抚恤金领取者的收入免税额,接着是涉及阶级的关于馅饼(吃的那种,不是穿的)(注:pasties还有乳贴的意思)价格的争吵。不过事实证明,最主要的罪名还是限制了慈善事业可用的减税政策。着眼后续的纷争,英国目前的政治状态可察一二。

Mr Osborne announced that, from 2013, a limit would be imposed on the use of several income-tax reliefs that are currently uncapped, including the one for charitable giving. He set the limit at 25% of income for sums above £50,000 ($80,000). An impressive alliance has formed to denounce this move, including charities, universities, backbench Conservative MPs and philanthropists, some of whom are (or were) also Tory donors. Even the Tory party treasurer, Lord Fink, weighed in.

奥斯本宣布,从2013年起,一些现在没有限制的收入免税项目将会被加以限制,其中包括了慈善捐助这一项。他规定,对于收入总额超出50,000英镑(80,000美元)以上的部分,(免税额)不得超过25% 。慈善机构,大学,一些后座保守党议员以及慈善家等各方已经形成了强大的联盟,谴责这一举动。这其中的一些人还是现任或前任托利党员。

This lobby’s most powerful point is that the pinch on giving seems to contradict the government’s own policies, not least David Cameron’s vision of a Big Society, in which voluntary outfits play a bigger role in providing public services. Assorted ministers have been urging universities and arts institutions to raise more cash. “An odd, counterintuitive move,” Charles Saumarez Smith of the Royal Academy of Arts says of Mr Osborne’s gambit. A government consultation paper last year talked about “making it easier to claim the existing tax benefits” for giving (the inheritance-tax rules have indeed been tweaked to encourage legacy donations). Philanthropists could be forgiven for thinking that they have been transformed, in ministerial rhetoric, from heroes to tax-dodgers.

这一游说团体最有力的论点是,在“慷慨解囊”上面榨油水似乎与政府自己的政策相悖,尤其是卡梅伦对英国未来“大社会”的设想,即志愿服务会在公共服务中占有更大的比重。各个阵营的议员们一直在敦促大学和艺术机构筹集更多的资金。皇家艺术学院的查尔斯•索马里斯•史密斯认为奥斯本这个“开场白”是“奇怪的,违反初衷的行动”。一份去年的政府咨询文件提到了“让索求现有的慈善相关的税收利益变得更容易”(政府的确修改了遗产税规定以鼓励遗产捐赠)。慈善家们如果觉得他们——用内阁的话来说——被从英雄转化成了钻空子的人,还真是没什么错。

The government protests that the cap is expected to raise only £50m-100m per year, and to have only a small impact on charities. But many, hurt by reduced giving during the downturn and shrinking government largesse, are fearful. They point out that many donations come from foundations and trusts, which rely on precisely the sort of big gifts that might be hit by restricting tax relief. Moreover, says Adrian Beney of More Partnership, a fund-raising consultancy, such gifts are often essential for capital projects: small donations typically cover running costs, big ones pay for new wings in galleries or hospitals.

政府反驳说,这一限制不过期望筹措每年五千万到一亿英镑,而对慈善事业不会有太大的影响。然而很多依赖于慈善捐款的人都很担心,经济萧条导致捐款减少,政府拨款也大量缩水,这已经让他们很难过了。他们指出,很多捐款来自基金会和信托机构,而这些机构恰恰依赖于最容易受到减税限额影响的高额捐款。此外,“更多伙伴”的安德里恩•本奈,一位资金筹集顾问表示,这些捐赠常常对重要项目起到关键作用:小笔捐赠一般用作运转经费,大额捐赠用来支付艺术馆或者医院的新配楼。

Adjusting for population size, very big donations, of more than £1m or $1m, are already less common in Britain than they are in America, according to work by Beth Breeze of the University of Kent and researchers at Indiana University—though the unshowiness of some British donors makes them hard to count accurately. Closing that gap, which the government wants to do, is only partly a matter of tax policy: ingrained attitudes to religion, a big recipient of American giving, and to the state help to explain it. But the proposed cap seems unlikely to help.

依据肯特大学贝丝•布里兹以及印第安纳大学的研究人员的统计结果,按照人口规模折算,在英国超过一百万英镑,或者一百万美元的巨额捐款已经不如在美国那么常见了——虽然一些英国匿名捐赠者的存在使得他们无法统计得十分精确。想要填补这一差距(这也是英国政府想做的),只有一部分依赖于税收政策:美国人对宗教信仰,对大量的受众以及对国家的根深蒂固的态度也是产生这一差距的原因。不过这次提出的减免额上限大概没什么帮助。

The government made its position worse by arguing, in the early stages of the row, that its aim was to stop people using bogus charities for their own benefit—a problem that, if it exists, can be addressed by regulators. Eventually ministers advanced a better case: that no one should be able to opt out of paying tax altogether, as unlimited reliefs currently allow. Even if their charitable causes are good and no financial benefit accrues to the donor, this argument runs, the rich should help pay for the state. But that rationale raises the question of whether any relief should be available at all. Some economists maintain that such reliefs are distorting and mean higher taxes for everyone else.

在争论初期,政府辩解这一政策的目的是阻止人们用伪慈善谋取私利,而这是一个可以通过管理解决的问题,因此政府的处境更加糟糕。最终部长们提出了更有说服力的论点:没有人可以不交税,而没有上限的税收减免允许了这一情况的发生。及时他们的慈善行为出发点是好的,捐赠者也没有从中牟利,这一观点认为,夫人有义务提供财力支撑国家的运转。不过这又引发了新的问题,即是不是根本就不应该有税务减免这样的政策。有些经济学家坚持认为这样的减免政策会扭曲市场,最终导致所有人的赋税都更加沉重。

One hand clappeth

孤掌难鸣

Both the Treasury and Number 10 hint at a compromise, to be reached after a consultation. One idea is to introduce a separate, higher cap for relief on charitable donations (America has a limit of 50%, though its tax regime is more generous to donors in other ways). But the government seems loth to scrap the cap altogether.

财政部和首相府都示意通过磋商做出一定的让步。可能的办法是单独为慈善捐款设定一个较高的上限值(美国是50%,不过其税务体系在其他方面对慈善捐款人更宽宏大量)。但是政府似乎非常不情愿完全破除这一上限。

That is partly because it has already accumulated a sorry record of U-turns and sideways-turns—from the botched privatisation of forests to the mess of health reform—executed because of shoddy policymaking, media pressure or both. Each climbdown reaps a small, short-term dividend; cumulatively, they diminish the government’s authority.

这一部分是因为政府态度由于政策失当或是迫于媒体压力(有时二者皆有)彻底转弯或者让步的记录已经不少了,比如说搞砸了的森林私有化项目,或者是乱七八糟的医疗改革。每次小小的让步都会导致政府的信任额度短期内缩水一点点,然而日积月累,这总会削弱政府的权威性。

It also feels it needs to compensate—or atone—for cutting the 50% top rate of tax to 45%, a budget measure trailed and fought over in advance, by pinching the rich in other ways. That is necessary not only to appease voters, who mostly opposed the tax cut, but also the Liberal Democrat wing of the coalition, which was sceptical too.

还有一个原因是,政府需要通过在其他方面克扣富人赋税的方式,为最高税率从50%降到45%这一减税政策做些补偿,该政策已经经受了争论。这不仅仅是为了取悦选民——选民大部分都反对减税,也是为了取悦联合政府中的自由民主党,不过自由民主党对此政策也持怀疑态度。

The underlying context of all the budget wrangles is the resentful mood of austerity. That magnifies the anger stoked even by policies that take or transfer relatively small amounts of money. It has made the politics of wealth and class hypersensitive. Every cut or tax rise creates new enemies, if rarely as many as this particular raid. It is perhaps surprising that Mr Osborne has any friends left at all.

关于预算案的纷繁言论之下暗含着对不得不实行财政紧缩政策的反感和无力。这种情绪会放大哪怕是转移相对少量资金的政策引发的愤怒。这已经使财务政治和阶层意识变得非常敏感。每次税务增减都会引来新的敌人,虽然不会每次都这么多。也许到最后奥斯本先生还有朋友才会是令人惊讶的事情。