Giving is not taxing!

It’s nice to see someone spruiking the latest technologies for fundraising (“Harnessing power of a crowd is less taxing”, Sydney Morning Herald, March 20). The democratisation of philanthropy – by all means!

And it’s thought-provoking to suggest that more individual giving might eventually let us “pay less tax and still improve social programs and infrastructure”.

But taxes are mandatory, and giving is voluntary. This is not a zero sum game. Taxes are for what the citizens decide, collectively via the ballot box, must be provided for by government – the minimum social standard by which we, as voting citizens, say we need and must have for all who are eligible.

But giving, large or small, is voluntary and is based on one’s desire to personally help, over and above what the government is doing. It’s complementary, not compensatory.

It’s meant to be individual and voluntary. It’s meant to be direct, specific, de-centralised, and non-bureaucratic; when YOU see a need that you personally feel must to be addressed, even if the collective commonwealth thinks otherwise at the time. And it’s even better when the giver is actively involved in the charitable organisation and has line-of-sight over how their funds are prudently spent.

We have a long way to go before we can legitimately claim that “Australia tops list of giving nations”.1 To wit:

  • We have mates we cheerily call “philanthropists” who give away less than ½ of 1% of their net worth per year.
  • We have wealthy individuals/families with billions of dollars in net assets who give little to charity. And some who apparently give nothing – more than 1/3 of our million dollar annual earners (some 8,000 individuals) don’t take even a single tax-deduction for charitable donations2.
  • The most generous person in Australia’s entire history is not an Australian – he’s an American. Originally from New Jersey. He doesn’t even live here. (Thank goodness he likes us!)
  • At the risk of quibbling, please don’t promote giving as:

  • “another tax”, or
  • a means to lower taxes.

Giving is not taxing. It’s one of the most life-affirming things a human being can do. Giving is joyous! Both for the receiver as well as the giver. But you won’t really understand this until you give, and give regularly.
1 “Australia tops list of giving nations”, Sydney Morning Herald, December 20, 2012, p.8.
2 “Philanthropy is big business – except in corporate Australia”, Sydney Morning Herald, Weekend Edition, June 4-5, 2011, Weekend Business, pp. 8-9.

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