The reality is that we are already a nation of extremely generous people, nearly 75 per cent of us give something to charity each year. But it is not in our culture to leave a charitable legacy. Only 7 per cent of us leave something in our wills to such organisations, while in the US the proportion is nearly three times higher. In fact in the UK only 45 per cent leave a will at all.
So let’s add to our generosity of giving while we’re alive by giving more once we’ve gone, and now is the time to make this change. The sluggish economic recovery poses two significant challenges.
Firstly, people have grown frustrated that pay at the top has continued to grow at a time when pay freezes and redundancies have become commonplace.
Secondly, public funding for charities, arts and cultural organisations is inevitably being squeezed as the government tackles the deficit.
The new campaign I launched on Wednesday aims to help tackle both challenges.
By signing up to a pledge to leave at least 10 per cent of their estate to a charity, senior business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson, Lord Myners, Sir Keith Mills and Richard Reed have demonstrated leadership at a time of cynicism about the motives of the top earners. I have great confidence that fellow business leaders, as well as sportspeople and celebrities, will now sign up and support this campaign in the coming months.
While we want the rich and famous to show a lead, the campaign will spread out to reach everyone up and down the country. Anyone with an estate worth more than £325,000 (the tax threshold for inheritance tax) can choose to pledge at least 10 per cent. In return, they will get a cut in the 40 per cent rate of inheritance tax down to 36 per cent as part of the tax changes announced by the chancellor George Osborne in this year’s budget.
That’s why I am delighted that Legacy10 has received the support of the chancellor and the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, both of whom attended our launch event. They have created a tax incentive which benefits the charities. I am determined to ensure that we promote the tax changes that come into force next April.
I am encouraged by a new Populus poll of over 2,000 people, commissioned by Legacy10, that showed that over 80 per cent were unaware of the impending tax changes, but that once told about them over 70 per cent would either make a legacy or consider doing so. Just think what this steady income stream could mean on top of current giving for some of the largest and smallest charities in this country.
Our aim is to change the way we think about charitable giving. And it will be future generations who will benefit most. Perhaps our children will forgive a little material loss if we can deliver a better Britain than the one we have inherited.
Roland Rudd is founder and chairman of Legacy10.