Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Could half of our fines go to community groups, charities and social enterprises?

A recent news article suggested that HMRC (the UK's tax collecting agency) pocketed £150m in fines from people filing late tax returns alone. I don't how much money we are contributing to public sector coffers through these, parking and speeding tickets, court fines and other penalty charges;  it must be in the £billions. A friend told me yesterday of how some American cities allow their speeding and parking fine perpetrators to give a tax-deductible donation to charity instead of giving the money to enlarge the government purse. A quick internet search led me to this story about San Francisco. This made me think; imagine if the UK Government - and devolved administrations - committed at least half of our fines would benefit community groups, charities and social enterprises:
  • Fines for our late tax returns could contribute to economic development through supporting the employment of the vulnerable and long-term unemployed;
  • Speeding tickets could support charities and social enterprises promoting a low carbon economy;
  • Court fines could help fund voluntary projects - on a Matching Fund (e.g. matching time with money) basis - in our communities supporting projects that reverse the causes of crime in the first place.
Why should this happen? Because the money could be really effectively used to benefit civil society at large. In order to manage the process well, why don't Government agencies give the money they accrue to the many excellent Community Foundations across the country? This would allow them to spend the money on funding some of the most effective projects and organisations that are transforming our society for the better today - work Community Foundations already do brilliantly.


  1. This is a really interesting debate which really got me thinking. There are lots of positives about this idea, which you have articulated very eloquently, and I was very nearly swayed. Until I got to your examples.

    The bottom line for me is that this means someone has to commit a crime to generate the income, and that could create an ethical dilemma for charities. Imagine a road safety charity relying on people to speed? OK, so that's a bit of an obvious example and there are no doubt plenty of other sensible scenarios, but the reality is that charities have to maximise any significant income stream.

    If the idea were taken up on any scale, I have no doubt that it would be at the expense of other statutory funding. This would leave charities dependent on maximising an income stream from an activity that is wholly contrary to their values and aims!

    Would be interested to hear what others think,

  2. This thing happens in any country, not only in the UK. All the money coming from traffic fines goes to the Governments. If it would go to the community, many things would be achieved in the community's interest. The traffic ticket Toronto law is the same as in the UK, maybe even more severe in penalties.