Scottish private schools’ status law review sought

Concerns were raised that independent schools could seek charitable status as a means of avoiding tax. Picture: Getty
Concerns were raised that independent schools could seek charitable status as a means of avoiding tax. Picture: Getty
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MSPs are to ask the Scottish Government to consider reviewing decade-old legislation that determines whether private schools can keep their charitable status.

Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee will write to ministers to seek clarification on whether there are plans to look again at the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.

The legislation, overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR), includes a test which requires charities to provide a public benefit.

OSCR has reviewed 52 private schools since 2007 and failed ten largely on the grounds that their means-tested assistance was ‘insufficient’ and their provision of fee-free activities ‘minimal’.

Calls to scrap charitable status of private schools

All subsequently widened access and addressed other failings.

The committee is currently considering a petition by campaigner Ashley Husband Powton calling for private schools to be stripped of their charitable status.

Member John Wilson MSP raised concerns that charitable status could be sought by independent schools and other organisations as a means of avoiding tax.

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Hanzala Malik MSP added: “I do feel that more and more organisations are jumping on the bandwagon, it’s becoming very fashionable to become registered charities to try and somehow avoid paying various taxes and so on, and I think we really need to look at this again as a Parliament.”

OSCR head of registration Martin Tyson told the committee that he thought the test was “fit for purpose” but head of engagement Judith Turbyne said the regulator would be open to a review.

She said: “At the moment we feel that it’s workable, there are technical things that we’ve put forward, suggestions to ministers that we’d like to change.

“We’re favourable in reviewing the Act because we’re coming up for 10 years, we would be very pro that, but I think that has to be something that takes all different sectors into account.”

MSPs backed a suggestion by Mr Wilson for the committee to write to the Scottish Government to clarify whether it intends to review the legislation in its tenth year.

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