British Charitable trust system


History of British charitable trusts

Charitable trusts originated in the medieval Britain. Devout Christians and Catholics donated personal properties to the Church with the purpose to relieve poverty. With the increasing amount of funding, the Church Utilised abbeys and monastery tight-knit organizations to hold activities from purely religious events expanding to educational, medical and agricultural production secular charitable activities. This is the historical background how charitable trusts are born. by the 16th century, Henry VIII recovered the prohibition of legal land ownership, prohibiting to setting more than 20-year trusts in the name of religion. It thus resulted in the decline of charitable trusts within the main form from the Church. Due to the country’s underdeveloped social policies, civil charitable trusts turned to be used. Thereafter came the rise of public welfare with the aim to save the poor. The development of the British charitable trust system is closely related to the spirit of Christian ethics. It is fundamentally a spontaneous folk behaviour of mutual help, and also gave the birth to the profound cultural foundation of the National Trust after hundred years.

By the 19th century, the charitable trusts are abusedly employed as a tax evasion tool. In order to prevent its vicious development, the focus of developing trust system was laid in establishing the charitable trust supervising mechanism. Based on “The Charitable Trusts Act” in 1853, British government set up Charity Commission to supervise, inspect and counsel for charitable trusts. Before its abolishment in 1939, The Charitable Trusts Act was being applied as the legal basis for British charitable activities. After World War II, the Committee On The Law And Practice Relating To Charitable Trusts was founded. The Charities Act established in 1960, after a few amendments, provides detailed provisions of the subject of charitable activities (including charitable corporations and charitable trusts), the right strengthening of competent authority, the establishment of registration system and management mechanism of free property.


公益信託最早發源於英國中世紀,虔誠的基督 教與天主教徒將個人財產捐贈給教會救濟貧困 之用。隨著數量逐漸增加,教會也利用僧院、修 道院綿密的組織,從單純的信仰活動擴展至教 育、醫療、農業生產等世俗公益活動,此為公益 信託發軔之背景。到了16世紀,亨利八世恢復禁 止法人享有土地所有權的規定,並禁止以宗教 為名設定超過20年的信託,造成以教會為主體 的公益型態式微,而當時國家的社會政策又不 發達,民間公益信託轉而被利用,促成以救貧為 目的的公益事業興起。英國公益信託制度的發 展與基督教倫理精神息息相關,基本上是一種 民間自發性的互助行為,也孕育了百年後國民 信託的深厚文化基礎。

到了19世紀,公益信託有被私人濫用作為逃 稅工具的趨勢,為了防止可能的弊病,當時信 託制度發展的重點便在建立公益信託的監督 機制。依據1853年制定的《公益信託法》(The Charitable Trusts Act),英國政府設立「公 益委員會」 (Charity Commission)作為公益 信託的監督、檢查與輔導機關,至1939年廢止 前,《公益信託法》一直為英國公益活動主要 的法律依據。二次大戰後,「公益信託法與營 運委員會」(Committee On The Law And Practice Relating To Charitable Trusts) 成立,1960年通過《公益法》(The Charities Act),之後歷經多次修正,對於公益活動的主 體(包含公益法人與公益信託)、主管機關權限 的強化、確立登記制度與免稅財產管理機制等 都有了詳盡規定。

British Charitable trust system’s contribution to the development of British culture and the arts

In contemporary Britain, the cultural development is rarely dominated by the official government. The government’s function largely exists in cultural project commissions and regulatory aspects, that is, through the means of setting policies to stimulate local forces for promoting art and culture development; through the establishment of laws and regulations to protect the healthy operation of culture and the arts. Ever since, a variety of non-government agencies and organizations came into being, to take up the responsibilities of research, preservation, promotion and creation, as to promote the prosperity and development of culture and the arts. Among them, the non-profit trust fund system is the source of the entire British art ecosystem.

Thousands of non-government organizations are in operation in the United Kingdom, the backbone of which is those trusts and foundations with enormous financial resources, which have access to every social aspect. They can be divided into public foundations, corporate foundations and individual foundations. All the foundations are able to gain the preferential tax policy under the supervision of the law, which also means to invest part of the government income into broader social affairs. And at the same time, business corporations and individuals can obtain a better social image.

In the UK, the arts trusts and foundations mainly provide financial and technical supports for art creativities, art exhibitions, art research, art protection and art collection. So to speak, the prosperity of British contemporary arts and culture could not ever exist without arts foundations.

In the UK, the non-profit foundations of the culture and arts
are the main advocates for publicizing contemporary arts. They provide a major route of transmission, including museums under the name of the foundations, galleries and art institutions, to realize an initial stage of culture and art spreading through exhibitions and collections, then through books publishing, media release, conferences and art education for further and wider publicity, as to promote a socially profound and broad understanding of arts in all levels of the aesthetic, historical, cultural, social and economic significance. Britain’s culture and art non-profit foundations accelerate the prosperity of art development within
its order, which relate to art production, collection and dissemination, and introduce new artworks to the world by means of art creation projects. They also collect arts from different times and cultural backgrounds, while taking the initiative for external dissemination, laying a significant platform for the development of contemporary human culture.

But there are fears that the strict foundation system and its professional operation, and also its intense involvement with contemporary arts, will exert an objective and profound impact on the development of contemporary arts. It is due to the reason that the recognition and power of decision making of arts are no longer the
artists’ consciousness or spontaneous behaviours. But instead, art trusts’ and foundations’ strong capital strength and effects of their publicity are more likely to influence the degree of public awareness and acceptance of artworks.


當代英國,文化的發展方向很少有來自政府官 方的主導,在很大程度上政府的職能存在於對 文化項目的委託和監管方面,也就是通過政策 激發民間的力量推動文化藝術的發展;通過設 立法律法規來保障文化藝術領域健康的運轉。 於是乎形形色色的非政府機構和組織應運而 生,肩負起研究、保存、推廣和創作等各項職 責,推動文化藝術的繁榮發展。其中,非盈利的 信託基金體系便是整個英國藝術生態系統的生 命之源。

英國有成千上萬的非政府組織,其中的中堅力 量是擁有巨大財力的各色信託和基金會,他們 觸及到社會的方方面面,大致可以分為公立基 金會、企業基金會及個人基金會。各類基金會在 法律的監督下獲得優惠的稅收政策,也就是將 政府的一部份收入投入到更廣泛的社會事務當 中,同時企業和個人也可以獲得更加良好的社 會形象。

在英國,藝術信託和基金對藝術的贊助主要是 對藝術創作、展覽、研究、保護、收藏等方面的 資金、技術支持。可以說,沒有藝術基金會就沒 有英國當代藝術和文化的繁榮局面。

英國的基金會大致有幾種類型,一是綜合性基 金會,二是政府相關基金會,三是企業基金會, 四是由私人收藏或畫廊演變而成的基金會。 在英國,非盈利文化藝術基金會是當代藝術主 要推動者,它們提供了主要的傳播途徑,這裡 包括基金會背後的各級別的美術館、畫廊和一些藝術機構;通過展覽、收藏的方式進行第一 層面的傳播,通過出版書籍、媒體發布、研討會 議、藝術教育等進行深度和廣度上的傳播,促 進全社會對藝術在美學、歷史、文化、社會以及 經濟各個層面上的意義深刻廣泛的認識。英國 的文化藝術類非盈利基金會促進了藝術發展的 繁榮而有序,它涉及到藝術生產、匯集和傳播過 程,它通過對藝術創作項目為世界提供新的藝 術品;也收藏來自各個時代各種文化背景的藝 術;又主動對外傳播,為當代人類文化發展提供 了重要的平台。

但也有人擔心,基金會制度的嚴格和專業化操 作以及對當代藝術的深度介入會客觀的和深刻 的影響當代藝術的發展進程,因為對藝術的認 可和決策力量已經不僅僅是藝術家的自覺和自 發行為,藝術信託和基金會的強大資本力量和 宣傳效果很可能會影響大眾對藝術品的認知和 接受程度。


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