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Il contribuente mecenate

Anno XXII, n. 99, ottobre-dicembre 1987
Centro Einaudi


The patron as tax-payer

This paper looks at the advantages and disadvantages of a system of fiscal incentives to make donations to the arts and culture as a whole. Such incentives have existed for many years in Great Britain, where there are plans to extend their application to the private sector, and in the United States where, on the other hand, they have recently been curtailed. In Italy they have been introduced only recently. The analysis takes in three main issues: the decision-making process from the point of view of the extension or reduction of the degree of 'pluralism' of a given society; the efficiency of facilitations from the point of view of the funding and management of the actvities benefiting; modifications in the distribution of earnings deriving from the integration of public funding with private patronage. The author argues that the defects evident in the system may be largely corrected – albeit not completely eliminated – by adopting exact and specific measures. The latter may prevent patrons from having excessive influence over beneficiaries' choices and, hence, using their donations not for altruistic purposes but for their own private interests. A positive response to the system is induced, most of all, by the fact that it undoubtedly permits a clear increase in pluralism, an essential feature of democratic and liberal societies.