Research Handbook on Not-For-Profit Law
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Research Handbook on Not-For-Profit Law

Edited by Matthew Harding

This Research Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of scholarship on not-for-profit law. The chapters, written by world leading experts, explore key ideas and debates in relation to: theories of the not-for-profit sector, the composition and scope of that sector, not-for-profit organisations and the constitution, the legal conception of charity, the tax treatment of not-for-profit organisations and the regulation of not-for-profits. The book serves to represent not-for-profit law as a field of academic inquiry, and to point the way to future research in that field.
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Chapter 14: Charity in common law and civilian traditions

Michael H Lubetsky


This chapter examines the legal definition of charity in common law and civilian legal traditions. The chapter begins with Roman law, outlining the origins of the civilian approach to defining charity for legal purposes. It then considers the reception and treatment of English charity law in the United States of America, and demonstrates that US courts came to recognize the civilian origins of English charity law. Finally, the chapter examines the famous case of Commissioners for Special Purposes of Income Tax v Pemsel, and emphasizes the ways in which that case demanded reflection on the relation of the legal definitions of charity in the English common law and the Scottish hybrid systems. Throughout, the chapter emphasizes that common law and civilian legal traditions share common Roman roots and have interacted for centuries in relation to the legal definition of charity.

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