COVID-19 – Ways charities can use tax to ease cash flow

Whilst the UK Government announced a package of support for the third sector to assist it through the current crisis, many in the sector have still been left disappointed by the support offered. However, charities can look to established tax benefits to help ease their cash flows and assist them through the current crisis.

1. Consider reclaiming Gift Aid on cancelled events

Charities have seen numerous events cancelled due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and many have seen their supporters donate money instead of taking a refund for these cancelled events. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has clarified that in these situations, your charity may claim Gift Aid on the donation, provided the usual Gift Aid conditions are met; in particular:

  • The donor does not receive a benefit as a result of their donation;
  • The donor agrees that the cost of their event ticket becomes their donation;
  • The donor completes a Gift Aid declaration form; and
  • The charity keeps an audit trail including the donor’s confirmation that the cost of the event tickets becomes their donation.

Any event which has been postponed, instead of being cancelled, will not be eligible to exploit these relaxations in the Gift Aid rules.

2. Reclaim Gift Aid under the Retail Gift Aid as normal, but ensure all administration is up to date on returning to the office

HMRC has clarified that charities that operate the Retail Gift Aid Scheme can continue to make Gift Aid reclaims, even if they have not yet sent oral confirmation letters. Those charities should send their oral confirmation letters at a later date and adjust any future Gift Aid reclaims if any consent is withdrawn by donors.

Similarly, where charities are temporarily unable to access their mail, they can continue to reclaim Gift Aid where they have no knowledge of returned notifications. These charities should ensure that, when offices are open and mail is being opened, that appropriate action is taken with regards to their returned notifications.

3. Consider reclaiming Gift Aid on Membership Subscriptions

HMRC are aware that some charities are temporarily suspending collections of membership subscriptions during the current crisis. Despite this, members continue to make voluntary contributions to support their charity or Community Amateur Sports Club. Any voluntary donations made by members, or any voluntary donations made over and above their membership subscription, may be eligible for Gift Aid provided the usual Gift Aid rules apply.

4. Make use of Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS)

A significant minority of charities, such as churches, will receive regular small donations of less than £30 from donors. These charities may not be receiving these regular small donations and HMRC have now clarified that, where a donor has been ‘saving up’ their usual donation and makes a single large donation of more than £30 once the current crisis is over, then this will still apply for the GASDS. This is provided that the charity is happy that this would have been separate ‘small donations’

5. Consider Whether Gift Aid Payments from Trading Subsidiaries are appropriate

Many charities that operate trading subsidiaries receive Gift Aid donations equal to the subsidiary’s taxable profits. This tax efficient mechanism allows charities to undertake non-charitable trading in a way that protects their own charitable status, and allows the trading subsidiary to reduce its taxable profits to £nil, ensuring a £nil corporation tax liability across both entities.

In recent years legal advice was obtained to confirm that Gift Aid donations from a trading subsidiary are a distribution, and trading subsidiaries need to ensure they have sufficient distributable reserves before making a Gift Aid donation. Many trading subsidiaries will now find that they do not have sufficient distributable reserves to Gift Aid taxable profits to their charity payment, but it is worthwhile bearing in mind:

  • Any interim Gift Aid payments made to the charity during the year will continue to be tax deductible for the trading subsidiary, provided the subsidiary can demonstrate that it had sufficient distributable reserves to make the donation at the time the donation was made;
  • If your subsidiary is planning to continue to make Gift Aid donations during the current crisis, the directors of the subsidiary should ensure that accounts are drawn up to evidence that there are sufficient distributable reserves to make the donation;
  • Remember the subsidiary has 9 months after its accounting year end to make a Gift Aid donation to its charity parent. If your subsidiary does not currently have distributable reserves to make a Gift Aid payment, it will be worthwhile checking the reserves position further down the line;
  • Even if your subsidiary cannot make its usual Gift Aid donation and must make a corporation tax payment, the company can agree a payment plan with HMRC if it is unable to pay its corporation tax liability in full within 9 months of its accounting year end;
  • Check if your subsidiary has a deed of covenant with the charity legally requiring a Gift Aid distribution. If this is the case, the covenant should stipulate that this is provided that there is sufficient distributable reserves. If there is a deed of covenant in place and sufficient distributable reserves, your subsidiary may be legally required to make a Gift Aid payment to its charity parent.

And remember, any donation paid by a trading subsidiary to its charity parent must be physically paid in order for the subsidiary to receive a tax deduction. Many trading subsidiaries themselves may also be strapped for cash, so consider whether it is worthwhile incurring a corporation tax liability in the subsidiary rather than making the usual Gift Aid donation. This may be a better use of the subsidiaries resources, and leave valuable cash reserves in your subsidiary.

6. Consider the tax treatment of income from the furlough scheme to avoid any unexpected tax liabilities

Many charities will have staff on furlough and be receiving 80% of furloughed staff wages from the UK Government. In these cases, the charity is receiving these wage costs as income, but is this income exempt in the hands of the charity? Provided that furloughed staff undertake work that is in furtherance of the charities’ primary objectives, all of this income will be exempt. Where this is not the case, and staff perhaps work on non-charitable activities which the charity claims exemption under the small trade exemption, this income may be taxable.

If you have a question about charity and tax, please contact Catriona Finnie today at charities@chiene.co.uk