Museums and Galleries Tax Relief: extending and widening this relief will boost the UK cultural ecosystem

Museum and Galleries Tax Relief came into effect from 1 April 2017, aiming to encourage the development of new exhibitions and incentivise their touring to a wide audience. Unusually, the legislation includes a ‘sunset clause’, which allows the relief to expire in April 2022 if it is not extended by the UK Parliament. We are around a year away from April 2022, so perhaps now is a good time to consider how well the relief is currently being used.

Whilst the relief was modelled on existing creative industry tax reliefs, there are some striking differences. As mentioned above, unless the relief is extended, it will expire next April. Claims are also subject to a cap of £100,000 (for touring exhibitions) and £80,000 (for non-touring exhibitions). This means the value of claims are substantially lower than in other creative industries’ tax reliefs, where no such cap exists.

Despite these caps, take-up of the relief has grown substantially over the years. Figures from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) show:

  • For 2018/19 £4 million was paid, covering 300 exhibitions included within 50 claims.
  • In 2019/20 £16 million was paid, covering 1,045 exhibitions included within 170 claims.

This is obviously an impressive increase in both the value and number of claims, especially for a 1-year period. So how does this compare to other creative industry tax reliefs? For 2019/20, the number of claims for Museum and Galleries Tax Relief is comparable to Theatre Tax Relief claims and is almost double the number of Orchestra Tax Relief Claims. The fact that there is a cap on the amount that can be claimed through Museum and Galleries Tax Relief has an impact on the total value of claims, but it does appear promising that the number of claims is comparable to the more established Theatre Tax Relief, which was introduced  3 years earlier.

All of this points to the fact that the relief is well used in the sector.  Many will undoubtedly have been disappointed to note no mention of an extension at the 2021 Budget. There is another chance for the Government to announce an extension; more tax policy details will be announced on 23 March and I hope that the UK Government will take the opportunity to not just approve the extension of the scheme but also to widen its scope. Currently many exhibitions which include live performances are not eligible for relief, nor are exhibitions that include objects which are for sale, and many organisations lose out on a cash injection as a result.

The Government could also consider widening access to the scheme. Currently, those organisations that provide public benefit, but are not charities, are not eligible.

Most museums and galleries are open to the public free of charge, so the money received from these tax relief claims boosts cash flow, giving a welcome boost of funding to these institutions so they can continue developing further exhibitions. An extension to the relief will be especially welcome in the coming years when, no doubt, we will continue to see the financial impact of the COVID pandemic on charity finances.

If you have any questions about Museums and Galleries Tax Relief, or any other creative industry tax relief, contact Catriona Finnie.

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