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Gift Aid is a UK tax incentive that enables tax-effective giving by individuals to charities in the United Kingdom. Gift Aid was originally introduced in the Finance Act of 1990 for donations given after October 1, 1990, but was originally limited to cash gifts of £600 or more. This threshold was successively reduced, in April 2000 when the policy was substantially revised and the minimum donation limit removed entirely. A similar policy applies to charitable donations by companies that are subject to the UK corporation tax.
Gift Aid was originally intended only for cash donations. However since 2006, HMRC compliant systems have been introduced to allow tax on the income earned by charity shops acting as an agent allowing for the donor to be reclaimed. In order for the charity to operate effectively they will need HMRC-approved systems to be able to record and track the progress of each item from receipt to sale and confirm with the donor that the donation should still go ahead. 
Gift Aid allows individuals who are subject to UK income tax to complete a simple, short declaration that they are a UK taxpayer. Any cash donations that the taxpayer makes to the charity after making a declaration are treated as being made after deduction of income tax at the basic rate (20% in 2011), and the charity can reclaim the basic rate income tax paid on the gift from HMRC. For a basic-rate taxpayer, this adds approximately 25% to the value of any gift made under Gift Aid. Higher-rate taxpayers can claim income tax relief, above and beyond the amount claimed directly by the charities. The rate of the relief for higher-rate taxpayers in 2011 is usually 20%, the difference between the basic rate (20%) and the higher rate (40%) of income tax, although recipients of dividend income (taxed at 10% and 32.5%) can achieve a higher rate of tax relief (22.5%).
Originally, declarations had to be made in writing. Declarations can now be made orally, but the charity must confirm the declaration in writing and keep a copy of the confirmation. If the taxpayer incorrectly makes a declaration, the charity is still able to reclaim the tax that should have been paid on the gift, but the individual is required to pay the same amount to HMRC to make up the difference.
Gift Aid can only be reclaimed on money donated by UK taxpayers. Non-UK taxpayers can make donations but the donation will not be eligible for a tax reclaim from HMRC.
The first charity to introduce Gift Aid on donated goods – where the tax is reclaimed on the value of the goods when sold – was Sue Ryder Care.
A practical example
- Mr Burns donates £100 to charity.
Mr Burns is a higher-rate taxpayer, paying 40% income tax on part of his income. He has made a Gift Aid declaration to the charity. As a result:
- the £100.00 gift is treated as being made after deduction of basic rate tax at 20%. The gross value of the gift before tax is £125 – this is the amount of money a basic rate taxpayer would need to earn to receive £100.00 after tax.
- the charity can claim the £25 of basic rate tax (£100.00 × 20/80) that the taxpayer is treated as having paid on the gift, effectively an extra 25% on top of the value of the £100.00 donation (although until April 2011 a special supplement of £3.21 is paid by HMRC, so that the charity receives the same benefit as before basic rate tax was changed from 22% in April 2008)
- as a higher-rate taxpayer, Mr Burns can also claim back 25% of the gift, £25 (£100.00 × (40 - 20)/80), when he makes his tax return.
The benefits to the charity
|£25||refund from HMRC|
|£3.21||supplement from HMRC|
|Total to charity =||£128.21|
|£25||refund from HMRC|
|Total to charity =||£125|
The cost to the donor
Since 6 April 2008
|less||£25||refund from HMRC in due course|
|Total cost to Mr Burns =||£75|
Revenue to HMRC
Not all monies paid to HMRC during this transaction are refunded.
- Any National Insurance contributions paid by the employer and employee are not refunded.
- Although all income tax paid by the higher-rate taxpayer is refunded, the way this is implemented has the effect of making the cost of the donation smaller than the higher-rate taxpayer may have intended as the following example illustrates:
|£125.00||total received by charity||£125.00||gross income before taxes|
|less||£25.00||the refund from HMRC to the charity||less||£50.00||higher rate (40%) imposed on giver|
|equals||£100.00||paid to charity||equals||£75.00||net income received by giver|
|less||£25.00||the refund from HMRC to the giver||less||£75.00||cost of donation to giver|
|equals||£75.00||cost of donation to giver||£0.00||difference kept by HMRC|
The giver has only really donated £75 of net income, despite having made a payment of £100.
- If the charity does not reclaim the tax this money stays with The Treasury.
- If the giver does not submit a properly completed self-assessment, the refund to the giver stays with The Treasury.
- "Selling goods on behalf of individuals". HM Revenue and Customs. 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- "Sue Ryder Care reclaims £1million extra from the tax man". Sue Ryder Care. 2007-08-28. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- James Kessler QC & Harriet Brown, Taxation of Charities and Non-Profit Organisations, 8th edition 2011, Key Haven Publications