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Do Charitable Donations Attract Tax Relief?

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Yes, charitable donations given via Gift Aid do attract tax relief. If you compelte an Income Tax Return it’s worth understanding the basics so that you don’t miss out on additional tax relief or fall foul of one of the hidden traps of Gift Aid.

Regular donations supported by a Gift Aid Declaration
This is a very effective way to make your donations. You must first complete a Gift Aid declaration form provided by the charity to which you wish to contribute. You may then, for example, choose to set-up a monthly standing order using your assigned Gift Aid reference. Provided you are a taxpayer the charity will then claim an extra 25p for every £1 you donate. Brilliant! In fact, higher rate taxpayers will later go on to claim additional tax relief as long as they declare these donations on their Income Tax Return or let HMRC know to include them in your Tax Code.

This arrangement usually works fine, but the self-employed or small limited company director should beware – It is possible that this arrangement could cause a tax liability to arise upon completion of your Income Tax Return.

Gift Aid – the hidden trap
Taxpayers benefit from Gift Aid, non-taxpayers don’t. Strictly speaking your donations will qualify as long as they’re not more than 4 times what you have paid in tax in that tax year. The problem arises because the self-employed person might be a taxpayer one year but not the next. Small limited company directors sometimes pay no personal income tax, especially if their dividends are under the Dividend Allowance.

If you cease to be or are not expecting to be a taxpayer in the current year you should tell the charity and cancel any existing Gift Aid arrangements. Failure to do so will mean that when you complete your Income Tax Return you’ll be required to repay the tax that the charity has reclaimed.

Of course, you can continue to make your regular monthly standing order / direct debit payment to the charity but if you’re not a taxpayer for any given year you’ll be better off cancelling your Gift Aid arrangement.

Finally, for those that like to squeeze a little more out of the tax man
Let’s presume you’re a small limited company director earning under the higher rate tax threshold and only in receipt of your company salary and modest dividends. In that case you might not be a taxpayer. However, there is a way that your donations can continue to attract tax relief for your chosen charity under the Gift Aid small donations scheme:

Charities can claim an additional 25% on cash donations of £20 or less, even if you don’t have a Gift Aid declaration. So, if the small company director is able to physically contribute cash each month the charity will benefit from Gift Aid regardless of his status as a taxpayer!

(Article last updated February 2018)

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