Gift aid: power to impose penalties on charities and intermediaries

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 7 Gorffennaf 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The clause relates to gift aid and will allow HMRC to impose penalties on intermediaries that fail to comply with new requirements on gift aid declarations, as set out in secondary legislation that has not yet been published. A technical consultation on those draft regulations is apparently being carried out later this year. To understand the clause, therefore, the Committee might find some background useful.

The Government want to make it easier to claim gift aid on donations given through digital channels. At the moment, a charity requires a gift aid declaration from a donor in order to be able to claim gift aid. Where donations are made by an intermediary—through a website such as, or by text—the situation is difficult, because the intermediary has to collect the declaration from the donor and then pass it on to the charity.

The Government therefore carried out a consultation on digital giving, which ran from July to September 2013, and published their response in April 2014. The consultation received more than 100 responses, and I understand that meetings have been held with representatives of both charities and intermediaries. The Government’s intention, as I understand it, is to allow gift aid declarations to be made by intermediaries representing individuals, and to allow charities to use such declarations to claim gift aid. The primary legislation that gave the Government the power to do that was enacted in the Finance Act 2014. Clause 161 simply amends that legislation so that the regulations, when published, may also include a penalty for intermediaries who fail to comply with the requirement, as well as a right of appeal against those penalties. Regulations for the requirements and penalties will be published later this year.

According to the policy paper, the Exchequer impact of the changes are not known, but the measure is expected to decrease net receipts, as there will be a higher level of gift aid on donations. The paper also states that the measure will affect only intermediaries who fail to comply with legislation, and that they may incur one-off costs to put systems in place to implement the changes. However, estimates of the impact will be made when details of the measure have been finalised.

We completely agree with making it easier for gift aid to be claimed on donations where it is complicated to do so, and we are happy to support the clause, but perhaps the Minister will provide more detail of what the regulations will contain and what the requirements on intermediaries will be.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Exchequer Secretary

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for this opportunity to put on the record a little more of the detail and some of the reasoning behind the measure. Clause 161 gives HMRC the power to impose penalties on intermediaries operating in the charity sector if they fail to comply with new requirements to be set out in regulations. These regulations are designed to make it easier for charities to claim gift aid through digital channels, and draft regulations have been made available to the Committee.

Clause 161 lays the groundwork for delivering the Government’s commitment to giving intermediaries working in the charity sector a greater role in administering gift aid, which allows charitable donations to be made tax-free. Donors can now give through multiple digital channels, including SMS text donations, online portals and, more recently, Twitter. Gift aid legislation has not always kept up with these developments, so in autumn statement 2013, the Government announced plans to explore ways in which charity intermediaries could be given a greater role in administering gift aid. We have worked closely with representatives of charities and intermediaries to develop proposals to give additional flexibility in claiming gift aid through digital channels. The clause is a necessary step in delivering those proposals. It gives HMRC the ability to charge penalties to intermediaries that do not operate within the new rules. This will help to ensure that the additional flexibility for claiming gift aid is not misused, and so help to protect the income and reputation of charities throughout the country.

It may be helpful if I briefly set out how the new proposals will work. Before a charity can claim gift aid on a donation it has received, the donor must have completed a declaration stating both that the donation is eligible for gift aid and that they want the charity to be able to reclaim the tax paid on that donation. Essentially, this allows the donor to give an intermediary permission to complete a gift aid declaration on his or her behalf in respect of donations made through that intermediary. That permission will last for the rest of the tax year, negating the need to complete a gift aid declaration every time a donation is made. Donors will, of course, have the right to cancel that permission at any time. As with any tax relief, the Government must ensure that the gift aid is claimed only when it is right to do so, and clearly rules must be in place to ensure that.

These rules are in everyone’s best interests. They protect the use of taxpayers’ money and the reputation of those charities that benefit from gift aid relief, and encourage intermediaries to act responsibly. For example, it is only right that intermediaries should let donors know the total value of gift aid claimed on their donations over the course of a tax year, as this could affect their tax liability. Consequently, there will be new obligations on intermediaries who choose to offer the new process set out in regulations. Failure to comply with those obligations could result in intermediaries facing a penalty.

If a penalty is imposed, it will be £50 per failure to comply, up to a limit of £3,000 a year. I should stress that although there must be a sanction against those who are careless or negligent, it is not anticipated that HMRC will charge these penalties routinely. There will be scope to suspend them to enable intermediaries to rectify any shortcomings in processes, and of course there will be a right of appeal against a decision to impose a penalty. I want to make it clear that the Government do not propose applying new penalties on charities; they will apply only to intermediaries.

Clause 161 amends the Income Tax Act 2007 to set out when a penalty may be imposed, and the maximum amount that can be imposed for failure to comply, and it confers appeal rights. It also provides that the clause will take effect from a date appointed in regulations. The Government recognise that intermediaries can and indeed do play an important role in assisting charities to get the benefit of gift aid. It is necessary to ensure that the processes under which they operate are robust and not misused to the detriment of charities or their generous donors.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 161 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 162