UK: Tax And Charities

The tax system is more complicated than ever with the unfortunate consequence that many organisations that have little manpower and cash resource to deal with administrative complexity are having to spend time and money to ensure that they stay on the right side of HM Revenue & Customs.

Here are our top tips on the tax issues charities should constantly be considering:


VAT comes top of the list as it is the tax that people most often overlook, particularly in the charity sector where the income which a charity generates may not be subject to income/corporate tax.

Whether or not an activity is charitable or not is irrelevant for VAT. The key concept is whether or not a supply of goods or services has been made in the "course or furtherance of a business". Even though a charity operates on a non-profit making basis, supplies made by that charity can still be made in the course or further of a business and therefore liable to VAT.

Two key areas of difficulty for charities are grant funding and sponsorship.

In relation to grant funding, it is often not clear whether the income being provided is a genuine grant, which is freely giving with nothing being received in return by the grant provider, or is in fact a payment for a service provided to the grant provider. A genuine grant is not subject to VAT. A payment for services, is vatable at the appropriate rate.

Equally, where a charity receives sponsorship from a business organisation, or is provided with lottery funding, the question of what the charity is being asked to provide in return for that sponsorship or funding must always be considered. If the charity is allowing use of its logo, or agreeing to promote the funding provider in some way, the charity is probably providing a service to the funder and it is likely that VAT should be charged.

HM Revenue & Customs recognises that the VAT treatment of grants and sponsorships is not clear cut and is in the process of updating its guidance on the VAT treatment of such payments. It is anticipated that this guidance will be available in the autumn.

Taxable Trading

There is a common misconception that charities are exempt from tax. The trading income of a charity is only exempt from tax if the trading is carried out in fulfilment of the primary purpose of the charity, is ancillary to the primary purposes of the charity, if the trading is mainly carried out by beneficiaries, or if the trade is a VAT exempt fundraising event. In addition, to be exempt from tax, the profits must be applied for charitable purposes.

If a charity carries on a trade which is not in fulfilment of its charitable purposes, then any income generated by that trade will be subject to tax, even if that income is applied for a charitable purpose.

For example, if a charity operates a café which is freely accessible to the general public, then the charity would be subject to tax on the income generated by the café. This makes sense, as it would be unfair if it was possible to obtain a competitive advantage by becoming a charity. If, however, the café was only open to those who were using the charity's facilities e.g. a museum which operates a restricted access café, then the profits arising from the café would be exempt from income tax if applied by the charity for charitable purposes.

If a charity is carrying on a non-charitable trade, then the charity should consider establishing a wholly owned subsidiary company to carry out any taxable trading activity. Adopting such a structure would ring fence risk relating to the trade and ensure that the profits generated by the trade can be received by the charity in a tax efficient manner.

Gift Aid

HM Revenue & Customs has recently been focussing on the validity of gift aid relief claimed by charities, particularly when donations are made using on-line providers, and HMRC now believes that up to £1m of gift aid is currently being paid out when none is in fact due.

As a consequence of the review, HMRC is working with the on-line providers to attempt to improve the checks which are carried out, and also to attempt to educate donors. HMRC is also considering making changes to the gift aid confirmation which a donor is required to give to a charity.

During its review, HMRC found that the common errors made by charities in relation to gift aid claims were:

  • where a fundraiser collected donations from a variety of different sources and then claims gift aid relief on the full amount collected;
  • Money raised through sales of tickets and raffles is donated by one individual;
  • Where the donor received something in return for the donation and the receipt was not within the allowable limits.

In order to ensure that any gift aid claims are valid, charities may wish drawing donors' attention to the fact that a gift aid claim cannot be made in the above circumstances.

© MacRoberts 2017


The material contained in this article is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any particular matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.