Life has been getting tough for charities recently. Economic downturn has stretched the cash resources of potential donors, returns on cash investments have collapsed, and the falling income tax basic rate has had the paradoxical effect of reducing charity Gift Aid tax relief claims.

Thus any good news is welcome, and this arrived with a small but (relatively) beautifully formed announcement in the 2011 Budget. Previously it had been necessary for a charity to obtain (in some form) a Gift Aid certificate from a donor in order to claim Gift Aid relief on donations. This was in practical terms impossible in the case of cash donations, such as money anonymously placed in collecting tins or (a cause close to my heart) church collection plates, and thus charities missed out on a potential source of income.

The announcement was that each charity would be allowed to reclaim Gift Aid tax relief on up to £5,000 of cash donations without Gift Aid certification, a relief which could be worth up to £1,250 a year to a charity. The slight fly in this particular ointment was that there was a maximum individual specified cash donation of £10 in this respect.

May I respectfully suggest that whoever specified that particular restriction had never emptied a collecting tin or counted a church collection. I am not so hot on eollecting tins, but it is by no means unheard of for £20 notes to make an appearance on our church collection plate. As a churchwarden, my tax planning mind immediately began working overtime on this issue, coming up with one legitimate and one somewhat less legitimate approach to deal with this:

1. Ask the congregation not to give in denominations (I originally typed demoniations – is that the Christian equivalent of a Freudian slip?) of more than £10 (i.e. put two £10 notes on the plate rather than one £20); or

2. Carry a pocket full of £10 notes and exchange them for any £20 notes on the collection plate (of course I would never have  done this …….)

However, I have now been saved the trouble, both practically and to my conscience, by an amendment that makes the minimum donation £20, and my life one heck of a lot easier. Let me make it clear that if anyone feels the need to put a £50 note on our plate I will happily forego the Gift Aid relief!

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