THE small change donated in collection plates, alms bags,
buckets, and boxes could generate an additional £13 million a year
for parishes under a new Gift Aid-style scheme, staff at Church
House, Westminster, estimate.
The Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, first announced in the
Budget last year (News, 25
March 2011), will enable charities to claim Gift Aid-equivalent
payments (25 pence for every £1 collected) on small cash donations
of less than £20, up to a total of £5000, without the need for a
Gift Aid declaration.
The scheme is designed to address the fact that donors may be
reluctant to fill in Gift Aid forms when giving small amounts: for
example, when giving during church-service collections. Only cash
donations are covered: standing orders or cheques are not
The Government introduced the Small Charitable Donations Bill
11 May) to Parliament last Friday, and the scheme is expected
to start next April. Those charities that undertake their
charitable work in a community building, including places of
worship, will be eligible for top-up payments on a further £5000 of
To be eligible, the building must be used to host a group of ten
or more people (excluding staff) on six or more occasions a year.
It must be a building that the public, or a section of the public,
have access to at some or all times. Buildings used wholly or
mainly for commercial or residential purposes are excluded.
This "community building" element of the scheme is beneficial
to organisations, including the Church of England, which have a
centralised structure. It means that each church in a parish can
claim up to £5000 of donations. A church charity operating from a
cathedral with 100 parish churches, for example, could claim top-up
payments on up to £505,000 of donations (up to £5000 per church,
plus up to £5000 collected by the cathedral).
The Bill includes provisions that are designed to protect the
scheme from fraud, but some charities have criticised them as
A charity will need to have a "good track record" for claiming
Gift Aid for three years, before being able to make a claim under
the scheme. It will also need to make at least one Gift Aid claim
every year, alongside the top-up payments. The Government hopes
that more charities will now claim Gift Aid.
Responding to the Government's consultation on the Bill last
month, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary
Organisations, Sir Stuart Etherington, said: "Some of the
restrictions are hugely complex to understand, and we fear this
will be a barrier to charities' taking part in the scheme."
But the national stewardship and resources officer at the Church
of England, John Preston, said that the scheme would be "of real
help to parishes. . . Some have expressed concern about complexity,
but this is restricted to the claims limits, and full guidance for
parishes will be available around the end of the year. We
anticipate the operation of the scheme will be
It is estimated that the Church of England has more than 600,000
regular donors, of whom about 85 per cent give under Gift Aid.
The economic secretary to the Treasury, Chloe Smith, said that
the Bill was part of the Government's drive to build "a more
socially conscious society".