Charities must change the wording of their Gift Aid declarations to comply with the law, according to HM Revenue & Customs.
In a statement on its website, HMRC said that it had updated its guidance on Gift Aid and published new model Gift Aid declarations, as well as a checklist of all the information that must be included in declarations.
The new model declarations feature a change in wording. Donors must now confirm that they will pay enough tax to cover all donations they intend to make that year.
Before now they were required only to confirm that they would pay enough tax to cover the gift referred to on the form.
Nick Beecham, a specialist tax lawyer at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, said HMRC had confirmed to him that Gift Aid declarations made before the new statement would remain valid. "This doesn’t represent a change in the law," he said. "It’s just a change in what HMRC requires.
"It’s always been the case that the donor must pay enough tax to cover all of his charitable donations, rather than just the donations he’s making to the charity giving him the form. But HMRC has never required charities to make that clear before now."
Beecham said the way HMRC had handled the decision was not satisfactory. "It’s suddenly announced this change out of the blue," he said. "Suddenly, charities that relied on the old guidance are in the wrong.
"Most charities aren’t in the habit of reading the revenue website every day and won’t know about this."
He said HMRC should give charities time to change to the new declarations.
HMRC declined to comment on Beecham’s comments.
Its new guidance also says that charities should keep Gift Aid records for six years, rather than four, as its previous guidance said.
"If records for this period have been destroyed based on previous guidance, HMRC will not penalise charities for not having the full six years’ worth of records," the guidance says.