HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed that charity donations from social giving websites can still be eligible for Gift Aid if they include personal messages from more than one person, providing the account holder is the one making the donation.
In the Gift Aid chapter of HMRC’s guidance on the charity tax system, a new section added on Wednesday clarifies the rules for social giving websites, such as JustGiving, and when Gift Aid can be claimed on donations.
The new guidance confirms that "donors must only claim Gift Aid when donating their own money when using social giving opportunities", but also clarifies that people can claim Gift Aid on donations that include personal messages from friends and family, which are allowed on many social giving websites.
"If you have a social giving account with a charity fundraiser or register a credit or debit card with a fundraising website, then you can only Gift Aid your own donations made through your social giving account," the guidance says.
"You can use your account to transfer money given to you by others to pass on to charity, but you can only claim Gift Aid on your own donations that are charged to your account, and for which you do not receive a compensating payment from others."
It adds: "Some social giving accounts allow a donor to leave a supportive message for a fundraiser participating in a sponsored event, or a dedication message in remembrance of a loved one. It is okay to extend such messages beyond the donor as long as the donation is still of the donor’s own money."
The new guidance comes after a dispute last month between the social giving platform JustGiving and HMRC in which JustGiving claimed there was an increase in Gift Aid rejections after HMRC applied the regulations more stringently.
A blog posted on 15 March by Katharine Scott-Barnett, head of partnerships at JustGiving, claimed the company was asked to "retrospectively remove" Gift Aid claims on donations that referenced more than one person in the name or message boxes on JustGiving pages.
But HMRC denied making any change to how Gift Aid rules were applied.
After the publication of HMRC’s updated guidance, a spokeswoman for JustGiving welcomed the changes.
"JustGiving is delighted that HMRC has now changed its position on Gift Aid claims for individual donations where the accompanying message includes more than one name," the spokeswoman said.
"This means that thousands of affected charities will be able to regain the Gift Aid income that they had lost. JustGiving will be notifying charities as soon as we have a timeframe from HMRC and those charities affected will be able to see the retrospective Gift Aid in their reports on JustGiving."