HM Revenue & Customs does not have the resources to respond to all the questions charities have about tax, a top official told delegates at the Charity Finance Directors' Group annual tax conference in London last week.
Cathy Wilson, policy adviser on charities at HMRC, said she understood charities wanted "certainty about what the rules are" more than anything else. "But that requires people, and we're cutting our department," she said. "We're having to cut our cloth. We just can't rule on everything."
Wilson said HMRC was overhauling all of its guidance to charities, a project she expected would take two years. When the project was finished, she said, the sector would offer comprehensive guidance.
At the same conference, David Richardson, director of charity, assets and residence at HMRC, said the government would shortly issue a consultation on how donors could receive tax relief on gifts of works of art to charity. It would also, he said, draft legislation in the autumn about the regime relating to in-year tax repayments made to charities.
Richardson said that HRMC was involved in a number of criminal prosecutions involving the misuse of charity tax reliefs.