2009: the year in charity finance

Our round-up of the key news stories

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The year started with the financial world in turmoil and charities still reeling from the effects of the Icelandic banking failure.

Charities called for special treatment and the Charities Aid Foundation was among those asking for sector organisations to be given their own category for compensation - but in June the Treasury said it could not help.

One bright spot was when Manchester hospital charity Christie's announced that it would recoup the £6.5m it lost in the banking failure from its strategic health authority.

Many in the sector were disappointed that 2009 did not bring reform of Gift Aid, including the possible introduction of an ‘opt-out' system, whereby the exchequer presumes that a donation is eligible for the tax break unless it is otherwise stated.

Both the Budget and this month's pre-Budget report passed with no firm announcements, although the Treasury did subsequently publish the results of research into reform of the system, particularly with regard to higher-rate taxpayers.

The Charity Commission took on the Department of Health over the accounting treatment of NHS charities in October.

Senior Department of Health official Janet Perry told health authorities that any NHS body that was the sole trustee of one of the 30 largest NHS charities had to move that organisation's assets onto its own balance sheet. The commission said this was "wholly inappropriate", however, and threatened charities' independence.

Some of the charities applied to the commission to change their governance structures because they believed it would prevent their accounts being consolidated.

The year ended with the expected announcement in the pre-Budget report that the much-criticised substantial donor legislation, which was introduced two years ago with the intention of stopping wealthy people obtaining advantages from making donations to charity, would be amended to penalise donors rather than charities if the law was broken.

Charities were also urged to respond to an Accounting Standards Board consultation on public benefit entities in order to keep its own statement of recommended practice.

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, warned that the sector had to take part in the consultation or risk seeing the sector's Sorp removed.

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