More than 220 charities have at least one trustee in a tax haven, says regulator

Charity Commission reveals the figure to the Public Accounts Committee as the latter continues its inquiry into the Cup Trust tax-avoidance scandal

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

There are 224 charities registered in England and Wales that have trustees who reside in tax havens, the Charity Commission has revealed.

The figure is contained in correspondence from the commission to Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee. It gives further details on questions raised about the Cup Trust tax-avoidance scandal during the regulator’s appearance before the committee in March.

The commission announced earlier this week that it had launched a statutory inquiry into the Cup Trust, which had an income of £176m over two years but spent just £55,000 on charitable causes in that time. Its corporate trustee, Mountstar PTC, is based in the British Virgin Islands.

During the PAC hearing in March, Hodge asked William Shawcross, chair of the commission, if he knew how many charity trusts and how many trustees were in tax havens. At the time, both Shawcross and Sam Younger, chief executive of the commission, were unable to answer.

In further evidence supplied to the committee, the commission says: "Based on searches of current data the commission holds, 195 charities registered in England and Wales have one or more trustees with a private address in Jersey or Guernsey. Two have trustees with private addresses in the British Virgin Islands and 27 have a trustee in Bermuda."

The commission’s response, written in March but published by the PAC this week, reveals that 6,569 charities have corporate trustees, although they are not necessarily the sole trustees of those charities. Some charities have both corporate and individual trustees.

In a covering letter sent to Hodge with the additional information, the regulator says it has established a new "pre-investigation assessment stage" to assess whether the most serious cases of charity non-compliance should be dealt with as formal statutory inquiries.

Seventy-six charities have gone through the pre-investigation assessment stage and half of those "were taken forward for regulatory action in the form of formal monitoring or statutory inquiry," the letter says.  

It says that 17 per cent of the commission’s staff deal with non-compliance issues. So far in 2012/13, the commission has concluded 29 investigation cases, five of which were statutory inquiries. "We have concluded 61 monitoring cases into the highest risk areas and our intelligence function has carried out 163,037 checks on new trustees, over 35,000 of them in relation to new charities," says the commission’s letter.

During the PAC evidence session, the commission was criticised for not reviewing the Cup Trust’s annual accounts. In its letter to Hodge, the commission says that it has used its power to compel charities to produce financial information on 69 occasions so far this year. 

The letter also reveals that in 17 of the commission’s live investigations it is taking steps to recover charity funds. In three cases, the funds total more than £1m.

The amount of charity income that is subject to regulatory insight as part of the commission’s investigations totals £115m in 2012/13, the regulator says. "These investigative cases have dealt with possible frauds totalling more than £5m, and we have proactively protected £1.8m of charity money from abuse," the letter says.

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