Charities need to begin preparing for the new online filing system for Gift Aid, the HM Revenue & Customs official managing the programme told an audience of charity finance specialists yesterday.
Peter Mills, programme manager for Charities Online, told the Charity Finance Group London members meeting that although the service does not go live until 22 April, charities could already sign up and access the spreadsheets needed to make claims.
"For the vast majority of organisations, the spreadsheet we’ve provided is simple, easy to populate and has a cut-and-paste facility you can use with your own database," he said. "It’s available now. I recommend you try it."
But he said a straw poll of CFG members had revealed that "only a smattering" of organisations had tried out the system.
Mills said charities that submitted applications more than 1,000 lines long would need to develop their own software, but this affected only about 470 charities.
He confirmed that charities could continue to use existing paper forms until September. But they would not be able to use the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme without signing up to the new system.
The GASDS allows charities to claim Gift Aid-like relief on small donations totalling up to £5,000 a year without individual paperwork.
In response to questions about why the system had been introduced so quickly, Mills said it had to be in place in time to allow charities to claim under the GASDS.
He said that charities would have to include postcode information under the new system, which he said was an anti-fraud measure, but that charities would have a year before including this information became compulsory.He said about 70,000 charities made a claim at least once a year, and 120,000 'live' charities had made a claim in the past four years.