The Charity Tax Group has called for clearer guidance on how the General Data Protection Regulation will affect the way charities communicate with donors about issues such as Gift Aid eligibility.
The GDPR, which is will come into force in May 2018, will supersede the Data Protection Act 1998 and impose more stringent requirements on all organisations that process personal data, including charities.
It will include a requirement for people to opt into receiving most communication from charities.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation on the GDPR, which closed yesterday, said the government "pressed hard" in the GDPR negotiations to avoid "unnecessary burdens" on businesses, and asked for views on how the GDPR should be applied in the UK.
The Charity Tax Group’s response to the consultation says that, although the GDPR offers "important and welcome protection to donors", the implementation of the new regulations needs to recognise the practical implications for charities.
This specifically refers to where there are "conflicting obligations" to contact donors for administrative reasons, such as in relation to Gift Aid.
The response says that it is unclear "where the line is drawn" between HM Revenue & Customs guidance – for example, its encouragement of charities to contact donors to reconfirm their Gift Aid eligibility – and the GDPR’s requirements.
This is especially problematic where HMRC guidance does not have a "clear statutory foundation", but where charities are expected to follow it as a matter of good practice, it says.
The consultation response says: "We believe there is a general lack of awareness around the scope of this permissible contact under the new regulations, namely the requirements for neutral language and no additional non-processing motivations (ie marketing or even thanking donors).
"Fundraisers inevitably want to cultivate positive relationships with donors and would benefit from clear guidance on what form contact relating to Gift Aid and other administrative processes can take."
The response calls on HMRC, the Information Commissioner’s Office and charities to set out a clear understanding of what the GDPR allows and prevents when contacting donors in these situations.