I have just finished my first year as the honorary treasurer for the church in the next village. It is one of 12,600 parishes in England and 51,000 religious groups in the UK.
Many are due to become registered charities in the next few years. With a monthly congregation in the teens, our annual income is £4,236 and we had expenditure of £5,480, including £1,000 towards the diocese’s "parish share" levy. Impossible. It has left £1,000 in the bank, after church insurance and utilities.
We have given £610 out of collections to local charities – the thanks make it all worthwhile. A church in a nearby village, which looks just like ours, has an income approaching half a million. It’s the luck of the draw and the history of endowments, although both churches do the same job.
Managing such a small account has taken a surprisingly long time. Treasurers are the unsung heroes of trustee boards. VAT is the first problem: some can be reclaimed, but the long application forms are completed without any guarantee of recovery. Gift Aid should be so simple.
I think HMRC opens up its "let’s be really difficult" department every January. Market Rasen is not the British Virgin Islands, but it could be with the suspicion levelled at an application. Surely having lower-level cut-offs for both Gift Aid and VAT for smaller charitable organisations and an automatic 90 per cent credit in compensation would save time and expense for everyone.
Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen, email@example.com