Editorial: Gift Aid loophole will close, but it's not all bad news

There is bad news, good news and an opportunity for heritage and conservation charities in Gordon Brown's announcement on Gift Aid in his pre-budget report last week.

The bad news is that such charities will no longer be able to claim Gift Aid on the cost of admissions to museums, stately homes, zoos and so on.

The Chancellor has closed this so-called loophole, and there is a certain logic in that. You have to stretch a point quite a long way to re-label an admission charge as a donation so it can attract Gift Aid.

The good news is that if those charities affected can persuade visitors to add a donation of at least 10 per cent of the admission fee, they will then be able to claim Gift Aid on the entire amount - admission plus donation.

It looks like a good old British compromise.

However, the likelihood is that there will be a net loss of Gift Aid for charities because they'll find it hard work to persuade all their visitors to make that extra donation. For many people it will seem too much to pay, and explaining the virtues of Gift Aid in a crowded admission queue won't be an easy task.

But the charities have until 2006 before the new regime kicks in, which gives them the time and opportunity to get their act together. Like the sector in general, their task is to educate a public that is woefully uninformed about the modern realities of running a charity, from fundraising to volunteering.

Perhaps the various steering groups set up in the summer to devise a long-term communications strategy for charities should take this new development under their wing and help get the message across.

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