Gift Aid Forum could become a damp squib, warns Stephen Bubb

Leader of chief executives body Acevo says the forum, which held its last meeting yesterday, showed little ambition

A Treasury forum looking into Gift Aid is in danger of becoming a "damp squib" unless significant progress is made quickly, according to Stephen Bubb, chief executive of chief executives body Acevo.

Bubb said there had been a "derisory" level of ambition from the Gift Aid Forum, which held its last meeting yesterday. The forum has met every two months since February to develop a series of proposals for the improvement of charity tax relief.

Acevo said it would fight hard to ensure that proposals due to be presented to Justine Greening, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, at the end of this month included an extension of transitional relief on Gift Aid, a composite rate and considerable simplification of the application process.

"We have serious concerns about the report in its current form," said Nick Carey, policy officer at Acevo, who attended the meeting. "We’ve been talking about reform for two years. If we don’t produce a significant improvement on the status quo, we will have failed."

However, other charity representatives said the forum was close to producing constructive proposals on the reform of Gift Aid.

Attendees said they were unable to reveal what the latest proposals were, but measures such as simplifying the system and filing claims online had been discussed.

"The meeting was difficult because there were people around the table whose primary interest was, rightly, protecting the income of their own members," said Hannah Terrey, head of policy and public affairs at the Charities Aid Foundation. "It was also difficult because we have had to be sensible about what we can ask for in the current climate.

"However, the meeting helped a lot, and I feel much more confident that the recommendations we take to the minister will be clear and realistic."

Katherine Smithson, policy officer at the Charity Finance Directors’ Group, said the forum had discussed how to balance manageable short-term goals with being more ambitious in the long term.

"We needed to look at what we thought was achievable," she said. "But there’s more consensus on what the sector wants. Things such as online filing are becoming more important."

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