Government moves to simplify small donations bill at committee stage

The Treasury has agreed to water down the 'community building' element, but critics say this has not addressed the bill's major weaknesses

HM Treasury
HM Treasury

The government has introduced amendments to the Small Charitable Donations Bill designed to make it easier for charities to make claims under the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme.

The bill to introduce the GASDS, which will enable charities to claim Gift Aid-like payments on cash donations of up to £5,000 a year without individual paperwork, is being examined by MPs at the committee stage.

The scheme contains measures to allow charities with multiple local branches to claim the top-up payments at each branch, but it would require donations to be collected in a "community building".

"There has been significant feedback from stakeholders and MPs that the community buildings rule is overly complex," a Treasury spokesman said. "While there is a necessary level of detail in the rules set out in the legislation to avoid the exploitation of the provision and to protect the exchequer, we have looked again at whether there can be some simplification of the rule."

The amendments make it clear that part of a building might qualify as a community building even if the rest does not, and that trustees and staff can qualify as beneficiaries.

But the rule would require donors to be in the building and involved in a charitable activity at the time of their donation. It also requires entry to a community building to be free.

The government has also introduced rules to ensure that charities that share trustees are not seen as "connected" and therefore allowed to make only one claim between them.

But Jane Tully, head of policy at the Charity Finance Group, said the amendments did not address the bill's major weaknesses. She said there was still too much red tape for charities to overcome before they could use the scheme.

"The government still needs to address the unnecessarily high hurdles that charities have to overcome to use this relief," she said.

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