Government refuses to release list of organisations listed as charities for tax purposes

HM Revenue & Customs says it is exempt from having to release the information, which was requested by Third Sector under the Freedom of Information Act

HM Revenue & Customs
HM Revenue & Customs

The government has declined to release a list of all the organisations that are registered as charities for tax purposes. 

A request made by Third Sector using the Freedom of Information Act asked HM Revenue & Customs for a copy of the data it holds on all the charities in its database recognised for tax purposes.

The fields included the charity’s name, its objects, and how those objects benefit the public.

Despite acknowledging that the tax department holds the information in the format requested, it said it was exempt from disclosure by another piece of legislation. 

The response letter stated: “In this instance, the relevant legislation is section 23(1) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA).

“When deciding whether we are prohibited from releasing information under section 23(1) of CRCA, we are required to consider two questions: is the requested information held in connection with one of our functions? And does the information relate to a ‘person’ who is identified, or who could be identified from the information requested?

“CRCA explanatory note 110 makes clear the term ‘person’ includes both natural and legal persons, so, for example, entities such as companies, trusts and charities.”

William Perrin, trustee at the grant-maker the Indigo Trust, had a similar request refused in 2019. 

He said: “It's nonsense that the government refuses to release a list of organisations that get charitable tax benefits. 

“The government demonstrated that they could ignore the same rules they are using to block publication of charities tax benefit recipients when they published lists of furlough recipients. 

“Charities often get lectured about the importance of trust, and the government could play their part with some basic transparency.”

But HMRC said it initially did not publish data on users of the furlough scheme as it would have been a clear breach of the legal confidentiality rules in the CRCA. 

The department said that when the furlough scheme was extended in the autumn, the legislation for the extension to the scheme directed HMRC to publish details of employers that had successfully claimed a grant under the scheme for December 2020 claim periods onwards.

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