Review of the Year: On the road to recovery from market crash

Mathew Little

Finance directors and trustees began the year in relieved mood when figures from the WM Company in January revealed that charity investments had posted their first positive annual return since 1999.

This year has seen steady if not spectacular recovery from the three-year stock market crash, with average returns rising by around 5 per cent.

In March, the sector's seduction by hedge funds was criticised by the former chairman of the Charity Finance Directors' Group, Les Jones. He said they were unethical and too risky to be suitable for charities.

The draft version of the revised Sorp was launched in July, with more emphasis on accountability and reporting on objectives and results. It was widely welcomed but debate has raged over whether heritage assets should be valued. Charities claimed that capitalisation gave a misleading impression of disposable wealth.

Also in July, the Children's Society won a partial victory in a VAT tribunal over whether it could recover tax over recruiting direct-debit donors who receive a regular magazine. But the verdict meant that charities could only recover tens of thousands of pounds rather than the millions hoped for. The Children's Society appeal will be heard next June.

In December, Chancellor Gordon Brown finally put the sector out of its misery by outlining a compromise solution to the alleged loophole which allows public access charities to claim Gift Aid on entry fees. There were concerns about a loss of revenue, but also relief that financial disaster had been averted.

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