The Roman Catholic Church could raise almost £3m from the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme and other religious bodies could raise hundreds of thousands of pounds, Third Sector has calculated.
The GASDS allows charities to claim up to £1,250 of tax relief on donations totalling up to £5,000 collected at each "community building" they run. As most churches and church halls meet this definition, organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Roman Catholic Church could claim for hundreds of locations.
Speaking at the Charity Tax Group annual conference on Wednesday, Cathy Wilson, a senior official at HM Revenue & Customs, told delegates that charities with multiple community buildings would be able to make separate claims for each.
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales told Third Sector there were almost 2,400 churches in the UK and that most of them would collect at least £5,000 a year in cash donations. This means that the new relief could be worth almost £3m to the 23 Roman Catholic diocesan trusts.
The Salvation Army said it operated 700 churches, of which most but not all raised at least £5,000 a year. This suggests they could claim about £800,000 under the GASDS.
The GASDS was introduced by the Small Charitable Donations Act, which came into force earlier this year. It offers a Gift Aid-like relief on small donations without charities having to submit the usual paperwork.
Charities are normally able to claim a maximum of £1,250 of tax relief on donations of up to £5,000. However the "community buildings" clause in the GASDS mean that charities will be able to claim separately under the scheme for each building they operate.
To qualify as a "community building", a premises must be accessible to the public at least part of the time and be used for charitable activities by a group of at least 10 individuals at least six times a year. Money must be collected in the course of a charitable activity.
Typical community buildings are village halls, schools and places of worship.
The rule is designed mainly to remove the differences between religious bodies such as the Church of England, where every parish is a separate charity, and the Roman Catholic Church, where each diocese is a single charitable entity.