The Treasury is working on "intelligent forms" for Gift Aid that will check in advance whether charities have made mistakes in their calculations before they send them to HM Revenue & Customs, according to Justine Greening, the economic secretary to the Treasury.
Greening was giving evidence at a session of the Public Administration Select Committee yesterday at the House of Commons. The committee was considering the government’s proposals for the big society and its ideas for increasing philanthropy and volunteering.
Greening said she hoped the electronic forms, which would have coding built in to verify Gift Aid calculations, would be ready to use by next year. Charities will not be able to file them with HMRC electronically, however, and will still need to print them out for submission.
A spokesman for the Treasury told Third Sector that the forms would save the government and charities time and money by checking for errors in advance of them being sent off to HMRC.
"This is the next step in the process of reforming Gift Aid," he said.
During the session, to which Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society also gave evidence, several MPs attacked the government’s £100m Transition Fund.
Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, said the application criteria for the fund meant it excluded many grass-roots organisations, which was at odds with the objectives of the big society initiative.
Halfon asked whether the minimum annual income threshold of eligibility for the fund should have been set at £20,000 rather than £50,000, allowing more organisations to apply.
Hurd said the fund was designed to get the money out as quickly as possible. "We had to set some quite tough criteria," he said.
The minister said the fund had received applications totalling £170m from 1,700 organisations.
When questioned on the Big Society Bank, Hurd said he wanted it to be accessible to social enterprises of all sizes, including small organisations.
He said he expected that a chief executive for the Big Society Bank would be appointed within weeks.