HMRC has detected and foiled fraudulent gift aid claims from charities totalling more than £10m in each of the last two years, and is considering prosecuting a number of those organisations.
John Kington, the head of HMRC’s charities technical team, confirmed the figure in a letter to the Hospital Broadcasting Association earlier this month, in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The Association had filed the request on 27 June, asking HMRC for any available statistics regarding the amount of detected and/or suspected fraud against the gift aid scheme in the last five years.
In particular, it wanted to know the number of fraudulent claims in each year and the amount claimed fraudulently in each year.
HMRC refused to publish the details requested, saying that to do so would assist the fraudsters’ efforts to cheat the government out of tax receipts.
However, Kington did provide some details outside of the FoI Act:
“HMRC has received several hundred fraudulent claims or attempts to register for gift aid over the last two years, some of them linked,” he wrote.
“Included in these is over £10m in fraudulent claims from charities in each of the years to March 2011 and 2012 which were identified by HMRC risk-assessment processes before repayment was made.”
Asked what action is now being taken against these charities, a spokesman for HMRC told civilsociety.co.uk: “The action taken will depend on the circumstances. Wherever possible we look at taking criminal proceedings against people who carry out fraud against gift aid. Where fraud is carried out by someone within a charity and the charity was unaware of the fraud the charity would not normally lose its entitlement to tax reliefs.”
Pressed on whether any action has already been taken and which charities are under suspicion, he said a number of cases are being considered for criminal prosecution, but he could not discuss individual cases.