A plan to introduce a “pre-donation questionnaire” for supporters before they can make gift aided donations online has been criticised as “completely ridiculous” and damaging to giving.
HM Revenue and Customs updated its guidance on digital gift aid last week, after a dispute with JustGiving over whether charities could claim gift aid on donations on its website signed off with messages of support by more than one person. The “pre-donation questionnaire” was framed by HMRC as a solution to the problem.
A number of sector umbrella bodies have criticised the step however as being “utterly ridiculous” and a retrograde step by the government that will only add further red tape to the gift aid process.
Andrew O’Brien, head of policy and engagement at CFG said: “It’s welcome that HMRC has seen sense on personal messages, but this new pre-donation questionnaire proposal is completely ridiculous. At a time when the sector has been trying to work with the government to simplify the gift aid declaration and make it easier for people to claim, this would be a backward step.
“HMRC needs to explain what it is trying to achieve this with process, before it introduces it. If it is trying to educate donors about what is and what isn’t gift aid-able, this is not the right way to go about it. A pre-donation questionnaire will not put off the bad apples, but is highly likely to confuse legitimate donors.
“Before it takes this retrograde step, HMRC should consult widely with charities and online intermediaries so that we develop a package to improve understanding of gift aid, rather than just adding ever more red tape.”
Michael Birtwistle, senior policy officer at NCVO, said his organisation was also unhappy about the proposals. He said that each extra step donors must go through would reduce the likelihood of giving.
“We’re pretty annoyed,” he said. We’ve done some good with HMRC through the Charity Tax Forum. The new guidance is actually fine. Our problem is with the idea of the new questionnaire, which they’ve decided to bring in without even telling us in advance.
“We’ve just spent two years trying to finalise the wording of the gift aid declaration. That was a simplification exercise and they agreed every step. Then they’ve suddenly unilaterally introduced a whole new questionnaire which flies in the face of that whole process.”
He said that NCVO want HMRC to “follow the normal consultation process”.
Civil Society News has contacted HMRC for a comment.