Tax incentives for charitable giving

14 Aug 2018

charity boxes

Many of us are keen to support charitable causes, either during our lifetimes or by including bequests in our wills. A number of tax reliefs are made available to incentivise taxpayers to donate to charity – Gift Aid being the most commonly used income tax relief. This article considers the various options available and the associated tax savings.

Gifts during your lifetime

If you wish to donate cash to a charity during your lifetime, the Gift Aid scheme is particularly beneficial as it provides tax relief to both the charity and the donor. Relief is available on donations to both UK registered charities and, subject to certain conditions, those located in other European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

As long as you are a UK taxpayer and sign a Gift Aid declaration, the charity is able to reclaim basic rate tax, which equates to 25p for every £1 donated.

Before signing the declaration, you should satisfy yourself that the tax reclaimed by the charity will not exceed your income tax and capital gains tax liability in the year; otherwise you will be required to pay the shortfall.

If you are a higher rate or additional rate taxpayer, you can claim further income tax relief in respect of the gift, through your tax return.

The tax benefit of a cash donation to charity under the Gift Aid scheme can be advanced to the previous tax year. To do this, the cash gift must be made before tax return for the previous tax year has been submitted and the tax return must be submitted on time.

Tax relief is also available if you give certain qualifying assets to charity. These assets include:

  • Shares or securities listed on a recognised stock exchange (including London and any recognised overseas stock exchange). AIM listed shares are also eligible.
  • Units in authorised unit trusts and shares in open-ended investment companies.
  • Freehold or leasehold interests in land in the UK.

You will receive income tax relief by deducting the market value of the asset from your taxable income, through a claim in your tax return. This will save you tax of up to 45% of the value of the asset, depending on your tax rate.

In addition, the gift of an asset may give rise to a capital gains tax charge if the asset has increased in value. However, if a gift is made to a registered charity, the disposal will be exempt from capital gains tax.

The extension of Gift Aid to EEA countries was brought in as our then rules restricting relief to UK charities contravened EU law. Once the UK leaves the EU, the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have powers to restrict the relief again to UK charities and so taxpayers may wish to bring forward donations to EEA charities, should they wish to benefit from the current rules.

Giving to charity in your will

Generally, inheritance tax is payable at a rate of 40% on an estate worth over £325,000. Gifts left to charity on death benefit from an exemption from inheritance tax. This exemption extends to gifts of any asset, including cash.

In addition, if 10% or more of your total estate is left to charity, a reduced inheritance tax rate of 36% will apply. The lower rate of tax has proved attractive to many people and has encouraged them to increase the amount given to charity. When the numbers are worked through, the lower tax burden can often mean that more is received by the eventual beneficiaries of the estate.

Long-term giving

Donating to an existing charity may not suit everyone’s philanthropic objectives. Wealthier individuals who require a greater degree of control and flexibility over how their funds are used, and the causes that benefit, might decide to set up and fund their own charity instead.

Charitable trusts are often used, and once they are set up and registered, the reliefs mentioned earlier in this article will apply to any gifts made to the trust. Another popular vehicle is a company limited by guarantee.

Charitable trusts are established by a deed, which a solicitor will need to draw up. The deed will usually set out the objectives of the charity and the causes it will support, along with the names of the initial trustees. The trustees have overall responsibility for ensuring the charity meets its charitable objectives and its legal and reporting obligations.

Once the trust has been established, it should be registered with the charity commission and with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This will ensure that the trust benefits from the tax exemptions available to charities. A solicitor or accountant can assist with these applications.

Depending on the size of the trust, it will need to file accounts and a return to the Charity Commission on an annual basis.

Setting up and running a charity does involve a certain degree of administration. However, with the right advice, this can be very rewarding and offer the chance to leave a lasting legacy that continues beyond your own lifetime.

Non-domiciled individuals

A UK resident non-domiciled (non-dom) individual can receive tax relief for gifts to charities in the same way as an individual who is domiciled in the UK.

However, if you are a resident non-dom and you opt for the remittance basis of taxation, the gift of cash or assets from overseas to a UK charity may be treated as a remittance of income or gains to the UK and is therefore subject to an income tax or capital gains tax charge in the UK.

To prevent a remittance to the UK, and any associated tax charge, you may consider making donations via an overseas bank account of the charity concerned.

Those who give to charity are nearly always driven by a desire to help causes that are close to their own hearts, but there are many practical ways to make their gift/s. While some donors prefer to make one-off donations during their lifetime, others prefer to leave legacies in their wills or set up their own charities.

By understanding and maximising the tax reliefs available, there is potential for individuals to increase the amount their chosen charity receives, as well as reducing their own tax bills.

For advice regarding any of the options raised here, please speak to your usual Saffery Champness partner or our Not-for-Profit Group.