Could your generosity end up costing you?

If you’ve given some money or household items to a charity recently, the chances are you’ve been asked whether you’d like to ‘Gift Aid’ your donation.

The representative of the charity will have told you that this claim increases your gift by 25%.  So, for every £80 donated, the charity receives £100 – made up of your own donation of £80 and £20 of tax reclaimed from HMRC.

On the face of it, the Gift Aid option may seem like an obvious choice, but there is a potential downside.  If you have not paid sufficient income tax or capital gains tax during the year to cover the reclaimed tax, HMRC will require you to make up the difference, which may result in an unexpected tax bill due to your generosity!

It’s an issue which is likely to take on a greater prominence, as recent changes to the way in which investment income is taxed will result in many individuals ceasing to be taxpayers:

  • Prior to 6 April 2016, dividends were received with a notional credit which was included when calculating tax paid for Gift Aid purposes, but the notional credit has now been abolished and the first £5,000 of dividend income (decreasing to the first £2,000 from 6 April 2018) is taxed at a rate of 0%; and


  • The savings rate of income tax offers another 0% tax band available to individuals with interest income falling within the first £5,000 in excess of their personal allowance.


These changes will disproportionately affect pensioners with modest incomes and owners of companies who remunerate themselves in the most tax-efficient way.

Many of the individuals that will be impacted by this change are not required prepare tax returns each year. It does seem likely, however, that because of HMRC’s digital and information gathering powers, they will soon be able to identify non-taxpayers who have made Gift Aid donations and pass on an unexpected bill to the donor.

It’s therefore worth considering your own position, as well as that of those close to you. You may have some options to ensure that neither you nor the charity lose out.

If you feel that you might be caught out, but your spouse would not, it’s worth considering getting them to make the donation instead.

If you are the owner of a small company, it may be possible to make the charitable donations through the business, rather than on an individual level.  Although a company cannot make donations through the Gift Aid scheme, it should receive corporation tax relief on the donations and there may be scope to increase the amount you give to reflect this.

If you believe that you may be adversely affected by these changes, it’s worth having a chat with your accountant.