Since Gift Aid was introduced in the Finance Act 1990, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has been faced with multi-million losses due to its abuse. Whether through avoidance, fraud or error, the missing revenue came to serve as a catalyst for HMRC to re-evaluate the Gift Aid processes which subsequently lead to the launch of new, stricter guidelines in December 2015.
The new rules put greater emphasis on educating staff and volunteers to avoid both fraud and error by shops operating Gift Aid. To meet the training requirements, charity shop owners or managers must demonstrate that everyone involved with the process, be it a volunteer or someone handling Gift Aid at the head office, has a good understanding of how it works.
Since the new legislation came into force, many charity retailers, especially those who often experience a high turnover of volunteers, have been worried about how to keep up with the compliance burden. Understandably, additional administrative duty may seem daunting, but it’s important to recognise that the process is very flexible and can differ from one charity to another.
All charities should follow a two-stage process to comply with the new guidelines.
First, everyone involved with processing Gift Aid donations should be trained appropriately. Stage two is keeping a record of this training.
The rules require for charities to educate staff and volunteers to be more vigilant when processing donations. Ideally, the training would consist of a verbal induction followed by a simple test which would help the staff and volunteers understand what signing up to Gift Aid is about. If they pass the test to a good standard, that will show the individuals’ capabilities.
At head office level, an employee or volunteer may need to learn about processing Gift Aid revenue and submitting values to HMRC whilst retail staff have to be asking donors the right set of questions in store. Volunteers need to make sure that the items donated actually belong to the person dropping them off.
It is also a requirement for staff and volunteers to ensure that the donor is a UK tax payer before capturing Gift Aid. Whilst employees can help people fill in Gift Aid donation forms, they absolutely have to let the donors review the documentation as well as tick the UK taxpayer box and sign the declaration form which is required as part of the agreement.
The very thought of keeping extensive records causes charities the biggest headaches but the process is actually very flexible. HMRC simply wants to see an audit to show that staff and volunteers have been trained to the required ability in order to fulfil their role in processing Gift Aid donations. As there are no set guidelines for what this should look like, charities can improvise and implement processes best suited to their operations.
Keeping proof of training can be as simple as using a dated document template that all trainees sign along with their manager when they start working with Gift Aid transactions.
The most important consideration here is safe storage as the data must be easily retrievable and ready for reference or even an HMRC audit. Information can be stored physically in a lockable unit or digitally, such as in the cloud.
Last but not least, it’s vital to understand that whilst technology can assist charities to implement training and record keeping, HMRC doesn’t require the process to be digitised.
Those worried that installing new tech or providing staff with online training is a mandatory requirement can therefore breathe a sigh of relief.
Find out more about HMRC’s Gift Aid policy.
Dave Chunilal is technical director at charity EPoS specialist, Nisyst. The company was established in 1991, with a goal to deliver a new and comprehensive solution to the retail, wholesale and charity sectors. Its CHARiot solution for the charity sector is recognised by HMRC and has been developed to deliver specific functionality, taking into consideration factors such as volunteer users and donated goods. It offers purchasing, sales, stock and VAT reports as well as Gift Aid analysis and comprehensive auditing reports for HMRC.