Charity begins at home: Accountancy and tax charities
Christmas is the season for charitable giving, and Charlotte Barbour encourages those who are interested in tax to donate financial support or volunteer some of their time.
The season is for giving
As Christmas approaches, you may be bombarded by flyers falling out of every hard-copy publication, pressing you to support this charity or that, while unsolicited emails and even phone calls from similar bodies have much the same objective.
Many of these requests are genuinely deserving, but the concentrated impact of charitable demands can be overwhelming – especially when some organisations use sophisticated techniques to apply pressure on potential donors.
In some instances, the charity may be one you’ve supported before. In others it may not be at all clear why they approached you or (worryingly) how they obtained your personal details to make the approach.
Tax relief for charitable giving
When an individual gives to charity, a range of tax reliefs can be available – for income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax. These are explained in simple terms here on gov.uk.
Most charitable donors obtain income tax relief through payroll giving or gift aid. A donation through payroll giving is taken before deduction of PAYE, so tax relief should be obtained automatically at the appropriate rate.
Under gift aid, the charity can claim an extra 25p for every £1 given. Donors who are non-Scottish higher or additional rate taxpayers – or intermediate, higher or top rate Scottish taxpayers – can obtain tax relief on their donations through PAYE or through self-assessment.
ICAS and CIOT
This year has marked a new strategic partnership between ICAS and the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT). As Director of Tax at ICAS and a Member of Council at CIOT, I am keen to encourage readers to support charities backed by each of these Institutes.
CIOT and its associated body the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) are both professional bodies constituted as charities, and they work closely with other independent charities working in the tax field.
Low Incomes Tax Reform Group
The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) is part of CIOT and exists to target help and information towards those in the community least able to afford to pay for tax advice. It tries to make a real difference to their understanding of the tax and related benefits systems, whilst working to make those systems more equitable and accessible for their needs.
LITRG defines low income broadly as households with income below £20,000. Typically these include pensioners, students, low income workers (including employees, self-employed, agency workers and apprentices), those with disabilities and their carers, and migrants.
The majority of people working with LITRG are volunteers. They provide support on consultation groups, in research, in writing and just generally helping out the small core team which runs LITRG. Volunteers operate from their homes or from the premises of sympathetic employers, and can be based anywhere in the world.
The volunteers have a range of experience, from the tax profession (both practice and former HMRC staff) to those without a tax background but a keen interest in helping low-income people to understand their financial situation – for example, those working in the general voluntary sector advisory field with experience of the complexities of tax and benefits interactions.
Tax Help for Older People
Run by the charity Tax Volunteers, Tax Help for Older People is a service providing free, independent and expert help and advice for people aged over 60 on annual incomes below £20,000 who cannot afford to pay for professional tax advice.
With some 420 volunteers and a national call centre, it provides caring and friendly help and advice on personal tax issues through its own expert advisers, in a way that is independent, confidential and individual to users’ needs.
TaxAid UK provides a professional, free, ‘crisis advice service’ to low-income taxpayers across the range of employment and self-employment tax problems that can’t easily be resolved with HMRC.
In particular, TaxAid provides help with resolving tax and tax debt problems by phone and email, with face-to-face advice services in major cities provided free by tax professionals. In addition, the charity trains front-line money and debt advisers in the voluntary sector, supporting them via a dedicated helpline, and meets with HMRC at consultations about tax issues which affect low income earners.
Ways to help
The above charities welcome volunteers with appropriate expertise and interest in tax, and volunteering opportunities are explained here on the CIOT website .
Tax Volunteers and TaxAid also invite donations. Bridge the Gap is a joint campaign by these two charities to raise an extra £300,000 a year for 5 years, with the objective of helping thousands of people who need professional tax advice but can’t afford to pay for it.
Donations received by Bridge the Gap are shared equally between the two charities, and are used to help individuals to get their tax affairs brought up to date, to pay only the right amount of tax, and to learn how to manage their tax affairs in the future.
ICAS, as a leading global professional body of accountants, is not focussed wholly on tax. However, there are two charities which are of particular relevance to ICAS members.
The ICAS Foundation
Launched in 2012, the ICAS Foundation aims to support academically talented young people from disadvantaged communities who wish to go to university by helping them overcome financial barriers which would otherwise deter them from studying accountancy or a finance related degree and reaching their full potential. To be eligible for help from the ICAS Foundation, students must be from families where the parental or guardian income is below £34,000 per annum.
The ICAS Foundation relies on voluntary income through donations from ICAS members and other individuals, and through partnerships with major corporates. It also relies on volunteer mentors to support students or school pupils who want to go to university to study accountancy or finance.
Scottish Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association
The Scottish Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (SCABA) is a charity established in 1919, exactly 100 years ago. It exists to help ICAS members and/or their dependents who are in need, and it has helped hundreds of members and their families to survive hardship.
Ill health, redundancy, unemployment and bereavement are just some of the life events affecting members and their families, with which SCABA has helped. Many of the applicants are also supporting children. Sometimes having a fellow member with whom to discuss problems is welcomed. Sometimes, financial assistance is given by means of a grant or a loan.
SCABA receives funding primarily from donations and legacies provided by ICAS members.
How can you help?
If you wish to donate or offer any other support, all the above charities can be contacted through their websites using the links included above. Any of them would welcome hearing from you.
Have a wonderful Christmas!