Local charities in significant tax and rates relief

08 July 2011

Gift aid and rates relief for charities operating within Northern Ireland amounted to £39.5 million in the last tax year, according to figures released today by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI).

This figure, calculated using data provided by HMRC and Land and Property Services, demonstrates a high level of charitable activity across Northern Ireland as well as the role of the Commission in ensuring the appropriate application of this funding.

This figure indeed almost certainly represents a conservative calculation of tax breaks for local charities. Figures published by the Charity Commission for England and Wales (CCEW) provide greater accuracy on tax breaks afforded to charities in that jurisdiction. CCEW, who register some 162,000 charities at present, have published a tax break figure of £3.34bn for the previous tax year.

A more realistic figure for Northern Ireland charities will emerge when full registration commences and when, as is the case currently in England and Wales, figures become available for all tax breaks including capital gains tax and VAT relief. The Commission expects that greater clarity on such issues will allow for increased public confidence in the operation of local charitable organisations.

A recent survey commissioned by the Commission has indicated that 66% of the public do not understand enough about how charities are operated locally. A third of respondents, furthermore, believe that the Commission will improve how charities in Northern Ireland operate.

Another third have expressed an interest in discovering more about the Commission’s role.
In raising awareness of the work of the new independent regulator, particularly amongst this final set of survey respondents, the Commission’s website has been developed as a useful information point. The public can raise a concern about the operation of a charity through the website, allowing the Commission to investigate and intervene if necessary.

Commenting on the financial data and recent survey findings Chief Commissioner Tom McGrath states;

“The public is funding charitable tax and rate relief to the tune of £57 per Northern Ireland household per year. In the overwhelming majority of cases, charities here apply their funding for the benefit of the public in a wholly legitimate manner.

The CCNI, however, exists to investigate instances where things go wrong, ensuring that the public can have confidence in the good work of charities. The public can easily visit the CCNI website to raise a concern should they lack confidence in the operation of a charity.”

The Commission has investigated some 36 concerns about charities since investigative powers commenced in February 2011.  Raising a concern is a simple process for the public. Information on raising a concern is provided on the Charity Commission website www.charitycommissionni.org.uk

Notes to Editor:
1. The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the new independent regulator established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
2. The £39.5 million figure can be broken down as £22.7 million in gift aid contribution and £16.8 million in rates relief. Figures have been provided by HMRC and Land and Property Services respectively.
3. The public survey statistics are derived from the NI Statistics & Research Agency Omnibus Survey, February 2011
Media Contact
Please contact Sinead Glackin, CCNI Communications Officer, on 02890515492 or 07827338978 for further information.

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