Does Your Church Have Any Public Benefit…..The Government Is Not Sure

Does your Church benefit from claiming tax back on donations given via Gift Aid?
Are you aware that Christian Churches might loose this benefit?

The Charities Act 2006 removed the legal presumption that charities established for the advancement of religion have purposes that are for the public benefit.

 

Public benefit’ is not defined in the Charities Act 2006 and it has specifically been left to the Charity Commission to consult on the matter. Christian churches & charities will now have to prove their ‘public benefit’ to the Charity Commission.
Following on from a consultation on the draft public benefit guidance there are a number of other consultations on which Christian charities are urged to respond.

The Government plan is that each church will have to prove its ‘public benefit’ every year. Those who fail to persuade Civil Servants would be de-registered.
The oddly named Office of Third Sector is consulting on changes to the Accounting and Reporting Framework, this will end on the 14 September 2007 with 3 questions specific to public benefit, see http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/enhancingcharities/pbaccrep.asp and

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/third_sector/documents/charity_act/pb_reporting.pdf 
As part of an extensive overhaul of charity registration and management of charities the Commission has published a consultation document, looking at whether charities which do not appear to meet a ‘public benefit test’ should lose their rights to Registered Charity status, including tax advantages through Gift Aid.

The Layers Christian Fellowship has submitted an excellent response which can be found at (http://www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/Latest/docs/Charities.pdf)

Church leaders and trustees of Christian organisations should write to the addresses below and respond to the consultations, particularly those on public benefit matters, to demonstrate the depth of concern amongst Christian Churches who are endeavouring to serve the communities in which we live.

The address for the Office of the third sector is:

Helen Morgan
Office of the Third Sector,
Cabinet Office
35 Great Smith Street,
London SW1P 3BQ
E-mail: helen.morgan@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk
(Mark responses: ”Charities Accounts and Reports – Consultation”).

The address for the Charity Commission is:

Charity Commission Direct,
PO Box 1227, Liverpool, L69 3UG, or email
Email addresses: leo.rose@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk
(Mark responses:” Decision Review-consultation”)
ann.marshalsea@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk
(Mark responses: “Complaints and Customer feedback-consultation”)

 

The address for the Ministry of Justice is:

Jenny Patterson
Tribunals Service
Ministry of Justice
Business Development Team
Zone 1.02
1st floor, 4 Abbey Orchard Street,
London SW1P 2BS
E mail address: ctconsultation@tribunals.gsi.gov.uk 
(Mark responses: “Draft Charity Tribunal Rules 2007-Consultation”)

  1. Provided the same thing applies to mosques, I’ve no major objection. I don’t really see how we can claim to be of public benefit any more when so few people go to church.

  2. Liz, You have a good point, the Christian church should not be surprised that a secular government is less than eager to offer financial support to it’s very spiritual aims when there is no tangible benefit to be seen.

    I do think though that Christians in the UK need to put our case to the government on this for the following reasons:
    1. If we consider the work of the average church, many are providing some or all of the following: after school clubs, parent and toddler groups, support groups for the elderly, youth clubs, debt, addiction and pregnancy counselling.
    2. The government wants charities to provide such social functions (obvious thing to do as it is largely free), it would seem politically inept in that case to make it more costly for us to do so;
    3. Surely this is a great opportunity to let the government know just how much we do Monday-Saturday?

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