Proposal to allow certain charities to claim under the Small Business Grant Fund – now accepted!

The Charity Tax Group has prepared a briefing for officials at BEIS, MHCLG and HM Treasury proposing that the eligibility criteria for the Small Business Grants Fund be amended to allow charities to make a claim where they would be have been eligible to claim for Small Business Rates Relief, had they not claimed mandatory charity business rates relief.

A small change to the rules could unlock important funding for small charities unable to access many of the Government’s business support measures. It is proposed that the associated costs would be allocated from funds already provided to local authorities by central Government, with the result that there would be no additional cost to the Exchequer. This measure and proposal applies to England only.

On 2 May 2020, the Government has announced that an additional £617 million of grant funding will be made available for distribution by Local Authorities. This additional fund is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. Local Authorities are being asked to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. But local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities. Businesses must be small and able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. There will be three levels of grant payments. The maximum will be £25,000. There will also be grants of £10,000. Local Authorities will have discretion to make payments of any amount under £10,000. It will be for councils to adapt this approach to local circumstances.

Asked for comment by the press, CTG Chairman John Hemming said: “Small charities have expressed frustration that the £10k Small Business Grant Fund is only open to organisations claiming Small Business Rates Relief and not those claiming mandatory charity rates relief. This is despite the fact that many small charities have properties of an equivalent size and have been equally affected by the COVID-19 shutdown and the associated loss of income. CTG, working with sector partners, proposed a tweak to the current rules to allow small charities to claim the grant. With current allocation of the grant funds lower than anticipated by Government, we argued that this pragmatic step could deliver urgent financial stimulus to small charities, at no extra cost to the Exchequer. The announcement that charity properties can be eligible for this additional grant fund is very welcome. While this funding is at the discretion of local authorities, this is a positive announcement for small charities that should ensure some are able to access funding that has unattainable to date. Charities are encouraged to look out for application forms being published by their Local Authorities and to contact them to demonstrate their need for this funding”.

On 13 May 2020, BEIS published additional guidance for local authorities – full details can be found here.

More information on the Small Business Grant Fund, Expanded Retail Discount and Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund can be found here. CTG also manages a detailed COVID-19 Information Hub for charities, including information on the Job Retention Scheme.

Small Business Grant Fund – Proposal by the Charity Tax Group

Small charities are unable to claim the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF), a helpful one-off £10k cash grant introduced to support small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. This is because SBGF is only available to organisations that are in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief (RRR).  A usual pre-requisite for claiming SBRR is that you are not in receipt of any other mandatory rates reliefs (including charity reliefs). It almost always makes sense for charities to make use of this mandatory relief (and in some cases discretionary relief) so there is no need to claim SBBR. However, excluding charities from accessing the SBGF means that they are now seriously disadvantaged compared to other small businesses, despite having properties of comparable size. Some charities can claim under the Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF), but this is limited to charity shops, museums, galleries, theatres, sports clubs etc. This means that many small charities are excluded from Government grants, despite having to close during the lockdown.

We note that as of 27 April 2020, approximately £7.6bn of the £12.3bn allocated to local authorities for the grant funds had been awarded (61%). This equates to 614,000 grants, from an anticipated 965,000 eligible hereditaments. We are aware that local authorities have been working very hard to award these grants, which provide vital support to those organisations that need them. Despite this, it currently seems unlikely that the full £12bn of grants will be claimed (in part due to state aid limits), with the result that local authorities may be liable to reimburse funding allocations to central Government.

This would be a real shame given that there are many small charities that could make use of the £10k SBGF. The charity sector is calling on the Government to make use of funds allocated to local authorities, but which they are unable to award, to support small charities, many of which are unable to access many of the other Government support packages. Sufficient funding is currently held by local authorities and could be distributed quickly to charities in desperate need of a financial stimulus.

This could be achieved by tweaking the eligibility criteria for SBGF to allow charities in receipt of mandatory rates relief to claim, where they would otherwise meet the SBBR eligibility criteria:

  • the charity’s main property has a rateable value of less than £15,000; and
  • where a charity has multiple properties
    • none of the other properties have a rateable value above £2,899;
    • the total rateable value of all their properties is less than £20,000 (£28,000 in London).

As per the current SBGF rules, charities in receipt of the RHLGF would not be eligible. This would be an exceptional provision, tied only to the Small Business Grant Fund and charities in receipt of mandatory relief would not be able to claim SBRR in future.

Charity infrastructure bodies are commissioning a survey of small charities to better quantify the cost of this proposal, but we wanted to raise it urgently with officials, given the pressures on local authorities to allocate funding awarded by central Government. In the meantime, Community Matters Yorkshire have provided an estimate for the number of charity properties likely to fall within this expanded definition, with the data provided below. As the estimates below indicate, the cost would be a fraction of the funds remaining to be allocated by local authorities.

Local authority No. of Charities receiving mandatory rates relief* Charities with RV <£15k Cost Grant funding remaining**
Leeds 1147 250 £2,500,000 £50,589,000
Wakefield 471 100 £1,000,000 £22,544,000
Kirklees 492 100 £1,000,000 £48,350,000
Bradford 847 200 £2,000,000 £64,464,000
Calderdale 375 80 £800,000 £20,570,000

* As per MHCLG NDRR tables

** As per BEIS data on Local authority grant payments

We recognise that the Chancellor has announced a £370m fund for small and medium sized charities, which is due to be distributed by National Lottery Community Fund and other partners. Details of this fund are still to be confirmed, but we understand that it will support locally-focused charities doing most during the outbreak – such as delivering food and medicines and providing financial advice. While this work is very important, it means that other local charities, not directly involved in COVID-19 relief, but equally impacted by the lockdown and drastic reductions in income face severe financial pressures. While some of these charities will be making use of the Job Retention Scheme and furloughing employees, this does not work for all small charities and does not cover other fixed costs such as rent, service charges and utilities. Once the details of the £370m charity package are known, it could also be reasonable to exclude any charities that are in receipt of funding from that scheme exceeding £10k.

The briefing was prepared by the Charity Tax Group with support from the Charity Finance Group and NCVO. The proposal is also supported by the Small Charities Coalition, NAVCA and other local and community infrastructure charities. If you would like to demonstrate your support for this proposal, please contact [email protected] or call 02072221265.

 

Comments

  1. Karen Weaver says:

    Hi and thanks for taking this up. In our local press today I have read about a campaign by small businesses called “Raise the Bar” to raise the rateable value threshold. This would be the main way my charity could be assisted as our rateable value is above £51k for the community building re run (meetings rooms and offices)

  2. Anonymous says:

    This needs clarity urgently as some local authorities are interpreting guidance in a better way and making the grants. So in one area we work in, many charities have already claimed. In others they are being ruled ineligible despite being equal in other ways. It’s not acceptable.

  3. CTG says:

    It is correct that some local authorities are using their discretion to award funding to small charities under the Small Business Grant (influenced perhaps by the fact they have been unable to allocate all the grants provided by central Government). Unfortunately, as you say, it is a postcode lottery as many local authorities are refusing to pay (which is what a strict reading of the rules would suggest is the correct approach). This is why we are pushing for urgent action by BEIS and HM Treasury. Charities interested in supporting this proposal are encouraged to contact CTG at [email protected].

  4. Natalie Sargent says:

    Similar situation in Wales some Charities have been awarded and others have been refused dependent on their Local Authority. Guidance from Business Wales states that the fund is aimed at small businesses and not for profit organisations – yet not for profit organisations are not eligible for SBRR. Needs urgent clarification.

  5. Praful Thakrar says:

    We are a local temple in Leicester which operates as a small charitable organisation and rely mainly on cash donations from the public that attend on a day to day basis. As a result of COVID-19 and subsequent lock down our cash flow has virtually dried up. We have managed to generate some donations via a social media fund raising campaign but this is now also proving very difficult and we are unable to meet our immediate liabilities.

    Currently we are only surviving as a result of the support of our Landlord (the local Council) and Bankers who have given us a grace period of 3 months to defer the payments due to them for rent and loan repayments respectively. We are suggesting a couple of measures that would immediately help the Small Charities Sector and at the same time be cash neutral to the Exchequer:

    1. Allow all Charities to make the GASDS claim immediately – this will give an immediate cash boost to all small charities of £2,000. The cost to the Exchequer would be Nil as the GASDS claim would have to be all paid out eventually during the tax year 2020-21. An announcement by Government GASDS claims would be automatically passed with immediate effect would be most welcome and no new systems would have to be set up by HM Treasury to deal with this.

    2. Bring in a 100% government backed loan guarantee scheme for Small Charities similar to the one they have announced for small businesses but restrict the amount to maximum of £20,000. We believe that this would prove very popular and could save a lot of smaller charities from going under.

  6. CTG says:

    There has been a potentially helpful development over the weekend (details above). While this funding is at the discretion of local authorities, this is a welcome announcement for small charities that should ensure some are able to access funding that has unattainable to date. Charities are encouraged to contact their Local Authorities ASAP to demonstrate their need for this funding – CTG will be liaising with NAVCA, Small Charities Coalition etc, to promote awareness of this development.

  7. nafees says:

    hi
    i am small car dealer i have sublet property in charity building we have 4 more different small business but we pay fixed amount , which is descent amount. but my council no allow any business grant which is really bad but i have all business documents i am VAT register company so please help me what i have to do it
    thanks

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