The Charity SORP making body has recently released guidance on the accounting for corporate gift aid payments made by a trading company to its charitable parent. This has been a hotly debated topic in the charity sector over the last few years.
The guidance comes in the form of an information sheet; “Information sheet 2: Accounting for gift aid payments made by a subsidiary to its charitable parent where no legal obligation to make the payment exists”. It can be accessed here. An information sheet does not have to be followed but it is indicative of best practice.
This is an accounting rather than a tax issue. But we are aware that our members who deal with tax are often expected to have knowledge about the appropriate accounting where tax is involved in some way.
The information sheet gives four examples of how gift aid should be accounted for in different circumstances and including the accounting disclosures that should be made. In particular, where this leads to a change of accounting treatment, and the amounts are material, there will need to be prior period adjustments both for the accounting of the gift aid and the associated tax relief.
A key point to take on board is that The Financial Reporting Council (The FRC) consider that there is no change in accounting practice. Instead, in its view, the debate over the issue has simply clarified what the treatment should always have been. This means that any required change in accounting for gift aid needs to be adopted immediately. The potential change in tax treatment can also be introduced immediately without having to implement the other changes brought about by the FRC’s review of FRS102.
The guidance does not cover any situations where a charity considers that there is a legal obligation in place for the subsidiary to make the gift aid payment to its parent. This would most commonly be through a deed of covenant being in place. It may well be that the large majority of charities do not fall into this category. If a charity does, then the information sheet does provide helpful background information. But it is not the complete picture. In these circumstances it would be wise for a charity to discuss its particular situation at an early stage with its auditors. In some circumstances this could get quite complex. For example, an indefinite deed of covenant could be viewed as a complex financial instrument!
Some charities may also consider putting a deed of covenant in place to enable gift aid payments made after the year end to be accounted for in the period in which the profits it covers arose. This also runs the risk of introducing complexity and a charity is well advised to discuss its circumstances with professional advisers before going down this route.
Richard Bray is Vice-Chairman of the Charity Tax Group and a Member of the Charities SORP Committee