George Osborne

George Osborne

Changes to the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme could add up to an extra £700,000 in income for churches across Scotland, following new rules introduced in the Budget.

Since April 2013, the Gift Aid scheme allows churches to claim tax repayments on small donations of under £20. Initially churches could make claims on up to £5,000 of small donations. Now that limit has been raised to £8,000.

Rev Alan Gibson, who is Head of Stewardship at the Church of Scotland, says: “The change means that each church should be able to claim a minimum of £2,000 a year in Gift Aid repayments, just for loose cash in collection offering plates. Receiving the full benefit of the Gift Aid scheme does depend on individual churches exercising good stewardship and claiming the maximum amount available. Some churches with additional buildings are currently claiming as much as £3,750 annually.”

If everyone makes full use of the scheme the budget change could mean an additional £700,000 of income for churches across Scotland, he says.

“That’s a sizeable sum, which can be put to good use across the Church and the many projects and community activities it supports.”

The Chancellor, George Osborne, also announced another budget change which could benefit our churches which are listed buildings, by adding £40 million to the Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund.

This additional money increases the total funding available to £55 million. The initial scheme is now closed but the additional funding means more applicants will receive awards which are due to be announced before the end of this month.

Keith Mason, Depute Secretary for the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland, said he had lobbied the Department of Culture on behalf of the Trustees to point out that the fund’s rules had left rural churches at a disadvantage. Department of Culture staff then shared the information with the Treasury.

“Congregations with listed buildings were required to work with a conservation architect. Because most conservation architects are based in the cities, rural churches didn’t have enough time to comply with that rule and produce the required property report and detailed repairs proposals,” he said.

“This change levels the playing field by giving rural churches more time to find a conservation architect.”

The Fund will now reopen to new applications later this year, making awards from an additional £25 million to be allocated during 2016.

• Full story at the Church of Scotland.