Ruchir Shah from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations explains the significance of the crumbs the chancellor offered to the Scottish charity sector in his recent budget.
Last week's budget didn’t put supporting the poorest and most marginalised in our society high on the agenda, and with the third sector increasingly viewed as a thorn in the side of the UK government, it isn't surprising that there wasn’t much for organisations either. Nevertheless, here's a rundown of what was in there that may be of interest to Scottish charities.
A much trailed social investment relief for social enterprises has now been set at 30% for investors. This has been flagged as a new channel for funding in our sector, and looks welcome on the face of it. But a key point here is that it could encourage some wealthy donors to switch away from giving via Gift Aid. It would be a problem if Gift Aid suffers as a result as donations are usually more valuable than loans for charities.
Another point which is unlikely to have been picked up by the mainstream UK press, is the new stamp duty reliefs for charities that jointly buy property with non-charities. Stamp duty was recently devolved to Scotland within legislation for the land and buildings transaction tax. We will need to ensure, therefore, that Scottish ministers use their new tax powers to remove such technical barriers. Property purchase is becoming increasingly important to our sector as we develop charity hubs and co-habit more with other organisations.
We embarrassed the chancellor over his proposed tax cap on charitable giving, we questioned his push for welfare cuts, and we challenged his government's competence over plans to restrict our campaigning activity
Many third sector charities, virtually all in Scotland, will be able to benefit from the new national insurance subsidies for charity and small business employers. These include exemptions for employing under 21s and up to £2,000 cashback on employer contributions.
Other developments include some small concessions on irrecoverable VAT for air ambulance and inland safety boat charities, plus some tweaks for specific tax relief for theatre and arts organisations. There wasn't really anything new announced on the ongoing plans for Gift Aid simplification, tax anti-avoidance rules, digital Gift Aid, and the bedding in of the Gift Aid small donations scheme launched last year.
Our sector has been challenging to the government in the last couple of years. We embarrassed the chancellor over his proposed tax cap on charitable giving, we questioned his push for welfare cuts, and we challenged his government's competence over plans to restrict our campaigning activity. As a sector, we are not in the good books. Not a surprise then, that we didn't get anything stronger from the chancellor in his latest budget.