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Sponsoring a charity

It's quite common for companies to agree sponsorship deals with charities. Companies usually get something in return for a sponsorship payment, for example by linking your company name (as sponsor) with the charity or project could give your company valuable publicity.

Sponsorship payments that your company make in return for something from the charity are treated differently for tax purposes from simple donations. The way they're treated, and whether or not your company can claim tax relief for them, depends on the nature of the sponsorship arrangement and on the particular circumstances.

This guide explains when you can and when you can't claim tax relief for sponsorship payments your company makes to charity. It also outlines how VAT can apply to things a charity gives your company in exchange for sponsorship.

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Types of sponsorship payment

Sponsorship payments that your company makes to a charity in return for something are treated differently for tax purposes to any donations it might make to charity.

Sponsorship payments

Your company might do a deal with a charity to sponsor it, either by funding a particular event or project, or by sponsoring the charity's general work. The sponsorship deal might involve a one-off payment or a regular amount.

If your company gets something in return for its sponsorship payment then it’s likely to be regarded as a business expense. This could be high-profile advertising and publicity, for example, or perhaps access to the charity's mailing list.

Your company may be able to deduct the sponsorship payments when it works out its profits for tax purposes. But the charity could have to pay tax on the money if it can't use one of the special tax exemptions available to charities. This is because it would be trading income for the charity, not a donation.

Donations

If your business gets nothing in return for the money it gives to charity then it’s a straightforward donation. A simple public acknowledgement of your donation by the charity, perhaps in their newsletter for example, wouldn't normally change this. And there's no reason why you can't generate some positive publicity for your business yourself by highlighting its links to charity.

Companies - but not sole traders or partnerships - that give money to charity can deduct the value from their Corporation Tax profits. The charity won't pay any tax on the donation either, provided they use the money for charitable purposes. See the section below ‘Claiming tax relief for donations to charity’.

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Claiming tax relief for sponsorship payments

Any business - whether a company, partnership or sole trader - may be able to claim tax relief for sponsorship payments it makes to charity if it gets something in return that is related to the business - for example, advertising. You get this relief by treating the payments as allowable business expenses when you work out your profits for tax purposes.

What are business expenses?

Some examples of things your company might get from a charity in return for sponsorship payments that would count as business expenses include:

  • a public endorsement by the charity of your products or services
  • the right to use the charity's logo in your own printed material
  • the right to sell your goods or services at the charity's premises or at an event it holds
  • a link from the charity's website to your own e-commerce website

Generally, any payment your company makes to a charity in return for advertising and publicity is treated as a business expense if your company gets a reasonable return from the charity for its money. However, there are some situations when it may not be completely clear whether a payment you make to charity is:

  • a donation
  • a sponsorship payment that's a business expense

Some payments can be a combination of the two.

If you need help deciding how to treat a payment you make for tax purposes, you can contact your Tax Office for guidance.

Get contact details for your Tax Office

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Claiming tax relief for donations to charity

If your company makes a qualifying donation of money to a charity, you can set the amount of the donation off against your profits for Corporation Tax - potentially reducing your profits to nil, although you can't use the donations to increase any losses.

If you're a sole trader, or your company is a partnership, payments you make to charity may qualify as donations under the Gift Aid scheme. They're personal donations so you won't be able to set them against your profits for tax purposes. But your chosen charity will be able to claim back the equivalent amount of the tax on the donation at the basic rate.

Find out about claiming Corporation Tax relief on gifts of money to charity

Find out more about giving through Gift Aid if you’re a sole trade or partnership

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VAT and sponsorship

Sponsorship payments

If a charity agrees to give your company something in return for the sponsorship payment(s), then the whole of the payment is considered a 'taxable business supply' for VAT purposes. This means that the charity may have to account for VAT on the money it gets. It usually applies if you do a deal with a charity under which it's obliged to give your business something that benefits it significantly, like publicity.

For example, if your company sponsored a charity in return for the right for your logo to appear on its website, this could be a supply of services on which the charity would have to account for VAT. The size or prominence of the logo doesn't really matter - it's the fact that you've paid for the right to have it displayed that counts. The same would apply if the charity agreed to give you the right to use its own logo on your material in return for your sponsorship.

Donations

In some cases a charity may give your business something as small as an acknowledgement of your payment. It's not part of any sponsorship deal, just a way for the charity to thank you for your support. In this situation your payment is treated as a donation for VAT purposes, meaning that the charity doesn't have to account for VAT on it.

Some examples of things a charity could give you to acknowledge your support without having to account for VAT include:

  • flags, lapel pin badges and stickers
  • a mention in its list of sponsors - perhaps in a programme or on a notice
  • naming a building or university chair after you
  • putting your name on the back of a seat in a theatre

You can read more about VAT and sponsorship payments to charities in Notice 701/41 Sponsorship.

Go to VAT Notice 701/41 Sponsorship

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Contacting the HMRC Charities Helpline

For more help you can contact the HMRC Charities Helpline.

Contact the Charities Helpline

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More useful links

Check the tax position if you give company equipment, stock or employee help to charity

Check the tax position if your company gives land, buildings or shares to charity

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