There should be a warm welcome to the new widespread changes to the tax regulations affecting small sports clubs. The government recognised that the original legislation governing the Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASC) was unclear and causing confusion and so after a lengthy public consultation has now set out some new rules to help these clubs and so hopefully to boost participation.
Over the last three years, the Sport and Recreation Alliance has led the way with a series of meetings with officials of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to secure these further tax breaks. The government also got 146 responses to requests for opinions and evidence from sports clubs, representative bodies, individuals and even accounting firms.
In publishing its decisions, Nicky Morgan, the economic secretary to the Treasury, emphasised:”The government believes that participation in sport at a local level should be based on enthusiasm and not on income. Alongside the more generous tax breaks for CASCs, we have made it clearer that they should make them accessible to all.”
The CASC scheme has been one of the success stories of the grassroots of sport, with 6,200 clubs registered across a range of disciplines. These clubs have benefitted through at least 80 percent mandatory business rate relief and even 100 per cent discretionary relief in some cases, as well as the ability to claim Gift Aid on voluntary contributions. In total there has been more than £130m in savings since the scheme was set up in 2002 as well as £12m in Gift Aid.
Now has come a further bonanza. Registered clubs can now generate greater amounts of trading and rental income (up to £50,000 and £30,000 respectively) without being hit by a charge on corporation tax. Gift Aid has also been extended, thus allowing local businesses to give donations to sports clubs, while a trading subsidiary can give more of their profits back to the main club tax free. Clubs now have greater flexibility if they want to reimburse players and officials for subsistence and travel costs and there is more provision for them to make some small payments to their players or competitors. They can also generate as much money as they like from their members, although there is a ceiling of £100,000 from non-members – a member being anyone who plays sport at the club at least 12 times in a year.
The new rules also clarify how a club must be open to the whole community, so as to be able to register as a CASC. A club cannot charge members more than £10 a week or £520 a year or it will have to give special discounts for those people wanting to become members but who cannot afford the fees. No club is allowed to charge more than £31 per week to be eligible for the relief.
Sports clubs make our society happier, healthier and wealthier and tax relief will make a significant difference to them. Now the ambition must be to get changes on the status of PAYE payments due for employees, such as bar staff and receptionists, which prove such an onerous burden on clubs. One victory has been achieved but the fight must go on.