Gift Aid on admissions

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Eligible museums and other charitable attractions can invite a donation (in lieu of an admission fee) and reclaim the Gift Aid on the donation.

The right of admission must be for the purpose of viewing property preserved, maintained, kept or created by a charity in pursuit of its charitable purposes. Property is not restricted to land and buildings. It also includes:

  • artefacts
  • works of art (but not performances)
  • plants
  • animals
  • scientific property.

For Gift Aid to be claimed on admissions, one of the following two conditions must be met:

1)    The museum can request a voluntary donation worth 10% or more than the normal admission price. This must be clearly identified to the visitor as a voluntary donation and signs should show both amounts.

Or

2)    A donation is made in return for the right of admission to the property for a 12 month period at all times when the property is open to the public, excluding five days per year for special events (N.B. this annual right of admission must apply to all tickets sold, not just visitors who have filled out a Gift Aid form). This can mean either unlimited free entry or reduced price entry for all visits during the 12 month period. In the latter case, only the fee paid on the first visit qualifies for Gift Aid.

Opinion differs as to which admission option works best. Paying an additional 10% on the fee may be off-putting for visitors; some institutions compensate for this by offering a token of equivalent value that can be redeemed in the shop or café (care must be taken here because the rules around what benefits can be offered to donors are strict – see next section).

Some museums that choose the 12-month right of admission see increased earnings; on average, only 17% of visitors use unlimited passes more than once and they tend to spend more money in shops and cafes when they return.

Admission fees to enter the property for special events like concerts, theatre performances, or fundraising galas do not qualify for Gift Aid. But a suggested voluntary donation alongside the entry fee would qualify for Gift Aid.

Displays of loaned objects or “non-charity” property

In practice, the rules on Gift Aid for admissions can be a lot more complex, particularly the restrictions around claiming the relief on admission to exhibitions or displays of loaned or “non-charity” property.  This scenario is examined in more detail in the case study below.

Case Study: Museums displaying loaned or “non-charity” property

Museums may display property that does not belong to them, borrowing it from other charities or from private owners, public bodies etc. This may affect the museum’s ability to reclaim Gift Aid.

The key distinction is whether the museum is merely supplementing its own collection by borrowing items from others, or whether it is purely displaying other people’s property on the charity’s premises.

HMRC states that if the display of the borrowed property is within the museum’s charitable objects then Gift Aid can apply (subject to all other conditions being met).

However if the display of the borrowed property is (a) outside the charitable objects, (b) displayed by its owners in the museum but not incorporated into the museum’s own displays, and (c) forms a significant part of the museum, then Gift Aid would probably not apply.

Example 1:

The Museum of Ancient Egypt houses a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts including pottery, tools, jewellery and furniture. Its charitable objects are to advance education in the subject of ancient Egypt by the establishment and maintenance of a museum.

The museum is running a temporary exhibition dedicated to burial goods, and alongside its own pieces it is displaying a collection of items on loan from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Whilst some of the items are borrowed property, their display is within the museum’s charitable objects and the borrowed items are incorporated into the museum’s own displays. Consequently gift aid would apply, subject to all other gift aid conditions being met.

Example 2:


The Museum of Ancient Egypt houses a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts including pottery, tools, jewellery and furniture. Its charitable objects are to advance education in the subject of ancient Egypt by the establishment and maintenance of a museum.

The museum has given over its second floor to a private modern art gallery from Cairo which is staging a temporary exhibition of contemporary Egyptian art. The exhibition consists solely of “non-charity” property, and is displayed by the owners (the private gallery) not the charity.

Contemporary Egyptian art is outside the charity’s objects, which are limited to education in the subject of ancient Egypt. The exhibition forms a significant part of the museum (the entire second floor). Consequently, Gift Aid would not apply.

One way of preserving the entitlement to Gift Aid on the overall museum admission would be to charge a separate (non-Gift Aid) admission fee for the temporary art exhibition.

Examples provided by charity-specialist accountants Godfrey Wilson Limited, www.godfreywilson.co.uk

General links and resources


Template Gift Aid declaration forms: