The UK government has confirmed that theatres will be able to claim gift aid if ticketholders choose to donate the cost of their passes rather than ask for a refund.

Venues and arts organisations in England are currently facing the prospect of burning through any financial reserves by early summer due to the live events blackout forced upon the industry by Covid-19.

Theatres across the UK closed their doors on March 17 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised members of the public to “avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues”. A full lockdown of non-essential public venues was then enforced on March 23.

Theatres that are recognised charities are automatically eligible to claim gift aid when tickets are converted to donations, the government confirmed yesterday (Wednesday).

Gift aid is calculated based on the donor declaring that they pay a basic rate of tax in the UK. This means that a venue can recover £25 for every £100 donation.

Answering a written question to Parliament, Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Education, said: “Theatres and other cultural venues recognised as charities by HMRC can claim gift aid on freely given donations, as opposed to payments for goods or services, such as admission tickets.

“These charities can claim gift aid on the value of tickets for cancelled events if the patrons have agreed not to be refunded for the cost of the ticket and agree for the same amount to be treated as a donation.”

He added: “The charity will also need to make sure the patrons have made a gift aid declaration for their donations to qualify for gift aid, confirming that they have, or will have, paid enough tax to cover the amount the charity will claim on their donations.”

Meanwhile, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has detailed plans for its staff during the UK-wide theatre shutdown due to Covid-19.

The organisation, which operates 32 venues across the UK, will place the majority of its staff on paid leave, while the leadership team is working without salaries.

A statement from ATG, which operates West End theatres such as the Ambassadors Theatre and regional theatres including Edinburgh Playhouse and the Liverpool Empire, said: “Faced with a challenge of unprecedented magnitude, we needed to act decisively in order to sustain the financial impact of the shutdown and bounce back as fast as possible once we are able to reopen our venues.

“That’s why last week, we asked the majority of our UK staff to take temporary leave from April 1, for the next 90 days, on a reduced salary.

“Staff on zero-hour contracts qualify for the government’s Job Retention Scheme and will also receive compensation during the shutdown period.”

Image: Howard Lake