Freemasons organisation found 'not wholly philanthropic' and denied charity tax exemption
26 Feb., 2014
Vibeka Mair, Finance
The United Grand Lodge of England has been denied a multi-million-pound VAT rebate on subscriptions paid by its members over 20 years, after a judge ruled that its emphasis on caring for fellow Masons meant its giving was not “wholly philanthropic”.
It had argued in the tax tribunal that its charitable giving benefitted the public, not just Masons, and sought to be exempt from VAT on subscriptions paid by its members over more than 20 years.
But HMRC objected and this week Judge Hellier ruled that Freemasons' “hope or expectation” that the organisation's Grand Charity would help them and their families in times of need meant their donations had elements of “self-insurance” and “personal benefit”.
During the case Judge Hellier noted that only between 25 and 30 per cent of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity donations went to causes with no Masonic connections.
The United Grand Lodge of England argued that Freemasonry’s “peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” is driven by charitable giving and community involvement. It said its “aims of philosophical, philanthropic and civic nature” benefited the public in general.
This story had incorrectly named the Freemasons' Grand Charity as the claimant. It is in fact the United Grand Lodge of England.