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HMRC internal manual

VAT Charities

HM Revenue & Customs
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What is a charity?: Not for profit

Charities and “not for profit” organisations are not the same thing. While all charities will be non-profit making organisations, not all non-profit making organisations will be charities. Clubs and associations, professional and trade bodies, mutual societies (including many large insurance companies and building societies), friendly societies, motoring organisations, the Co-operative movement, trades unions, political parties and lobby groups etc are all non-profit making organisations, but they are not necessarily charities. Bodies which exist to benefit their members, as opposed to the community at large, are not usually charities. Organisations with political aims and objectives are not charities.

Charities may have a membership structure and the members may derive some benefits. But usually it is a case of the body of members coming together to support work which is of benefit to the wider community. An organisation which exists solely to benefit or further the aims of its members is not a charity.