The upside of being generous for a taxpayer is usually a corresponding deduction for tax purposes, to the extent that the taxpayer can show a receipt for a donation made to a public benefit organisation (“PBO”) in terms of section 18A of the Income Tax Act.

However, what happens when an amount is paid to a PBO partly as a donation and partly for taking part in fund raising activities? SARS has recently answered this question in Binding Private Ruling (“BPR”) 338, which confirms that a donor may still receive a section 18A receipt for that portion of a payment made to a PBO as a donation, provided that the amounts treated as donations and purchases respectively are accurately reflected and easily verifiable.

Background to BPR 338

In this case, a PBO intended to host a fundraising event, managed by an external events management company, as a means of encouraging donations towards its public benefit activities. During the event, the attendees would make payments to participate in activities, as well as make donations of money.

The events management company would develop and manage an electronic system, which would enable the attendees to make the requisite payments during the event by way of roaming electronic touchscreen devices. The electronic system would distinguish between the payments made as either payments for participation in the activities or to make donations of money, and would tally the various amounts at the end of the event.

Thereafter, the attendees would settle the total amount due in respect of the transactions at the event by way of a single credit card payment. The PBO would then use the reports generated by the electronic tracking system in order to determine which of attendees would be eligible to receive a section 18A receipt, as well as the proper amount to be reflected therein. Only the donations made by the attendees would be reflected on this receipt.

Outcome of the BPR

On the condition that the tracking system accurately reflected and distinguished between the donations and attendees’ participation, SARS had no concerns with the approach of the PBO in this regard. In fact, SARS noted specifically that the payments identified as donations by the electronic tracking system would constitute “‘bona fide’ donations made to a PBO under section 18A”.

SARS’ acceptance of this arrangement shows that payments made to PBO through innovative means, provided that the payments qualify within the ambit of a section 18A donation, will qualify as a deduction from a taxpayer’s income. SARS further confirmed in BPR 338, that the true nature of a Section 18A donation will not necessarily be dependent on the payment arrangement itself.

Given the recent tax court cases which have been brought against PBOs by SARS, this is a prudent approach taken to ensure that there is no risk assumed in the collection of money. It is expected that any properly managed PBO will certainly make use of this BPR, as well as obtain their own, in order to satisfy the requirements that follow from their own unique events moving forward.


Thomas Lobban

Thomas Lobban
Tax Attorney