Gift Aid and Concessions and How to Benefit

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Admission price lists in the UK often include Gift Aid and Concession prices. One category costs a little bit more and one can cost substantially less than normal ticket prices. But what are they and do you qualify for them?

Gift Aid is a way that the UK government helps charities by waiving taxes on certain kinds of giving. If the museum, stately home or other historical or educational institution you visit is a registered charity, it can claim funds from the government equivalent to the income tax that would normally be paid on the whole amount of the ticket price.

Here's how it works.  When you arrive at the attraction, tickets are offered at two different prices - let's say a Standard Adult price of £10.00  and a Gift Aid Price of £11. The extra £1 added to the Gift Aid price turns the whole price into a charitable donation. Then the charity that runs the organization can claim 25% of the whole ticket price (£2.75) back from the government. That represents the amount the government assumes has already been paid by you in income tax on that £11.

But What If I'm Not a UK Taxpayer?

Gift Aid used to be available to charities only after the givers - or ticket purchasers - filled out a Gift Aid Declaration - a form verifying that they were, in fact, UK taxpayers. That is still the case if you are buying annual memberships or making large donations.

But organizations that depend on many small donations can, in some cases, claim Gift Aid under the Small Donations Scheme on donations of less than £20.

How Can You Benefit

Gift Aid is voluntary, whether you are a UK taxpayer or not. And only very small organizations - those collecting donations of no more than £2,000 annually - are really entitled to take part in the Small Donations Scheme. But in practice, I've found,  ticket sellers at much bigger institutions will routinely ask visitors for the Gift Aid price without determining whether they are UK taxpayers or collecting a Gift Aid Declaration form and without suggesting that there is also a slightly lower standard price.

If you want to pay the higher price because you wish to make an extra donation to support the organization, that's up to you. But it's your right to pay the lower, standard price. When you arrive at admission office, or book your tickets online for organizations that have a charitable connection - such as the National Trust and English Heritage as well as most museums that are not free - ask for the standard ticket price. Over the course of a trip, especially if you are buying family tickets, that 10% saving can really add up.

Find out more about Gift Aid

Concessions - Discounts for Qualified Visitors

Concessions are discounts on tickets and admission prices for buyers who meet certain conditions. The most common concessions are offered to:

  • Senior citizens - over 60 years of age.
  • Students - either within a certain age range or with a valid student ID, regardless of age.

A range of other concessions that can be offered might include

  • discounts for the unemployed
  • people receiving a UK benefit known as Job Seekers Allowance
  • the disabled and their carers
  • occasionally members of the military, certain unions or professions.

Some attractions may limit concessions to off-peak times or days of the week or may refuse to offer concessions on Bank Holidays.

And many privately-owned or commercial attractions may not offer concessions at all.

Whether attractions offer concessions and which ones they offer depends on why they are offering them. If they receive government funding or are registered charities, they usually have to offer student and senior discounts.  In other circumstances, where concessions are offered voluntarily, they may be used for marketing the attraction to a target group. Theaters typically offer discount tickets to members of actors and performers unions and to people on Job Seekers Allowance because that describes most performers most of the time.

How Can You Benefit?

If you are eligible for any concessions you could save a considerable amount on admission tickets. Senior and student concessions are usually 25 to 30% less than the standard adult price.

Disabled visitors not only get discounts but can usually bring a carer with them for free. Here's how to get the concessions and discounts you may be entitled to:

  1. Bring proof of your entitlement with you. That might be a student ID, proof that you are registered disabled in some way or receive a disability allowance from your government, a union card if you are a member of a relevant union, a passport or driver's license showing proof of age. If you are serving in the British military, NATO or UN forces, carry that ID as well since some attractions offer free tickets to serving British, NATO and UN soldiers.
  2. Make sure to mention your concession entitlements when you book in advance and ask about what kind of proof you should bring.
  3. If you don't see any concessions - especially senior or student concessions - on the attraction's website or on signs near the ticket office - ask if any are offered. Sometimes attractions don't make a big splash about the concessions they offer and you have to do a bit of hunting.