Action 4 Botton

Camphill Association refutes CVT tax claims

25 November 2014

AoCC: Camphill co-workers are NOT employees  

The Association of Camphill Communities (AoCC), the body representing the 61 Camphill communities in the UK and Ireland, strongly refutes CVT’s claims regarding the tax status of co-workers.

“It is important to make it abundantly clear at the outset, that co-workers are vocational workers and no contractual or legal relationship exists between a co-worker, the community and the charity”, writes Dave Mitchell, Chairman of the AoCC in his letter of 21 November to member communities.

In a surprising press release the CEO of CVT, the UK's 60th largest charity, alleged that HMRC was scrapping the long-established tax arrangements for volunteer co-workers workers and asserted that HMRC required these workers to become employees with effect from April 2015.  If true, these changes have a much wider implication than the Botton Co-workers as they have the potential to strike at the very heart of David Cameron’s much-publicised ‘Big Society’ initiative with its dependence on volunteers.

“It is now obvious that the CVT approached HMRC to establish if their co-workers were employed or self-employed, totally ignoring the fact that co-workers are vocational workers and that the existing Agreement between HMRC and the Camphill Association establishes that fact”, writes the AoCC.

“As a result and from the documentation circulated by CVT, HMRC proceeded to apply the standard test, based on the information provided by CVT, which has resulted in the ruling circulated by CVT.”

The AoCC obtained a professional opinion from an independent taxation expert in London which concluded that the existing Agreement between HMRC and the Camphill Association remains valid and that its effectiveness and validity has in no way been eroded or diluted by any changes to taxation law or case law since the Agreement was first negotiated.

This factual position has recently been reaffirmed by HM Treasury in a letter to Geoffrey Cox QC MP, who contacted the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on behalf of a co-worker within his constituency:

“I would like to make it clear that there has been no recent change in legislation, nor change in rules by HMRC, which affect the status of volunteer workers. … the agreed treatment is published in HMRC guidance, which you may find helpful and can find at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/bimmanual/bim22040.htm.”

This will provide great reassurance to the many charities that have built the popular communities providing shared lives and meaningful work for people with learning disabilities. These facts also support what co-workers and Action for Botton have suspected for some time: that CVT has not asked how they could preserve the Camphill community model, but whether co-workers, in the context of CVT’s new hierarchy of managers, could accidentally be viewed as employees.

The AoCC advised that “due to the actions of the CVT Charity, the AoCC, with the assistance of its professional advisors, will seek to enter discussions with the HMRC on behalf of its members. We would expect this process to commence over the next few weeks.”

Neil Davidson, chair of Action for Botton, said: “This announcement by CVT is a prime example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are the ones who have steamrollered through drastic changes to the way some of the communities are run and imposed a hierarchical management structure against the wishes of the clear majority of the co-workers, the learning disabled villagers and their families."

“They then go to HMRC and claim the changes mean that the previously agreed tax arrangements are no longer relevant. On the evidence supplied by CVT, it would appear that HMRC had no choice but to agree. However, we are going to mount a vigorous challenge to this ruling.”

The Action for Botton campaign group was launched earlier this year to fight changes to the Botton community – which has some 100 learning disabled resident villagers – being implemented by Camphill Village Trust. The group believes the changes will destroy the community ethos of the village by forcing the volunteer Co-workers who work and live alongside the learning disabled to either become hourly paid, shift working employees or face eviction.