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Wedding/Funeral fees


Rohrflöte
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I believe the term being sought here is 'fraudulent conversion'. Barry will, I am sure, know whether or not it applies here. A 'grey' area, I suspect.

Well out of my area of expertise, but I was told that the relevant authorities once came down very hard on on of our Cathedrals for dodgy Gift Aid dealings (nothing to do with organists, by the way). On the other hand, were a formerly mean, nay stingy, parish church significantly to increase the salary of their organist who subsequently, and without collusion, freely decided to Gift Aid to the church a sum not dissimilar to his salary increase I think it would be a tough case for the authorities to argue.

 

On the other hand are churches immune from Minimum Wage legislation? I read Barry's book but can't remember if this was mentioned.

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I think you have a wise Treasurer, David. To deliberately launder a fee in this way is tax fraud.

 

Thank you, John, for your advice. Yes, I have an excellent treasuere at my church, but although I am a complete rabiit when it comes to money matters, may dear wife is most notand it was she who came to the conclusion to bwhich I referred. It does seem to have opened up

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I think you have a wise Treasurer, David. To deliberately launder a fee in this way is tax fraud.

 

Thank you, John, for your advice. Yes, I have an excellent treasurer at my church, but I must pay due tribute my dear wife who came to the conclusion to which I referred. My original intervention does seem to have opened up a can of worms and I hope that colleagues will be guided to the indisputable answer here. It would be sad if good intentions were to lead to one being frogmarched off to durance vile.

 

David Harrison

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I think you have a wise Treasurer, David. To deliberately launder a fee in this way is tax fraud.

 

Thank you, John, for your advice. Yes, I have an excellent treasurer at my church, but I must pay due tribute to my dear wife who is much more clued up in money matters than I and who came to the conclusion to which I referred. My original intervention does seem to have opened up a can of worms and I hope that colleagues will be guided to the indisputable answer here. It would be sad if good intentions were to lead to one being frogmarched off to durance vile.

 

David Harrison

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While entirely agreeing that the resident organist is entitled to the fee, may I suggest that a family asking if their own organist can play for what is, to them, an important family service, does not necessarily imply that they consider the in-house organist to be incompetent.

 

There are still some families for whom weddings and funerals have deep meaning and significance. There are still some who may find great pleasure in playing for the wedding of a close family member, maybe a son or daughter, or possibly comfort in paying their respects by playing for the funeral of a relative or close friend. Remember this is a fellow organist.

 

Likewise, it may also have meaning for the family, or at least the central members of it. Would you deprive them of the additional 'icing on the cake' on their happy day, or the possible comfort at a difficult time?

 

 

 

A little harsh, perhaps? If you said "......would have reminded the family that the resident organist may still entitled to a fee" I would agree with you.

 

I also accept that there may be an issue regarding the (probably unknown) abilities of the visiting organist, but surely the form of service chosen, the manner in which the affair is approached, and a few well chosen questions and enquiries, would do much to enlighten in that respect?

 

Colin, have you never been asked to play for a service like this? If you were, do you not think that, depending on the circumstances, you may derive some pride, pleasure or comfort in being able to do so? What would be your thoughts, if the priest and resident organist at a small village church were to say to you, without any further discussion or enquiry, "Oh, we don't know you or anything about you, so we are assuming that you are not competent to play for this service?"

 

If the motive were simply to save money, or disrespect for the resident organist, then I would agree with you, but dare I suggest that, even in these 'modern' times, there are still many occasions when that is not the case?

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Whilst I understand the principle behind incumbent organists being paid a fee regardless of whether a service is rendered or whether a visiting organist plays instead, this rule can lead on occasions to considerable injustice. At one funeral I attended, the regular church organist insisted on getting his due, yet wasn't really so much an organist, as a pianist infront of an organ and a reluctant one at that. The family brought in a family friend, an internationally known performer and professor of organ technique, yet he volunteered his services freely.

 

As the subject of gift aid has been mentioned, can some wise person please elucidate what exactly is the can of worms surrounding providing a service that one is quite legitimately paid for and subsequently and quite freely donating a comparable sum back to the church that one was paid by (as opposed to say Oxfam or the nearest Cathedral), provided that one observes the usual pre-requesite that the amount of tax payable equals the amount reclaimed through Gift Aid?

 

Contrabombarde

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As the subject of gift aid has been mentioned, can some wise person please elucidate what exactly is the can of worms surrounding providing a service that one is quite legitimately paid for and subsequently and quite freely donating a comparable sum back to the church that one was paid by (as opposed to say Oxfam or the nearest Cathedral), provided that one observes the usual pre-requesite that the amount of tax payable equals the amount reclaimed through Gift Aid?

 

Contrabombarde

I don't claim to be a wise person, but I think the confusion lies in whether it is a freely given donation or a premeditated re-cycling of the fee in order to gain a tax benefit.

 

In my own Church, the accompanists give their services voluntarily. I could, each Sunday, hand over £100 from Church funds and on Monday, that could be returned as a donation generating £20 gift aid. If there was never any intention for the accompanist to accept payment, but the money was handed over just so it could be returned in order to generate a profit, I would describe that as fraudulent (and immoral). By comparison, if a visiting organist were to play for a funeral and it was normal to pay a fee, I see no problem in that fee being taken and then given back as a donation.

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I am a little confused here as well. Could I just 'think out loud' for a moment?

 

In my own Church, the accompanists give their services voluntarily. I could, each Sunday, hand over £100 from Church funds ....

 

Fine, so the recipients now have to declare that as income. Assuming they are all taxpayers, they collectively pay a sum in tax, say £20, so in fact they receive only £80.

 

..... and on Monday, that could be returned as a donation generating £20 gift aid.

 

Now, they gift aid back £100 and the church claims back £20. Does it not run something like this:

 

Sunday: Church:- minus £100, Recipients:- plus £100.

 

Monday: Recipients:- minus £100, Church:- plus £100.

 

Susequently 1: Customs:- plus £20, Recipients:- minus another £20 = £120 total.

 

Susequently 2: Customs:- minus £20, Church:- plus another £20 = £120 total.

 

So to sum up the final totals:

 

Church:- Plus £20, Customs:- Plus or minus £0, Recipients:- Minus £20.

 

I accept that I may well be wrong and am probably over simplifying things, but at the moment it seems to me that the net result is that the Church has gained £20, the recipients have lost £20, and the Customs are at square one, no one has defrauded them of anything. For them, the situation is no different to if the money had been gift-aided to any other charity. ...... Except of course that the Revenue have all the administration.

 

Now, does someone care to hazard a guess at how much that is likely to cost? As a starting point, dare I suggest more than £20?

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I think that funerals, for obvious reasons, are a more sensitive area and we organists should prepare to be a bit more open and flexible when it comes to a family requesting permission for a friend or relative to play. I agree that they should be gently reminded about the incumbent organist's entitlement to a fee, but as has been said above, it must be a gentle reminder rather than a blunt statement of rights or policy.

 

Having said that, I did have a pertinent experience about 7 years ago when a friend of mine passed away. On a number of prior occasions, he had expressed ... a hope? a wish? - that I would play for his funeral; I never found out if he had formalised such an expression in his Will or any other document, but I remember being called by my grandmother (a friend of his) with the news of his passing away and a reminder that he had asked me to play for the funeral.

 

I was duly put in touch with the Parish Priest at the Church where he had practiced and where his funeral was to take place. The Priest told me that the Church's own organist would be "mortally offended" if anyone else played for the service, and that whilst I would obviously be welcome as a guest at the service, I would not be able to play, regardless of my friend's wishes when he had been alive. I knew better than to try and argue the case, so I let it go. Sadly, a subsequent commitment at work prevented me from even attending the funeral, although I have paid tribute to my friend by playing some of his organ compositions over the years. (Amongst them are finely crafted chorale preludes and a set of Variations on "This joyful Eastertide" which have worked nicely as voluntaries around the appropriate time of year; he heard me play these pieces in public before his death, so I was fortunate to learn his suggested interpretation of the music and can ensure that, in some wise, he lives on through that.)

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