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Returned Fees and Tax


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This question is prompted following a recent discussion about fees, which strayed into gift aid territory. The scenario is this:


An organist is asked to play for a funeral. We assume that he or she is either the in-house organist, or has been brought in because there is no resident available. The fees are handled by the undertaker and the organist receives the going rate.


As it happens the deceased is a close acquaintance or someone for whom the organist does not wish to charge a fee. However because the undertaker has already collected the fee and passed it on, the only option is for the organist to return it to the family.


The problem is that now, presumably, it is regarded as taxable income, on which the organist must pay a sum of tax. So instead of the organist just playing for no fee, he or she is actually paying to do so.


It seems to me that the situation is very similar to the one with gift aid, except that in that instance the Revenue pass the collected tax to the nominated charity, whereas in this case they retain it. Either way, the person who is handing back their fee will ultimately pay for the privilege of doing so, unless they deduct the tax first, before they donate it to the charity, or hand it back to the deceased’s family. Not perhaps something which is quite in keeping with the original spirit of the gesture, especially when it concerns a friend's family.


Thoughts anyone?

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In my fairly wide experience of playing for funerals over the past few years, if the service is in a church, or if, as quite often happens, I am booked directly by the Funeral Director for a crematorium service they ask what the fee is. If you don't want a fee you either tell the FD when they contact you to book you or you tell your church's Priest or Minister and they tell the FD. I have never had any problems; I tell the church or the FD what my fee is and that's what I get. The only time I get a fixed-rate fee (with tax deducted at source) is when I'm booked by the City Council for a service at the crematorium owned and administered by them. All very simple and I've never had any problems.


Local Anglican and RC priests in the Brighton area often don't want to be involved in fees and ask me to tell the FD idrect what my fee is.


In the days when I was director of music at a church I would almost always waive my right to the fee if the services of another organist were requested although such requests were very rare. More frequently, I was asked to play for church services where the regular organist could and would have played and I have always told the parties involved that they must offer the regular organist his usual fee.


Sometimes when I read posts on this forum - and similar ones like the ABRSM Viva Organ - I wonder about the sanity of some members. They seem to put up with so much aggro, agression and opposition, seemingly getting no satisfaction or enjoyment whatsoever from it and yet they carry on doing it! I endured a certain amount of this for a short while in my last job and just gave up. Life is too short to waste your time doing things you don't enjoy or that cause you aggro.



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I have been embarrassed (in a capacity other than that of organist) of receiving a cheque from undertakers who had neither tried to negotiate a fee with me nor to check and find out that it is not the custom of my denomination for anyone to accept payment for assisting at a funeral. The family did not want the money back, so I passed it on to the charity of their choice, not realising that I should have informed the tax inspector that this was technically my income.


If the same situation were to occur again, I would return the cheque to the undertaker, informing them that they did not have my permission to collect fees on my behalf, and suggesting that the fee should be returned to the family.

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