Can a board authorise ex gratia payments and transfers (gifts)?

Under the current rules, charity trustees may only authorise an ex gratia payment if (1) they decide it is in the best interests of the charity, (2) there is a moral obligation to make a payment and (3) they obtain the prior consent of the Charity Commission. Simplified rules introduced in the Charities Act 2022 are yet to be brought into force, pending a last minute review caused by press coverage of implications for museum collections. This will allow (once in force) small payments without Charity Commission consent, as long as the constitution does not expressly restrict this power.

The new legislation will also make it easier for charitable museums to deal with restitution and repatriation in the rare cases when trustees have a moral obligation to consider the return of collection items. Once in force, trustees will have power to return items on moral grounds that are valued between £1,000 and £20,000 (depending on the size of the turnover of the charity), or to seek Charity Commission consent for more valuable items. The Arts Council England document, Restitution and Repatriation: A practical guide for museums in England sets out four relevant factors for trustees to consider.

Restitution and Repatriation: A Practical Guide for Museums in England, Arts Council England, August 2022

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