The payment of voluntary director expenses is an area of uncertainty for many charities. Whilst the role is without remuneration, voluntary directors are still entitled to have their expenses met when carrying out their duties for the charity.

Two important things to note:

  • Reimbursing voluntary directors for costs incurred in the course of their work for the charity does not equate to remuneration, which in principle is prohibited except in a select number of cases.
  • It is good practice for a charity to have an expenses policy in place to help demarcate the limits of voluntary director expenses.

 

Travel

Irish Company Law entitles voluntary directors to be reimbursed for reasonable expenses when working on behalf of the charity. Travel is the most common form of expense incurred by a board member in the course of their duties for the charity – e.g. travelling to and from board meetings. It is important to note that the expenses should be reasonable, and the finer details surrounding payment of expenses should be contained in your expenses policy.

Revenue has recently published a short updated brief on the tax treatment of travel expenses for voluntary directors which explains that as a general rule, travel expenses are not subject to a tax deduction. In the case that travel expenses are covered by the company or reimbursed to the Director, PAYE/USC must be deducted.
 

Payment for Goods and Services

The law does allow for voluntary directors to be paid for goods and services which go beyond their normal duties as directors. This could include legal or accountancy work which is carried out by the voluntary director outside of his or her role on the board. This type of payment is subject to a number of conditions which are outlined in Section 89 of the Charities Act 2009:

  • The agreement must be in writing
  • The sums payable under the agreement must not exceed what is reasonable and proportionate having regard to the service provided.
  • All of the voluntary directors must agree that it is in the best interests of the charity.
  • If there is only one voluntary director, the approval of the Charities Regulatory Authority must be obtained.
  • No such payment should contravene the charity’s governing document.
  • The charity must have regard to any guidelines issued by the Charities Regulatory Authority on the issue.

It is also best practise for the charity to go to market with the proposed work to demonstrate that they are obtaining best value and best service.

This explanatory note is not designed to be a comprehensive overview of voluntary director expenses, but rather a good starting point for further exploration.

Click here to view the Revenue Commissioners brief on the tax treatment of travel expenses.
 
Sources:

O’Connell Brennan Solicitors “Trustee Expenses and Payments in the Non-Profit Sector.”

Revenue Commissioners “Expenses of travel  – Non-executive directors attending board meetings.”