The National Audit Office (NAO) and University of Birmingham have announced the establishment of the National Audit Office – University of Birmingham Tax Centre- a collaboration to inform improvements in the administration of the tax system.

The NAO- University of Birmingham Tax Centre will bring together both practical and academic expertise using economic, financial and legal evidence, from the UK and internationally. issues such as behavioural economics insights into tax administration; assessing the tax gap; the impact of making tax digital; tax evasion and avoidance; customer service; and transformation of the tax system.

At the launch event, held at the National Audit Office in London, co-founder Professor Kimberley Scharf  spoke about the NAO’s and University of Birmingham’s previous work on Gift Aid. The collaboration showed how the Centre will be able to bring together the NAO’s experience in helping Parliament hold government to account and improve public services and the University of Birmingham’s academic approach and innovation.

In 2013 the NAO’s report, Gift Aid and reliefs on donations, and the subsequent Public Accounts Committee session, highlighted the lack of evidence about whether Gift Aid achieves its objective of being a cost-effective way of increasing individual donations to charity in the UK. The PAC report recommended that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and HM Treasury should work with academics and the charitable sector to produce better evidence about the effectiveness of Gift Aid.

Following this recommendation HMRC worked with Professor Scharf and her team over four years, analysing around 70 million individual self-assessment tax returns. The result was the world’s first comprehensive measure of the effectiveness of tax incentives for giving. The measure takes into account the donation response of people who are already donating and the tax incentive encourages non-donors to donate. The Working Paper on this research has just been published.

The Birmingham Tax Centre will also make previous and new research accessible on tax; as well as encouraging debate, the exchange of knowledge and stimulate ideas through workshops, conferences, and national and global networks. It will provide an opportunity for government bodies, academics and tax practitioners to discuss needs and practical challenges in a manner illustrated by this recent NAO Blog-post: Can better service bring in more tax revenue? How the NAO is helping government investigate.

For interview requests or for a copy of the working paper, please contact Rebecca Hume, Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on 0121 414 9041 or email the press office

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  • Please visit the NAO – University of Birmingham Tax Centre website for links to all research and further information about the Tax Centre, its governance and the roles of the partners.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world's top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • NAO studies on tax can also be found on our Tax and duties page.
  • Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.
  • The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Sir Amyas Morse KCB, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund, nationally and locally, have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. The C&AG does this through a range of outputs including value for money reports on matters of public interest; investigations to establish the underlying facts in circumstances where concerns have been raised by others or observed through our wider work; landscape reviews to aid transparency and good practice guides. Our work ensures that those responsible for the use of public money are held to account and helps government to improve public services, leading to audited savings of £734 million in 2016.