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UK postcode format trap – unlock more Gift Aid revenue for your charity by capturing the right postcode when logging donations

UK Postcode Format Tips

The postcode is the most important piece of information you need to gather from your donors when they are signing up for Gift Aid. There are many common mistakes made when capturing someone’s postcode, so we thought we’d explain how the UK postcode format works, and offer some tips for ensuring that you get it right.

Gift Aid postcode being entered incorrectly is one of the main reasons for rejection when making claims/submissions to HMRC. The useful tips that follow will ensure you capture the correct code!

The UK postcode format

There are some simple rules to follow regards the actual format of the postcode. As in, what is a valid code, and what isn’t. UK Postcodes are split into two parts; the Outward Code (The first bit), and the Inward Code (the second/last bit).

Outward code

The outward code in the UK postcode format can be between 2 and 4 characters. It ALWAYS begins with a letter (sometimes geographically relevant, like M for Manchester, but not always). It can end with either a letter OR a number. Most often, the beginning part, the outward code, will end with a number. In some London districts in particular, you can find postcodes with letters, as they essentially ran out of unique combinations. An example is EC4M 8AD. Whilst this might look odd to those of us outside of London, it’s completely valid.

Inward code

The last bit, is the easiest and most consistent formatting-wise, but the part that is most often captured incorrectly. It is ALWAYS three characters long, ALWAYS begins with a number, and almost always ends with 2 letters. The most common mistake we see is a letter O instead of a number zero 0 at the beginning of the last part of a postcode. The first digit of the last part can only ever be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9. The next most common error is mis-hearing the last two characters, for example hearing an N as an M, or an H as an 8.

One big tip for the last part of the UK postcode format that few people know, is ‘CIKMOV’. The last part of the postcode can NEVER contain C, I, K, M, O, or V. Which means if you think you heard M, it was probably N – V was likely to be B, and so on.

Capturing tips

When capturing your donor’s details, if you’re doing this hand-written (either you or they are writing), be sure to check over what has been written with the other party to check for any likely errors, bearing in mind the above formatting rules.

When capturing electronically, say at the Point of Sale in a charity shop, be sure to use a system such as tengoPOS, which has the UK postcode database built in. Royal Mail‘s data can be out of date, especially for new-builds. If the lookup system can’t find the address from the postcode? The most likely reason is that what has been typed in is incorrect. If you double-check and it isn’t incorrect, you can manually enter the address.

Know your patch

It’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the postcode beginnings that cover your area. See below a map showing all postcode districts across the UK with their UK postcode format starting letters.

UK postcode format for Gift Aid – summary

Getting the postcode wrong when capturing donor details can lose your charity money, so it’s important to get it right. Remember:

  • Check it and check it again – be sure to consider formatting rules and check the code is valid.
  • Remember CIKMOV – these letters cannot be in the last 3 characters of a postcode.
  • Be wary of using letters in place of numbers, and vice-versa – many people say ‘oh’ to indicate a zero, even in their phone numbers. 8 and ‘aitch’ (H) are another common mix-up.

Following these simple rules will ensure you capture accurate info. There are many companies also offering services to validate or cleanse your existing data to fix any capture errors, so that Gift Aid can be claimed on the relevant donations.