Barnsley software company boosts charity coffers

Published 15th April 2013 at 2:42pm

A Barnsley company is helping charities boost their funds by thousands of pounds with a new piece of software.

Merlin Software has developed a computer programme that helps charity shops claim back tax more easily under Gift Aid. It also complies with new HM Revenue and Customs guidelines that came into force this month.

Gift Aid means that charities can claim a further 25 per cent from HMRC every time a tax payer makes a donation or donates items that are sold in a charity shop. Until now when it was used to claim the extra money for a charity shop donation staff had to fill in paper forms. Now HMRC expects charities to do it online.

The new Gift Aid module is just one new development Merlin Software has created which it’s hoped will see turnover double this year.

The Wilthorpe-based company, which is being given advice by business support programme Enterprising Barnsley, provides point-of-sale software to shops, visitor attractions and charities.

Its developers have re-written the platform all its software is sitting on, in much the same way Windows is re-launched in a new format every few years.

The new platform, known as Merlin XEN, means software can have more functionality and support mobile technology, such as Apps and iPads.

Merlin’s founder and managing director, Owen Gleadall, said: “This is a very exciting development. It means all our software will become much more powerful and function-rich and also more user-friendly for our clients.  We envisage that this will allow us to increase our market share and help us double our turnover to over £1 million this year, and take on more staff.

“The new Gift Aid module is part of Merlin XEN and is incredibly easy to use. We have also created three versions – a simple one for small charities, say an animal welfare centre, through to an all-singing and dancing version that ties in with retailing and marketing functions.”

Tina Heaton, of Age UK Barnsley, which has Merlin’s Gift Aid software installed at its shop in Market Street, said: “It is so simple to use and yet it is so important to us to reclaim the Gift Aid. In one year alone it is worth about £5,000.”

Merlin, which is based in Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre, has taken on two new staff in the last few months, including an apprentice, to bring its staff number to 13.

Its expansion is being supported by Enterprising Barnsley with free advice on business growth strategy and marketing.

Owen said: “The support from Enterprising Barnsley has been fantastic. Without them we couldn’t have achieved what we have in so short a space of time.”

The company, which was set up in Leeds in 1984, has plans to take on more staff for its software development team and in customer support.

Merlin’s clients also include the Tropical Butterfly House, near Sheffield; Bressingham Steam Museum, in Norfolk; South Bucks Hospice shops; Amps Fine Wines in Cambridgeshire; Nike 1948, and independent bookshops in London.

John Heckingbottom, of Enterprising Barnsley, said: “It’s great to see a Barnsley company creating software that can help everything from a small charity and a corner shop through to large visitor attractions and retailers across the UK.

“And their continued innovation, backed up with our support, means there really are some exciting times ahead.”

The Enterprising Barnsley programme is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency (BDA) and Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC).

The programme is supported financially by the European Union. The project has attracted £2,259,511 investment into Barnsley from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.