I am currently in the process of developing an open-source computer application and it is taking up a lot of my free time, so I would like to get some sort of income from it, even if it is a small amount, however I would still like the program to remain open-source. So I figured that on my website I could add a donation button, but then I thought that, legally, this may not be allowed because, I've always assumed that, a donation is intended to be used for the development of the program/thing it was donated for, but since I have no use for donations for use only with the program, as I am only using only open source modules, and I just want it to be used as a bit more income, would I be allowed to ask for a donation on my website? I thought it might be ok if I specify what the donation is for, but I wanted to check so I didn't do anything illegal.

Thanks in advance for help.

  • 1
    Please provide your country (as a tag). Essentially, this is a tax question, and laws vary by country. (Although it may be universal that this is not a 'donation' as you are probably not registered as a legal non-profit entity, you are just asking for money) Commented May 21, 2016 at 15:19
  • @JoeTaxpayer I live in England
    – AvahW
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 15:22
  • @JoeTaxpayer: the subtle distinction between gifts and donations probably is not consistent or even universally existent. You have to consider such subtle distinctions as appreciation for work done versus an implied promise for future work. And I'm not familiar with any country that has a general requirement to register in order to receive gifts. (Specific requirements may exist as part of anti-bribery laws, but those apply to people in positions of power)
    – MSalters
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 12:00
  • As a US person, I shouldn't really comment any further, Ganesh's answer is pretty clear. Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


You can view the donations as helping to pay for your time spent on development, so I don't think there's any moral or legal issue with asking for them.

However you will need to pay tax on them as income, which may involve registering with HMRC as self-employed.

They also won't be tax-deductible for the donors or eligible for gift aid, as you aren't a charity.


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