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Donations Tax Credit
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Filing Your Return -> Donation Tax Credit

Donations Tax Credit Line 349

Income Tax Act s. 118.1(1), 118.1(3)

Up to 75% of a taxpayer's net income can be claimed as donations, except in the year of death or the year preceding death, when 100% of net income can be claimed as donations.  The donations limit can also be increased when capital property is donated - see the article regarding donations of capital property.  The Quebec provincial tax credit for donations is revised by the QC 2016 Budget, to remove the 75% limitation for 2016 and subsequent taxation years, and to provide a higher tax rate in 2017 and later years, in some circumstances.  See Provincial Donation Tax Credits below.

A donation must be received by the charity by December 31st in order to receive a charitable donation receipt for that taxation year.

Only donations (gifts) to registered charities and other qualified donees (see the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) definition for a qualified donee) can be claimed as charitable donations.  CRA has a charities registry web page, Charities and Giving, where you can search charities listings to see if a particular charity is a registered charity. 

If any "advantage" was received (compensation or other benefits) in return for the donation (e.g., tickets, meals), the eligible gift for purposes of the donation claim is reduced by the value of the advantage received.

When a taxpayer has a spouse or common law partner, a donation made by one of them in the current taxation year or any of the preceding 5 taxation years can normally be claimed by either spouse.  This is currently an administrative policy of the CRA, but Bill C-43 includes legislation which would allow this for taxation years 2016 and later.

The tax credit for donations and gifts is in the form of a non-refundable tax credit, and is claimed by completing Schedule 9 of the federal tax return. The total actually being claimed for the year is carried from Schedule 9 to Line 349 on Schedule 1 of the federal tax return (Provincial Line 5896).  The tax credit for the first $200 of donations is at the lowest personal tax rate (except for Quebec, which uses 20%), and the tax credit for the amount over $200 is at the highest tax rate in 2018 for all provinces and territories except Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Yukon.  Your donation receipts are not submitted with your tax return, but must be retained.  If you are carrying forward some of your donations, this is fairly easily taken care of by tax software.

See the link at the bottom of this article, to donation tax credit rates.

See the next paragraph for Federal rates.

High Rate for Federal Donation Tax Credit

For the 2016 and subsequent taxation years, the federal donation tax credit rate for donations over $200 is 33% to the extent that an individual has taxable income that is taxed at 33%.  If the individual has taxable income of less than $200,000, the rate for donations over $200 remains at 29%.  For instance, if an individual has taxable income of $220,000 and makes a donation of $25,200, the tax credit is calculated as 15% x $200 plus $20,000 x 33% plus $5,000 x 29%.  This applies only to donations made after 2015.  Donations made in 2015 and claimed in 2016 or a later year are not eligible for the 33% tax rate.

The $200,000 threshold is indexed.  See the federal tax tables for current thresholds.

Provincial/Territorial Donation Tax Credits

The higher federal tax rate treatment is contrary to what has traditionally been done by provinces and territories that have introduced higher tax rates for high income earners.  They have either left the top donation tax credit rate at the old highest tax rate, or have increased it to the new highest tax rate for everyone.  

Quebec uses the same practice as the federal government.  Their 2016 Budget introduced, for 2017 and later years, a higher rate of 25.75% for donations over $200, to the extent that an individual has taxable income that will be taxed at 25.75%.  The QC 2016 Budget also eliminated the 75% limitation on donations.

BC's 2020 Budget proposes to use the same practice as the federal government, with a higher tax rate of 20.5% for donations over $200, to the extent that an individual has taxable income that will be taxed at 20.5%.  See the federal example above.

See link at bottom to tables of donation tax credit rates for all provinces and territories and for the federal tax credit.

Optimizing the Donation Tax Credit

When a taxpayer has a spouse or common law partner and the combined donations are greater than $200, the donations for both spouses should usually be combined and claimed on one tax return.  Check your tax return carefully in relation to donations.  It is possible that by claiming all donations on one tax return, the donations may not be completely utilized.  If this is the case, you can either carry forward some of the donations, or split the donations between spouses.

By splitting the donation between spouses, you are giving up the higher tax credit rate on $200 of donations, because there will now be $200 of donations at the lower tax credit rate for each spouse, instead of for just one spouse.

Both the Canadian Tax Calculator and the Quebec Tax Calculator will alert you if your donations exceed 75% of net income, or if your donations are not fully utilized.  If it says that your donations are not fully utilized, it means that your total non-refundable tax credits are greater than your taxes otherwise payable, so you could reduce your donation claims and still have the same tax result. The calculators do a separate calculation for the federal and provincial taxes in order to produce this message, so it's possible only the provincial taxes are not fully utilizing your donations, or perhaps only the federal taxes are not fully utilizing your donations.

The calculator will also give this message if only one of the taxpayer and spouse has donations that are not fully utilized. So, it could be that the donations are fully utilized for one and not the other.

When donations are not all utilized, the “tax subtotal before donations tax credits, zero if negative” in the Canadian Tax Calculator will be zero in one of the 4 columns shown, and would be negative if not for the “zero if negative” rule.

Donations Carried Forward

Donations need not be claimed in the year they are paid.  They can be carried forward to any of the next 5 years, or to any of the next 10 years for a donation of ecologically sensitive land made after February 10, 2014.  This means that a donation made in 2015 could be carried forward and claimed in any of the next 5 years, up to and including the 2020 taxation year (just add 5 years to the year the donation was made).  Tax credits must be claimed for previous years' donations prior to claiming for donations in the current taxation year.

Under the CRA's administrative policy, and as detailed in the CRA Technical Interpretation 2010-0377811E5 (pdf), it is permissible for a charitable donation that was initially reported on one spouse or common-law partner's return to be transferred to the other spouse or common-law partner in a subsequent year.  Tax return software will keep track of these carry-forwards for you.  If you are preparing your return using printed forms you'll have to keep track of things yourself - see the link to P113 at the bottom of this article.

First-time Donor's Super Tax Credit (FDSC) - 2017 was the last year

Income Tax Act s. 118.1(3.1)

The Federal 2013 Budget introduced a temporary First-time Donor's Super Credit, which was available to an individual if neither the individual nor the individual's spouse or common-law partner has claimed the Charitable Donation Tax Credit (CDTC) or the FDSC in any of the 5 preceding taxation years.  For the purpose of this determination, an individual's spouse or common-law partner will be the individual's spouse or common-law partner on December 31 of the taxation year in respect of which the FDSC is claimed.

The FDSC provided an additional 25% tax credit for a first-time donor on up to $1,000 of donations.  This provided the first-time donor with a 40% federal tax credit for donations of $200 or less, and a 54% federal credit for donations over $200 but not exceeding $1,000.  First-time donor couples could share the FDSC in a tax year, but the total amount claimed by an individual and spouse could not exceed the amount that would be allowed if only one were to claim the FDSC.

Only donations of money qualified for the First-time Donor's Super Credit.

Although donations can be carried forward for up to 5 years, the First-time Donor Super Credit did not apply in a subsequent year, unless none of the donation has already been claimed.  S. 118.1(1) defines a first-time donor as a taxpayer who has not claimed a donation tax credit for a preceding taxation year that ends after 2007.  The tax credit rate for partial carried-forward donations when claimed in a subsequent year are the rates in effect for that year.

The FDSC was available for donations made on or after March 21, 2013, and could be claimed only once in the 2013 tax year, or a subsequent tax year before 2018.  The FDSC is not available after 2017.

Note that for one taxpayer to fully utilize the super tax credit in 2015 on a $1,000 donation, employment income of $16,865 or more was required in most provinces.  See our Donation Tax Credit Rates table for 2015.

CRA also has information on the First-Time Donor's Super Credit (Archived).

See also:

    - Donation Tax Credit Rates

    - Beware of tax shelter donation arrangements, and gifts of property

    - Donating capital property - can eliminate capital gains or increase your donations limit

    - Election to designate the amount of proceeds when capital property is donated

    - Capital gain reserve on donation of non-qualifying securities to a qualified donee

    - Donations in the year of death and in the will, qualified donee as beneficiary of RRSP, RRIF, TFSA or life insurance policy

CRA Resources:

    - P113 Gifts and Income Tax - includes information on donations to U.S. charities - you'll need P113 if you're doing your tax return using printed forms.

    - Income Tax Packages

    - Issuing receipts - Official donation receipts must include required information.  One of the inclusions is the name and website of the Canada Revenue Agency, which has changed to  Charities and qualified donees have until March 31, 2019 to update their receipts.

Tax Tip:  It is usually best to claim all donations on the tax return of one spouse.

Revised: May 21, 2020

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