Personal Income Tax -> Tax Shelter Donations
Beware of Gifting Tax Shelter Donation Arrangements, and Gifts of Property
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) indicated that starting with the 2012 tax year, taxpayers who participate in gifting tax shelter schemes will have the assessment of their tax return put on hold. CRA is referring to gifting tax shelters where the donor gets a tax receipt for a much larger amount than the donation, in which case they say it is likely not a valid donation. Assessments and refunds will not proceed until the completion of the audit of the gifting tax shelter, which may take up to 2 years. All gifting tax shelters are audited, and CRA has apparently not found any that comply with Canadian tax laws. There are, of course, tax shelters which do comply with Canadian laws.
Update: There are Tax Court cases and Federal Appeal Court cases where even the cash amount of a donation has been denied a tax credit in relation to gifting tax shelter donation arrangements. The cases are:
Mariano v. The Queen, 2015 TCC 244 re Global Learning Trust (2004) and the Global Learning Gift Initiative (GLGI) program
Despite the ruling in Federal Court May 14, 2013 Ficek v. Canada, where the court found that the Minister (CRA) failed to comply with the duty to assess with all due dispatch as per s. 152(1) of the Income Tax Act, CRA announced on January 10, 2014 that it will not assess taxes owed or provide a refund to taxpayers who claim a tax credit under a gifting tax shelter scheme until CRA has audited the tax shelter. However, the taxpayer can have his or her tax return assessed before the related tax shelter has been audited if they agree to remove the claim from their return.
If you participated in one of these arrangements, you could file your tax return without the donation claim. Once your tax return has been assessed, and any refund has been received or balance owing has been paid, you can then request a change to your tax return for the donation claim. This will avoid paying interest and possibly penalties related to the denial of the donation claim.
As of October 30, 2012, over 167,000 taxpayers had been reassessed, and denied about $5.5 billion in donations claimed. 44 organizations had their charitable status revoked.
Anyone considering participating in these types of arrangements should get independent professional tax advice, from someone not associated with the "arrangement".
If you have been reassessed by CRA and owe them money, if you pay the tax bill you will avoid expensive interest charges which are not tax-deductible. You can still appeal the assessment. If you win, you will get your tax money refunded with interest. For more information about appealing an assessment, see the CRA web page Complaints and Disputes.
If a tax shelter donation arrangement has a tax shelter number, this does not mean that the tax shelter is approved by CRA. This number is for identification purposes only.
Under proposed changes to the Income Tax Act (s. 248(35)), where a donation is made, after 6pm EST on December 5, 2003, by way of a gift of property as part of a tax shelter gifting arrangement, the allowable charitable donation amount will be limited to the lesser of the fair market value or the taxpayer's cost of the property. Thus, if the property donated was acquired by the taxpayer for $100, then $100 will be the maximum allowable charitable donation amount.
For other non-cash donations which are not part of a tax shelter gifting arrangement, the allowable charitable donation amount will be limited to the lesser of the fair market value or the taxpayer's cost of the property, if:
If the non-cash donation was made as a result of a taxpayer's death, and was not part of a tax shelter gifting arrangement, then the donation is considered to be made at fair market value.
Deemed fair market value from Income Tax Act s. 248(35):
(35) For the purposes of subsection (31), paragraph 69(1)(b) and subsections 110.1(2.1) and (3) and 118.1(5.4), (6) and (13.2) , the fair market value of a property that is the subject of a gift made by a taxpayer to a qualified donee is deemed to be the lesser of the fair market value of the property otherwise determined and the cost or, in the case of capital property, the adjusted cost base or, in the case of a life insurance policy in respect of which the taxpayer is a policyholder, the adjusted cost basis (as defined in subsection 148(9)), of the property to the taxpayer immediately before the gift is made if
S. 248(36) of the Income Tax Act specifies that if the property was acquired from a non-arm's length person or partnership within the 3-year or 10-year time period noted above, the deemed cost of the property will be the lower of the cost to the taxpayer or the cost to the non-arm's length person or partnership.
S. 248(37) of the Income Tax Act indicates that the above changes do not apply to donations of:
Legislation Dates of Application
The above provisions of the Income Tax Act were included in Bill C-48 Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012 which received Royal Assent on June 26, 2013. The following excerpt from Bill C-48 discusses dates of application:
See the article on the donations tax credit on our Filing Your Return page.
Only donations to registered charities can be claimed as charitable donations. CRA has a web page, Charities and Giving where you can search charities listings to see if a particular charity is a registered charity.
Tax Tip: If it seems too good to be true, you should probably avoid it!!!
Revised: July 14, 2019
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