Questions and answers about gifting and receipting

 Official donation receipts are referred to as receipts on this webpage.

1. Can donors choose a specific beneficiary to support through their donations?

No. Donors cannot choose a specific beneficiary, but they can direct their donations to a particular program a charity operates.

2. Can a charity issue a receipt to a landlord who provides rent-free accommodations?

No. A charity can issue a donation receipt only when it receives a gift. One of the criteria for a gift is that there must be a voluntary transfer of property. When a landlord provides free rent, no property has been transferred to the charity, so free rent cannot be considered a gift.

However, a charity can pay rent to a landlord and later accept a payment of all or part of the rent back as a gift, as long as it is voluntary. The charity must have documents showing that the two following transactions occurred:

  • the charity paid the rent
  • the landlord later voluntarily donated part or all of the rent payment back to the charity

The charity can then issue a receipt to the landlord for the amount of the donation.

A charity can also issue a receipt to the landlord if the landlord decides to forgive the charity's rental debt. The charity must have a lease showing the rent it has to pay and a document from the landlord showing that the landlord chose to make a gift to the charity instead of receiving the rental payment. See the example.

The landlord still has to report the forgiven rental payment as business income.

3. Can a charity issue a receipt for a donation of a timeshare?

Yes, a charity can issue a receipt if the donor owns the timeshare and transfers ownership to the charity.

A charity can also rent a timeshare from the owner and later accept part or all of the rent back as a gift, as long as the gift is voluntary. The charity must have documents showing that these two separate transactions occurred:

  • the charity paid rent for the timeshare

  • the owner later voluntarily donated part or all of the rent back to the charity

The charity can then issue a receipt to the timeshare owner for the amount of the donation.

4. Can a charity issue a receipt instead of a speaking fee for a speaker at its conference?

No. To be considered a gift, there must be a voluntary transfer of property. Contributions of services (for example, time, skills, or effort) are not property, so they do not qualify as gifts. For more information, go to Gifts of services.

5. Can a charity issue a receipt for a court-ordered payment it received?

No. To qualify as a gift, a payment must be voluntary. A court-ordered payment is not a voluntary payment, even if the donor was given a choice between making a payment and some other penalty. The charity can acknowledge the payment by letter, but cannot issue a receipt for income tax purposes.

6. Can a charity issue a receipt for a donation of shares or stock options?

Yes, if the donor acquires the shares or stock options and then donates them to a charity. In this case, the donor voluntarily transferred property.

However, when a corporation issues shares of its capital stock or grants a stock option to a charity, it has not transferred property because the transfer does not reduce corporate assets. There is no gift in these circumstances, and no receipt can be issued.

7. Is there a minimum amount that has to be donated before a charity can issue a receipt?

No. A charity can decide whether it wants to set a minimum amount. It should make its receipting policy clear to potential donors.

8. A group of 20 people from work will each contribute $20 toward a $400 donation to a charity. They would like to raffle the receipt for the $400 donation. Can they do this?

No. In this case, 20 donors have contributed $20 each. Since a receipt can only be issued to the true donor or donors of a gift, a single receipt cannot be issued. If a lump sum is donated without detailed donor information and the true donor(s) cannot be determined, the charity cannot issue a receipt.

9. When a retail store asks customers if they would like to donate a few dollars to a charity, can the retail store receive a receipt for the total amount collected and donated?

No. A registered charity can only issue a receipt to the true donor(s). When a retail store collects donations from customers for a registered charity, it is the customers who are making the donations, not the retail store. Therefore, since the customers are the true donors, the retail store would not be entitled to a receipt when it gives the collected money to the charity.

10. An organization that had its registration as a charity revoked is continuing to take donations and is telling donors it will give them receipts for these donations once it is re-registered. Can the organization do this?

An organization that has its registration as a charity revoked may continue to receive gifts. However, it cannot issue donation receipts for these gifts while it is not registered as a charity.

Once an organization is re-registered as a charity, it can issue donation receipts for the gifts it received while it was revoked, as long as they meet the definition of a gift. This is because an organization that is re-registered as a charity is considered registered as of the date it was revoked.

Donors should be aware that there is no guarantee that an organization will get re-registered as a charity. For more information, see Re-registration.

11. Can donations to U.S. charities be claimed on a Canadian income tax return?

Gifts to U.S. charities typically cannot be claimed against Canadian income. However, if you have U.S. income, you can generally claim gifts to U.S. charities that would be allowed on a U.S. return. You can claim the eligible amount of your U.S. gifts up to 75% of the net U.S. income you report on your Canadian return. For more information, see P113 Gifts and Income Tax.

12. Can a charity issue a receipt for a donation made by one of its own directors?

Yes. A charity can issue a receipt to one of its directors in the same way it can issue receipts to any other donor.

13. A donor mails a cheque to a charity in December 2014, but the charity does not receive it until January 2015. Can the charity issue a receipt showing that the gift was received in 2014?

If the envelope containing the donation is postmarked on or before December 31, 2014, the charity can issue a receipt showing that the gift was received in 2014. The charity should keep the stamped envelope as part of its books and records.

14. A donor writes a cheque to a charity and dates it December 2014. The donor drops it in the charity’s mail slot on December 28, 2014, but the charity is closed and will not re-open until January 2015. Can the charity issue a receipt showing that the gift was received in 2014?

No. The charity received the donation in 2015 when it re-opened and does not have any evidence that the gift was received in 2014. Therefore the receipt must show that the gift was received in 2015.

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