It is better to give than to receive, but what’s even better is getting a tax credit from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for it. Here are three tax tips on how to make the most of your charitable donations on your Canadian income tax return.
The first $200 of a charitable donation in Canada has a certain federal tax credit attached to it and a certain provincial tax credit attached to it. But when your total charitable giving for the year increases above $200 the Federal Credit doubles from 15% to 30% and the provincial rate also increases, although the exact amount it increases depends on what province you’re in.
Put another way, every dollar you give above the first $200 is worth a lot more in terms of tax savings than the dollars below $200. Married couples or common law couples can put all charitable donations on one return, and doing so can have a tax advantage if separately they don’t go over $200, but their combined donations do.
As for how far you can go, the maximum charitable donation you can give to obtain a tax credit is 75% of your net income.
You may have heard that charitable donations to American charitable institutions also qualify for a tax credit in Canada, and this is true. But that tax credit has a limitation attached to it that usually cancels out the advantage: you can only apply an American charitable donation to earn a credit against US-earned income.
So if all your income was earned in Canada and you give to a U.S charity you’re not actually going to get a charitable Credit in Canada for that.
If you’re an artist or other kind of creator, you may have been asked by a charitable organization to provide an artwork or something similar in exchange for a charitable donation receipt. And you should! It’s a good thing to do. However, be aware that you’re not actually going to get the same kind of tax credit for giving your own artwork as you would if you gave money.
Donations of something other than cash are called ‘In Kind’ donations. But when you’re a professional artist and you give away artwork, for tax purposes it’s considered to have been sold for the fair market value and you have to declare the ‘sale’ as income. This isn’t intuitively obvious – check out our blog post about this – but it’s true. And then you get a charitable donation for the same amount as you ‘sold’ the painting for.
As a result typically these amounts — the ‘sale’ and the donation — more or less cancel out. In extreme (if unlikely) cases, you could actually get taxed more on what you “earned” for the painting than what you actually get as a tax credit for the charitable donation.
So don’t think of giving away your own artwork as a way to save a lot on tax; it usually more or less works out to a wash. In the end, it’s giving money that you’ve already earned and already are being taxed on, you give that money to charity and that’s how you get a tax credit.