Questions and answers – Answers to common questions about donating to a charity in Canada.

1. What is a registered charity?
A registered charity is a charitable organization, public foundation, or private foundation that was established in Canada and is resident in Canada. It is operated exclusively for charitable purposes (i.e., the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, or other purposes that benefit the community in a way the courts have said are charitable) and must devote its resources to charitable activities. A registered charity has received a registration number from the Canada Revenue Agency and is exempt from paying tax on its revenue. It can issue official donation receipts for income tax purposes for gifts that it receives.

2. How do I verify if a charity is registered?
Ask the charity for its registration number, and confirm its status by consulting the CRA Charities Listings, or by calling the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-267-2384.

3. What is the main difference between a non-profit organization and a registered charity?
Registered charities must fit into one of four categories of charitable purposes: the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, or other purposes that benefit the community in a way the courts have said are charitable. Non-profit organizations may not fit into one of the four categories of charitable purposes but may have purposes such as social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure, or recreation. Non-profit organizations cannot issue official donation receipts for gifts that they receive.

4. Can a registered charity lend its registration number to another registered or non-registered charity?
No. Under no circumstances should a registered charity lend its registration number to another organization for receipting purposes. A charity that lends its registration number risks losing its charitable registration. A donor who accepts a falsified official donation receipt will risk having the tax credit disallowed and may be subject to fines.

5. Is a charity required to issue an official donation receipt?
No. However, the Canada Revenue Agency advises charities to notify potential donors of any circumstances in which they will not issue an official donation receipt. Donors cannot claim a charitable tax credit or deduction unless they have an official donation receipt.

6. To whom must an official donation receipt be addressed?
Generally, the official donation receipt can only be issued to the true donor of the gift to a charity. If a donation is made by a cheque in both spousal names, an official donation receipt can be issued in either name. If a corporation sends a donation to a charity, the official donation receipt can be made to the corporation owner only if he has sent a personal cheque. If the corporation is donating money that has been collected from its employees, and there is a written declaration to prove this, the charity can issue the official donation receipt in each donor’s name.

7. How can I replace a lost official donation receipt?
If you lose your official donation receipt, you can ask the charity to issue a replacement. You should receive a replacement receipt which contains all the required information plus a note to the effect that it “cancels and replaces receipt No. (the serial number of the lost receipt is inserted here)

8. If the charitable status of a charity to which I have recently made a donation has been revoked, can I still claim my tax credit?
If the organization was registered during the time of your donation, and if your receipts genuinely reflect the amount you gave, you can still claim your tax credit. Please note that when a charity is revoked, the organization may donate its assets to another eligible donee; otherwise, the assets are collected as tax.

9. What if I get something in return for my donation?
When a registered charity provides you with something of value in return for making a donation, the eligible amount of your donation for income tax purposes is generally reduced. This amount will be reflected on your official donation receipt. For example: You donate $1,000 to the Anytown Ballet Company, which is a registered charity. In gratitude, the company provides you with three ballet tickets worth $50 each, for a total value of $150. These tickets are considered an advantage of $150. The eligible amount of your donation for calculating your tax credit is therefore $850 ($1,000 – $150).

10. Can a charity return a donation?
In most cases, a registered charity cannot return a donor’s gift. At law, a gift transfers ownership of the money or other gifted property from the donor to the charity. Once the transfer is made, the charity is obliged to use the gift in carrying out its charitable purposes. On occasion, though, a charity may be obliged by law to return gifts to donors. This can happen, for instance, when a charity asks the public to contribute to a special project and later events make it impossible to carry out the project.

11. Do I have to claim donations the same year that I make them?
No. You can carry forward any donations you do not claim in the current year and claim them on your return for any of the next five years, but you can only claim donations once. You have to claim tax credits for gifts you carried forward from a previous year before you claim tax credits for gifts in the current year. If you are claiming a carryforward, attach a note to your return indicating the year of the return in which you submitted the official donation receipt, the portion of the eligible amount you are claiming this year, and the amount you are carrying forward.

12. What is the current tax credit rate for donations?
See Charitable donation tax credit rates.

13. I’ve been invited to participate in a donation program that will make me a profit. Is it safe to participate?
There are serious risks associated with this type of program – See What are donation schemes and why should I avoid them? to learn more.

14. How do I report charity fraud?
Report fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501. You can also call the CRA’s toll free numbers in Canada: 1-800-267-2384 (English) or 1-888-892-5667 (bilingual).

15. Is it safe to donate online?
Any charity that solicits donations online should be responsible for protecting your information. Read the charity’s privacy policy before making a donation online. Only give donations through secure Web pages. If you are unsure about donating online, contact the charity and ask them for other ways to donate.