It's Your Money  

Year-end strategies for charitable giving

Tax impact of giving

As we move toward the end of the year, we approach the season of giving and many Canadians increase their charitable giving during this period.

However, not everyone is maximizing their giving in the most tax-efficient way. Whether it’s a continuation of donations made throughout the year, or an initial donation, there are several strategies to consider when donating prior to the end of the year.

Maximize the value of donation tax credits

The first $200 of donations you claim on your tax return receive a lower donation tax credit rate than donations claimed above $200. To limit donations subject to the lower $200 credit rate, consider bringing forward donations planned early in the new year and make them prior to December 31 in order to combine them onto this year’s tax return.

You can also maximize the amount above $200 by combining onto a single tax return donations made by you and your spouse, and carryforward unclaimed donations made in any of the prior five years.

The federal donation tax credit is enhanced if your income is in the top tax bracket. Rules vary by province, but there may also be an increase to the provincial donation tax credit based on your income. If this is a high-income year, consider donating prior to the end of the year to take advantage of the potentially higher donation tax credit available to you.

Review your investment portfolio and donation opportunities

An additional tax incentive is available where publicly traded securities, such as stocks and mutual funds, are donated “in-kind” to charity. When the security is donated “in-kind”; any accrued capital gain is realized, however, the taxable portion of the capital gain is reduced from 50 per cent to zero.

Consider donating securities with large accrued capital gains, as opposed to cash, to enhance tax efficiency. You benefit from both the donation tax credit for the value of the security donated and eliminate the capital gains tax.

You may hold securities that are in a loss position, and you may wish to realize these capital losses for tax planning purposes to offset any capital gains you may have realized in the year. Donating the security to charity will realize the capital loss and generate a donation tax receipt, providing multiple benefits for your year-end tax planning.

If you have employee stock options for publicly traded securities; special tax provisions can exempt the taxable benefit resulting from the exercise of the option if the shares are subsequently donated to charity. After exercising the options, the shares, or the cash proceeds must be donated within specified time limits to qualify for additional tax incentives. The applicable tax provisions are complex, and there may be limitations. Obtain tax advice specific to your circumstances.

If you wish to donate securities before the end of the year, don’t wait until the last minute as additional time may be required for the financial institution and charity to process the request.

Time TFSA withdrawals used to make donations before year-end to restore contribution room quickly

You may wish to withdraw funds from your TFSA to fund a charitable donation. A TFSA withdrawal is tax-free, however, contribution room will not be restored until Jan. 1 of the following year from the withdrawal. Plan to make your TFSA withdrawal prior to the end of the year so that your TFSA contribution room is restored on January 1 of the following year. This gives you the extra flexibility to re-contribute amounts to your TFSA in the new year and utilize donation tax credits on this year’s tax return.

Keep track of donation receipts

Often donation receipts are received immediately rather than being distributed in the new year. These receipts may be issued physically or by email. As you receive your donation receipts throughout the year keep a record and file them. This will make it easier to locate these receipts when it’s time to file your tax return.

Establish a donor-advised fund

A donor-advised fund can be beneficial in any charitable giving strategy. You can setup an account, name it as you so wish, and receive the tax benefits from donations. Assets can grow on a tax-exempt basis; and you retain control by recommending investments, grant amounts, and recipient charities. You may wish to give to charity before year-end but have not yet decided which causes to support, and a donor-advised fund may provide an appealing solution.

Consider setting up a donor-advised fund

these programs can help you create a lasting legacy by facilitating grants over an extended period or in perpetuity to the charities you choose. If desired, your family members can assume responsibility for recommendations on the account after your death or incapacity, establishing a multi-generational tradition of philanthropy.

As you can see, there are many considerations when deciding to give to charity. It is important to seek advice to help navigate these issues and maximize benefits both for you and the causes you care about. For more information on charitable giving and how it fits into your plan, speak to your certified financial planner professional.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Brett Millard is vice-president and a member of the executive leadership team at FP Canada, the national professional body for the financial planning industry. A not-for-profit organization, FP Canada works in the public interest to foster better financial health for all Canadians by leading the advancement of professional financial planning in Canada. 

He has worked in the financial advice industry for more than 15 years and is designated as a chartered investment manager (CIM) and is a certified financial planner (CFP).

He has written a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges they face in every stage of life. Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority for Brett and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer focus on that initiative. 

Please let Brett know if you have any topics you’d like him to cover in future columns ,or if you’d like a referral to a qualified CFP professional in your area, by emailing him at [email protected].


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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