Charity begins online

National Post


With less than a week to go before year-end, time is running out if you still want to make a charitable gift and get a donation tax receipt for 2009.

For last-minute gifts, many charities have online donation capabilities on their websites that allow you to donate right up to midnight of Dec. 31.

For smaller charities, or to split one larger gift among various charities in one step, you might consider visiting CanadaHelps. The public foundation has facilitated donations of more than $100-million since 2000. Through their website, you can donate to any of Canada’s 83,000 registered charities and get an instant e-tax receipt.

Missed someone on your holiday shopping list this year? CanadaHelps now offers a charity gift card, billed as “a unique way to send a gift to the person who has everything!”

You, the donor, pick an amount of the gift card and choose from one of several card designs available for various occasions. You can select to either have the card delivered by email to your recipient or you can print it off to give to them yourself.

The recipient then visits the CanadaHelps’ website, enters the gift card number and chooses which charity will receive the donation. If no decision is made within six months by the recipient, you will get an email advising you to select a charity of your choice instead.

It’s a win-win-win, as you get the tax receipt and the gift recipient gets to choose to which organization the funds are directed, with that charity being the ultimate winner.

Both donors and charities could be even bigger winners in 2010 if the federal government decides to adopt two of the recommendations of House of Commons standing committee on finance, which released its annual pre-budget consultation report earlier this month.

In the report titled A Prosperous and Sustainable Future for Canada: Needed Federal Actions, the committee first recommends the government consider increasing the charitable tax credit rate to 39% from 29% for incremental annual increases in giving, provided that annual giving is more than $200 and less than $10,000.

This idea, known as the “stretch credit,” was developed and presented to the committee by Marcel Lauzière, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, itself a national registered charity, “that looks into and out for Canada’s charities and nonprofits.” The purpose of the credit “is to encourage more Canadians to give and to support those who do give to give more.”

The committee’s second recommendation was to eliminate the capital gains tax on donations of real estate and land to public charities. This idea was the subject of Malcolm Burrows’ recent study for the C.D. Howe Institute, which also recommends eliminating the capital gains tax on donations of private company shares — a recommendation the committee did not adopt.

One update Last week’s column discussed the Tax Court’s decision denying the donation tax credit on a leveraged donation tax shelter purchased by Toronto lawyer Max Maréchaux. That decision has been appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal.