Year-end strategies to enhance your charitable giving and tax planning

Scott Syrja |

As we move toward the end of the year, we approach the season of giving.  Many Canadians also 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 31st in order to combine them onto your 2020 tax return.  You can also combine onto a single tax return donations made by you and your spouse, and carryforward donations made in any of the prior five years.

*A carryforward is an income tax loss or credit not usable in the current year that can be applied to offset income or taxes paid, respectively, in subsequent tax 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% 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 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 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 January 1st 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 January 1, 2021.  This gives you the extra flexibility to re-contribute amounts to your TFSA in the new year and utilize donation tax credits on your 2020 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, which can be numerous, when its 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.

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. 

Published as a general source of information only.  Not intended as a solicitation to buy or sell specific investments, or to provide tax, legal or investment advice. Seek advice on your specific circumstances from an IG Wealth Management Consultant. Trademarks, including IG Private Wealth Management, are owned by IGM Financial Inc. and licensed to its subsidiary corporations