What is a gift?

This article is adapted from the CRA http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/prtng/gfts/whts-eng.html

When a charitable gift is received, the recipient must consider the following questions to figure out if the donation can be considered a gift, per Canadian Revenue Agency standards. If the donation meets the criteria listed below, then a receipt can be issued to the donor. 

(In this article a “qualified donee” refers to a recipient qualified as a donee per the Canadian Revenue Agency such as a registered charity, a registered Canadian amateur athletic association or a registered municipality.)

  1. Was the gift made voluntarily?

A gift must be given freely. If a gift is made as a result of a contractual or other obligation (for example, a court order) a receipt cannot be issued.

  1. Was there a transfer of property?

A receipt can only be issued for a gift of property.

A gift of service is not a gift of property and a receipt cannot be issued. For more information, go to gifts of services. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/prtng/gfts/srvcs-eng.html

A gift certificate donated by the issuer of the certificate is not considered property and a receipt can only be issued under specific circumstances. However, if someone buys a gift certificate and then donates it to a qualified donee, it is considered property and a receipt can be issued. For more information, see Guidance CG-007, Donation of gift certificates or gift cards. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cgd/gftcrt-eng.html

A pledge or promise to make a gift is not in itself a gift. Therefore, a receipt cannot be issued. However, when the donor honors the pledge or promise by making a transfer of property, a receipt can be issued.

  1. Did the donor receive an advantage?

When a donor receives an advantage (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/glssry-eng.html#advantage) in return for a donation, all or part of the donation may no longer qualify as a gift. For more information, go to Split receipting. (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/prtng/rcpts/splt-eng.html)

Examples of advantages include:

  • a ticket to an event
  • the use of property
  • a dinner or performance at a fundraising event
  1. Did the donor ask for the gift to be directed to a specific person, family, or other non-qualified donee?

A donor cannot choose a specific beneficiary for their gift or ask the qualified donee to give the gift to another non-qualified donee. However, a donor can ask that their gift be used in a particular program of the qualified donee as long as there is no benefit to the donor or anyone not at arm’s length to the donor. The qualified donee must be able to use the gift within the particular program as it sees fit. If the donor retains control, the donation is no longer considered a gift at law and a receipt cannot be issued.

  1. Was there a condition attached to the gift?

There are two types of conditions that can be attached to a gift: a condition precedent or a condition subsequent.

A condition precedent means that a certain condition must be met before the gift takes effect. For example, a donor gives $100,000 on the condition that the qualified donee also raises $100,000 within a certain period of time. Since a condition precedent is not a gift at law until after the condition is fulfilled, a qualified donee can issue a receipt only after the condition has been met.

condition subsequent means that a condition must be met after the gift is made. For example, a donor gives $200,000 to a qualified donee on the condition that the funds are used to operate a shelter for the homeless. If the condition is not met, the donor can ask the court that the $200,000 be returned. If the court orders that the gift be returned to the donor, the qualified donee must send a letter with this information to the Canada Revenue Agency. For more information, go to Returning a gift to a donor (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/prtng/gfts/rtrnng-eng.html) and see Guidance CG-016 Qualified donees – Consequences of returning donated property. (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cgd/rtrng-dntd-prpty-eng.html)

What types of transactions generally do not qualify as gifts?

The following transactions do not qualify as gifts:

  • gifts of services (for example, donated time, labour)
  • gift certificates that the issuer donated (may qualify under specific circumstances as explained in Guidance CG-007)
  • a non-cash gift for which the fair market value cannot be determined
  • gifts provided in exchange for advertising or sponsorship
  • a gift that gives the donor an advantage whose fair market value is more than 80% of the value of the gift
  • a payment for a lottery ticket or other chance to win a prize
  • a court-ordered donation to a qualified donee
  • the admission fee to an event or program
  • membership fees that give the donor an advantage that is more than 80% of the value of the membership (for example, the right to attend events, receive literature, or services)
  • a payment to cover a child’s adoption fees
  • the purchase of goods or services from a qualified donee
  • pledges
  • a loan of property
  • the use of a timeshare
  • the lease of premises