My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Best of The Blunt Bean Counter - The Tax Benefits of Donating Stocks to Charities

This summer I am re-posting the "best of" The Blunt Bean Counter blog while I work on my golf game (for some reason there seems to be a negative relationship between my age and my handicap). Today, I am re-posting a May 2021 blog titled "The Tax Benefits of Donating Stocks to Charities". 
I have edited this preamble, as the original blog post had a few paragraphs discussing the unusual congruence of capitalism and altruism in relation to the Reddit WallStreetBets group. As you may recall, capitalism (at it's worst or best depending upon your view) was on display as many members of the WallStreetBets forum made astronomical amounts of money on the shares of GameStop, AMC etc. when they "squeezed short sellers". Yet, altruism was also on display, as there were many stories of the Reddit users making large donations with their profits and urging others to do likewise. 
Speaking of charity and kindness, the Canadian Income Tax Act is surprisingly altruistic. It provides for charitable giving while at the same time providing income tax benefits. This is especially true where you donate publicly listed securities with unrealized capital gains to your charity of choice. Today, I will discuss the benefits of a donation of publicly listed securities to a charity versus a cash only donation.

Donation of Cash

If you donate cash to charity, you can claim a donation credit of up to 75% of your net income. Where an individual makes a charitable donation of cash, there is a federal non-refundable tax credit of 15% on the first $200 of donations. For donations in excess of $200, the non-refundable tax credit increases to 29%. In addition, the provinces provide provincial tax credits.

In Ontario, my home province, the actual tax savings for a donation range from approximately 40% (if your net income is around $50,000) to 50% (if you are a high-rate taxpayer) of your actual donation, for any donations in excess of the $200 limit. Thus, from a cash perspective, your donation only costs you 50-60% of what you actually donate to the charity. A good deal for all parties.

Donation of Public Securities

For those of you sitting with large unrealized capital gains on public securities, a donation of these shares is more tax effective than a donation of cash from the after-tax sale of your shares (this applies to non-registered account donations only, not RRSPs etc.). This is because when you donate public securities listed on a prescribed stock exchange, the taxable portion of the capital gain is eliminated, and the net after-tax cost of the donation is reduced substantially.

For example, if a high-rate Ontario taxpayer sells a stock for a $10,000 gain (say the proceeds were $12,000 and the cost was $2,000), they would owe approximately $2,700 in income tax on the capital gain in the following April. If they donate the gross proceeds of $12,000, the donation would result in income tax savings of approximately $6,000 when they filed their return. The net after-tax cash cost of the donation is approximately $8,700 ($12,000 cash donation + $2,700 tax owing - $6,000 tax credit).

However, if the taxpayer donated the stock directly to a charity, the organization would receive $12,000, the taxpayer would receive a refund of approximately $6,000, and they would owe no taxes on the capital gain, making the net after-tax cash donation cost only $6,000.

Clearly, where you have a stock or bond you intend to sell and you plan on donating some or all of the proceeds, a direct contribution of the security to a charity is far more tax efficient. Most charities make the process relatively pain-free (note: as a reader commented in my original post, you can also make donations to public foundations).

Donation of securities from a private corporation

Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) can be taxed in various ways, so I am not going to get into the ins and outs of donating. However, one thing to consider when deciding whether to donate personally or corporately is that for most CCPCs, they will be able to add 100% of the capital gain ($10,000 in the example above) to their capital dividend account (CDA) and get this money out to you and/or the other shareholders tax-free (assuming there are no negative attributes to the CDA account). For a detailed discussion of the CDA, see this blog post.  In all cases, please speak to your accountant so they can help you determine whether to make a personal or corporate donation.

While the markets have not been very good in 2022, you may still have several marketable securities with large unrealized gains due to the strong markets of the last few years. Consider donating some of these shares to help a good cause. You will help make the world a better place and as an added bonus, you will reduce your taxes.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

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