StatsCan recently published some statistics on charitable giving.  They noted “Canadian taxfilers reported making charitable donations of just under $8.3 billion in 2010, up 6.5% from 2009. At the same time, the number of donors increased 2.2% to just over 5.7 million. Data are based on income tax returns filed for 2010.”  That is a bit of a good news story and shows that many Canadians who have jobs feels quite lucky and are generally digging into their pockets more.  What is interesting and not discussed by StatsCan is that Canadian charities according to their T3010 filings issued about $13 billion in donation receipts.  Why then almost a 5 billion dollars difference between the T3010 filings and the personal income tax returns?  Many Canadians gave under $200 and did not claim any amount on their return. Some donations came from corporations and not personal taxfilers.  Also maybe some who gave over $200 did not keep their receipts or did not think it was important to file them. Perhaps the tax benefits of donating to registered charities are less important to some than to others.

Here is their note with my comments inserted in brackets

Note: Canadians contribute in many ways to charitable organizations.[We pay taxes which pays for more than 2/3 of revenue of registered charities (about $130 billion in funding from government), we buy products and services from registered charities (remember university tuition) and Canadians donate about $13 billion which only accounts for approximately 7% of revenue.  As well and very importantly Canadians give generously of their time by volunteering and this is extremely valuable for the sector and is not really captured on either the T3010 or personal income tax return.] This data include only amounts given to charities and approved organizations for which official tax receipts were provided and claimed on tax returns.[Actually amounts were given to “registered charities” and qualified donees, not “charities”.] It is possible to carry donations forward for up to five years after the year in which they were made. Therefore, donations reported for the 2010 taxation year could include donations that were made in any of the five previous years.[Very good point] According to tax laws, taxfilers are permitted to claim both their donations and those made by their spouses to receive better tax benefits. Consequently, the number of people who made charitable donations may be higher than the number who claimed tax credits.[Another very good point and why I was never concerned with a drop in tax filers as people who are married have been conditioned to file tax receipts on the return of the higher income spouse and not on both returns in that year..]

A few points that StatsCan does not make on this page include the following:
-about $300 million of claimed donations are part of what CRA terms “abusive charity gifting tax shelters” – less than 1% of that amount is actually spent on charitable activities.
-some amount is filed of false receipts or fraudulent receipts.  This amount is not as certain.  Unlike tax shelters that must provide a tax shelter number, I don’t think that there is a place on the tax return to tick off if you are filing fraudulent receipts.

Elsewhere if you buy a chart they have a small disclaimer on some charts “These data may include donations that might be denied by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) after an audit. To find out more about why donations might be denied (i.e. tax shelter gifting arrangements, false receipting) please go to the Canada Revenue Agency website: www.cra-arc.gc.ca”
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Here is the full StatsCan piece:

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/111205/dq111205a-eng.htm

Charitable donors
 
2010 (Previous release)

Canadian taxfilers reported making charitable donations of just under $8.3 billion in 2010, up 6.5% from 2009. At the same time, the number of donors increased 2.2% to just over 5.7 million. Data are based on income tax returns filed for 2010.

Nationally, 23.4% of all taxfilers claimed charitable donations on their tax return, in line with previous years. Manitoba (26.3%) had the highest percentage declaring a donation, followed by Prince Edward Island (25.3%) and Saskatchewan (25.3%).

The median donation was $260 in 2010, meaning that half of those claiming a donation gave more, and half less. This was up slightly from $250 in 2009.

The median donation remained stable in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. It increased slightly in all other provinces and territories, except Nunavut, where it declined.

Donors in Nunavut reported a median charitable donation of $470, the highest among the provinces and territories for the 11th consecutive year. Donors in Prince Edward Island and Alberta had the second-highest median donation, both $390.

Among census metropolitan areas, donors in Abbotsford–Mission, British Columbia, had by far the highest median charitable donation at $620. This was the ninth year in a row in which they were highest. Donors in Calgary and Victoria followed, both with a median of $390.

Note: Canadians contribute in many ways to charitable organizations. These data include only amounts given to charities and approved organizations for which official tax receipts were provided and claimed on tax returns. It is possible to carry donations forward for up to five years after the year in which they were made. Therefore, donations reported for the 2010 taxation year could include donations that were made in any of the five previous years. According to tax laws, taxfilers are permitted to claim both their donations and those made by their spouses to receive better tax benefits. Consequently, the number of people who made charitable donations may be higher than the number who claimed tax credits.