Basics of Tax Receipting for Donations

Information included on a receipt

The CRA has specific requirements regarding the information included on a donation receipt. They have created a checklist of mandatory elements for use when issuing an official donation receipt ; they have also provided several sample receipts for different scenarios.

Some of the required information, such as the amount of the gift that is eligible for a receipt (eligible amount), may be difficult to determine.

A tax receipt can be issued only in the name of the individual or organization that actually gave the gift. If the donation is made by a cheque written on a joint bank account, the tax receipt should be issued in both names on the cheque, and the receipt may be used by either party to claim a tax credit.

Is a gift eligible for a receipt?

Before you issue a tax receipt, you must determine if you have truly received a gift according to the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA's) definition. 

To be eligible for a tax receipt, a gift must also:

  • be able to be valued; and
  • enrich the charity (that is, the gift must be the result of an intention to make a donation).

If the donor receives something in return for their gift (known as an "advantage" by CRA), you may or may not be able to issue a receipt for part of the gift (known as the eligible amount of the gift). See Split Receipting for details.

Gifts that are not eligible for receipts

Some gifts, such as money received in response to a direct mail campaign, are eligible for a tax receipt for the full amount of the donation. Some gifts are eligible for a receipt for only part of the amount of the donation. Other gifts are not eligible for a tax receipt at all.

The amount of the gift that is eligible for a receipt (eligible amount), may be difficult to determine. If the value of the gift, and the value of any advantage given in return for the gift, can’t both be determined, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does not allow a tax receipt to be issued.

Also, CRA generally does not allow tax receipts to be issued for the following (click on each item for more information, exceptions and examples):

Electronic tax receipts

Charities may issue electronic tax receipts, if:

  • the receipts contain all the required information (see Information that must be included on a tax receipt);
  • the receipts can be reproduced by the charity; and
  • the receipting information is stored on a system that is reasonably protected from unauthorized access.

Receipts may be sent to the donor by e-mail, if:

  • they are sent in a non-alterable format such as PDF;
  • they are signed with an electronic signature; and
  • the charity keeps copies of all e-mailed receipts.

See the CRA's Computer-generated receipts for more information.

Keeping records of tax receipts

Charities must keep copies of all tax receipts for two years after the year for which the receipt was issued. For ten-year gifts and other gifts of enduring property, copies of tax receipts must be kept for as long as the charity is registered, plus two additional years.

Copies must be stored in a secure place and should be made available only to those with a legitimate reason to see them. (For more information, refer to the privacy legislation that applies in your jurisdiction.)

If electronic tax receipts were issued, charities must be able to reproduce electronic copies of them for these time periods. The information must be stored in a password-protected computer system. Charities should also keep backup copies of their receipts, preferably at another secure location.

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