Gift Cards and Certificates

Gift cards or certificates are often donated to charities and are commonly used in fundraising activities such as silent auctions.

Tax receipts cannot be issued for a gift card or certificate if the donor is the business that issued it and if the gift card or certificate is redeemed by a third party (for example, by someone who purchased it in a silent auction). In this case, the gift card or certificate is considered only to be a promise by the business to give merchandise sometime in the future (that is, when the gift card is actually redeemed). Until then, there has been no gift of property. If the charity itself redeems the gift card or certificate for goods (not services), then a receipt may be issued, as the donor (the business) has then fulfilled its promise and transferred property to the charity.

Tax receipts may be issued if the person who donates the gift card or certificate purchased it from the issuer and then donates it to a charity. Once purchased, the gift card or certificate is considered to be property and, if donated to a charity, is eligible for a tax receipt.

The following table illustrates when a tax receipt may be issued in exchange for a gift card or certificate donated to a registered charity:


Redeemed by ...

Charity 3rd party

Donated by ...

Issuer (a business) Issue tax receipt Do not issue tax receipt
3rd party Issue tax receipt Issue tax receipt

Example 1: A book store donates one of its gift cards to a charity for use in its auction. Because the gift card is only considered to be a promise at the time of the donation, a tax receipt cannot be issued.

When the card is redeemed by whoever purchased it at the auction, the charity still cannot issue a receipt. This is because the redemption transaction is between the book store and the purchaser. The charity is not involved in this transaction (and specifically does not receive any donation as part of the transaction), so no tax receipt can be issued.

Example 2: A person buys a gift certificate for cooking classes from the cooking school and then donates it to a charity for use in its auction. The donor can receive a tax receipt for the full amount of the gift certificate because it is now considered to be property. The person who is giving the cooking classes does not get a receipt from the charity.

See 'Gift certificates or gift cards' (CRA, 2014)


Charity Tax Tools



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