British Columbia

Stingy with charity, or just not claiming donations?

A Fraser Institute study shows Canadians are not as generous as we'd like to think. However, charities say cash donations aren't the only way to measure generosity.

Fraser Institute study measured income tax claims, but non-cash donations were not considered

B.C. not so generous after all?

9 years ago
Duration 2:16
British Columbians claim fewer charity donations on their taxes

Generosity among Canadians is on the decline, according to a study comparing donations recorded on tax returns in Canada and the U.S.

The study, released by the Fraser Institute Monday, measured donations to registered charities claimed on tax forms across North America. It found that fewer Canadians are donating now than in years past and, when they do give, it adds up to less.

Just over 25 per cent of Canadians claimed a charitable donation on their taxes in 2005, but that number shrunk to 22.9 per cent in 2011, the most recent year data was available.

For the fifteenth year running, Manitoba was found to be the most generous Canadian province, in terms of participation and per cent of aggregate income donated. Overall, the Fraser Institute's Generosity Index dubbed Utah the most generous jurisdiction in Canada and the United States.

B.C. ranked seventh out of 10 Canadian provinces in terms of participation, with 21.7 per cent of tax-filers recording donations to charity.

For B.C. residents who did donate, the average amount recorded on tax forms was $1,889. Only Alberta recorded a higher average donation, at $2,321.

Study co-author and resident scholar in economic policy at the Fraser Institute, Charles Lammam, said the decline in charitable giving limits the ability of Canada's charities to serve those in need.

"Had Canadians donated in 2011 at the same rate as 2006, Canada’s charities would have received an additional $2.3 billion in private donations in 2011, for a potential total of $11.1 billion," Lamman said in a written statement.

Non-cash donations didn't count

But, charities that run on donations other than cash — such as the gift-giving Be a Santa to a Senior program in Vancouver — were overlooked by the study.

A Vancouver charity says they've received 800 charitable donations this year, all of them goods, none of which can be claimed as deductions on personal income taxes.

Spokeswoman Janet Hassell said the Be a Santa to a Senior group has 800 presents wrapped and ready to be delivered to B.C. seniors.

"Could be slippers. It could be a decoration for their room. It could be some chocolates, a gift card to a grocery store," Hassell said. "This program doesn't show on our tax returns. We can't claim anything."

Hassell said programs that rely on donations of goods continue to witness incredible generosity from residents of B.C. 

with files from the CBC's Belle Puri


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