Charities issue official donation receipts to donors all the time. A charity will typically authorize a small number of individuals to sign these receipts, whether they’re the executive director, treasurer, financial officer, or some other title. But a certain dilemma can arise if an authorized individual donates to the charity they typically sign receipts for; can they sign their own official donation receipts? Even if they can, should they?
The Tax Court of Canada (TCC) considered a related issue in a 2020 decision, Ampratwum-Duah v. The Queen (Ampratwum). Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) reassessed a taxpayer who had claimed charitable donations during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 taxation years. That taxpayer was the religious leader of the charity during that time and signed off on his own donation receipts. In support of his case, the taxpayer’s only evidence of the donations were the receipts themselves; he did not provide any accompanying bank records, church records, or testimony from another official at the charity.
The TCC was unconvinced, and reminded the taxpayer of his obligation under the Income Tax Act (ITA): section 230, subsection (6) requires a taxpayer who serves a notice of objection or is a party to an appeal to the TCC to “retain every record, book of account, account and voucher necessary for dealing with the objection or appeal”.
In other words, the taxpayer needed to keep adequate records to determine his payable taxes, including claimed deductions, until his appeal was decided. He failed to do so because the only records he kept were the official donation receipts, signed by himself. The court held that, without any corroborating evidence, the taxpayer failed to comply with the record-keeping requirement in s. 230(6) of the ITA. It then held that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether the claimed donations had been made.
Where does this leave the charity’s financial officer, or similarly authorized individual? It is possible the court could have found in favour of this taxpayer if he had provided bank records or compelling testimony from someone else at the charity with knowledge of donations. If an authorized individual decides to sign their own official donation receipts, they should keep adequate records from a variety of sources. However, best practice is to avoid that situation altogether by having another authorized individual sign their official donation receipts.
CCCC members can log in to the Knowledge Base for more information about keeping proper books and records. They are also welcome to contact our Member Support Team with their questions.
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.