Introduction to Ecogifts
Ecological Gifts Program, Environment Canada
(Before reviewing this resource page, please view the Power Point presentation at the start of this Unit)
Habitat loss and degradation are the greatest threats to biodiversity in Canada today and many key habitats are found on private property. Landowners can play a vital role in their conservation.
- The Ecogifts program, under the auspices of Environment Canada, provides a way for Canadians with ecologically sensitive land to protect nature and leave a legacy for future generations.
- It offers significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or a partial interest in land to a qualified recipient.
- Recipients ensure that the land's biodiversity and environmental heritage are conserved in perpetuity.
Since 1995, hundreds of Canadians have donated more than five hundred Ecogifts valued at over $160 million.
The Ecological Gifts Program is the only national tax incentive program that provides incentives to encourage the donation of ecologically sensitive lands and certain interests in those lands to environmental charities working in land conservation.
Empowered under the Income Tax Act, the Minister of Environment is responsible for approving the eligibility of charitable organizations to receive ecological gifts, the certification of ecological sensitivity and the determination of fair market value for all ecological gifts.
Qualified recipients, including land trusts or other environmental charities, ensure that the land's biodiversity and environmental heritage are conserved in perpetuity.
Types of land that have been protected under the program
A wide range of lands have been protected to date under the program, including forests, grasslands, wetlands and shorelines. If a property contains features that have been conserved in their natural state, or there is good potential to rehabilitate such features, it may qualify as an Ecogift.
Ecological Sensitivity Criteria
The following national criteria currently apply:
- areas identified, designated or protected by a local, provincial, territorial, national or international system or body as ecologically significant or ecologically important
- natural spaces of significance to the environment in which they are located
- sites that have significant current ecological value, or potential for enhanced ecological value, as a result of their proximity to other significant properties
- municipal or rural lands that are zoned or designated for biodiversity objectives
- natural buffers around environmentally sensitive areas such as water bodies, streams or wetlands
- areas or sites that contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity or Canada's environmental heritage.
Private and corporate landowners who donate property through this Program receive special income tax benefits.
- Donors receive a tax receipt for the full value of the EcoGift that can be applied against 100% of their net annual income.
- Click here for the official description of the tax benefits
- Corporate donors deduct the amount directly, while individuals use it to calculate a non-refundable tax credit.
- Any unused portion of the receipt may be carried forward for up to 5 years, and there is no taxable capital gain.
Who receives the land
Gifts of ecologically sensitive land may be donated to eligible environmental charities as well as to federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments.
There are over 190 eligible charities across Canada, including land trusts and nature conservation groups.
How to apply to be added the list of charities
How a charity becomes eligible
To apply for eligibility, a registered charity must send a request in writing to: National Coordinator, Ecological Gifts Program, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, 351 St. Joseph Blvd., Gatineau QC K1A 0H3, fax (819) 953-3575. The letter must include:
- full contact details (business address, e-mail, fax, and phone);
- the organization's Business Number and Charitable Registration Number; and
- a copy of the organization's full statement of purpose, such as the statement of objects included in the letters patent or incorporation papers.
An explanation of the mission of the organization and some examples of the kinds of projects it undertakes are also recommended. A response from Environment Canada can be expected within six weeks. If the request is urgent, include that information in the letter and the process may be expedited.
From the donor's perspective, what is involved
If a donor is considering making an ecological gift, they should be advised to seek independent financial and legal advice.
After doing this, if they still wish to go ahead, the donor should select and contact an eligible recipient to discuss the donor's land and conservation goals.
The eligible recipient can often help the donor prepare the documentation required to determine if the land qualifies as ecologically sensitive.
Next step - Appraisal
If the land qualifies, Environment Canada then requires an appraisal of the fair market value of the donation from a qualified appraiser, along with a signed application.
The review of appraisals normally takes about 90 days. Donors are encouraged to start early in the calendar year if they wish to use their Ecogift tax benefits that same year. See the link elsewhere in this Module for Appraisal details.
Split Receipting - Ecological Gifts are eligible for split-receipting
Split-receipting refers to a situation where a donee (i.e. a recipient) may issue a tax receipt to a donor for an eligible amount of a gift, namely the difference in the total value of the gift and the value of any consideration that the donor received in return for such gift.
Split-receipting is applicable to all eligible transfers of real property to qualified recipients under the Ecological Gifts Program.