Workplace giving versus salary sacrifice donations

Have you made donations either through workplace giving or salary sacrifice arrangements with your employer? If so, and you want to claim a deduction in your tax return, it’s important to know that the tax treatment differs depending on which method you used to make the donation.

Essentially, workplace giving is a streamlined way for employees to regularly donate to charities and deductible gift recipients (DGRs). Usually a fixed portion of your salary is deducted from your pay each pay cycle and your employer forwards the donation on to the DGR. However, the amount of your gross salary remains the same and, depending on your employer’s payroll systems, the amount of tax you pay each pay period may or may not be reduced to take into account the donation.

On the other hand, under a typical salary sacrificing donation arrangement, you agree to have a portion of your salary donated to a DGR in return for your employer providing you with benefits of a similar value. Your gross salary is reduced by the salary sacrificed amount and the amount of tax you pay each pay period will be reduced. Your employer makes the donation to the DGR.

If you’ve made a donation under workplace giving, you can claim a deduction in your tax return. This is regardless of whether or not your employer reduced the amount of tax you paid each pay cycle to account for the amount of the donation. Your employer will give you a letter or email stating the total amount donated to DGRs, and the financial year in which the donations were made. Alternatively, your employer will provide the total amount of donations you made for the year in your tax time payment summary, under the “Workplace giving” section.

If you’ve made a donation to a DGR under a salary sacrifice arrangement, however, you’re not entitled to claim a deduction in your tax return, since it’s your employer that is making the donation to the DGR – not you.

If you make donations outside the workplace, remember that for a donation to be deductible it must be made to a DGR and truly be a gift or donation of $2 or more. You can still claim a deduction if you receive a token item in recognition of your donation (eg a lapel pin, wristband or sticker).

Tip: It’s important to note that many crowdfunding campaigns and sites are not run by DGRs, so any donations made to those causes should be carefully examined before claiming them – it’s likely they won’t be deductible.