Ethics and Canadian Charities

December 28, 2016

Ignorance isn’t bliss for large registered charities anymore as CRA focuses audits on them

CRA uses a risk based approach to deciding which charities are to be audited.  CRA a few months ago announced they are adjusting their audit strategy to focus more on larger Canadian registered charities. I guess someone in the past might had thought that smaller organizations, many without any staff, might be less legally compliant and they should be focused on. I guess someone now at the Charities Directorate has worked out that larger organizations have a large amount of resources, generally a lot more complexity and are to be non-compliant with the requirements of the Income Tax Act and such non-compliance could affect much larger amounts of resources.

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December 27, 2016

Imagine Canada’s The Ethical Code Program comes to an end on Dec 31,  2016

Imagine Canada has announced that their original "Ethical Code Program" is being merged with their new Standards Program. They are notifying charities that "The Program will remain open, and participants may continue to use the trustmark, until December 31, 2016. After that date, however, all references to the Ethical Code Program, including the trustmark, will need to be removed from your website."

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December 26, 2016

Which Canadian Private Foundations had the largest total expenditures in 2013-2015?

We recently reviewed the private foundations contained on the T3010 Registered Charity Information Return for 2013, 2014 and 2015.   We looked at who had the largest expenditures, what their total assets were and the percentage of total assets that were disbursed in that particular year.  Here are the results:

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December 21, 2016

Did charitable giving in Canada really hit a 10-year low?

I recently read a press release from a Canadian think tank that said “Charitable giving in Canada hits 10-year low”. They proposed “In total, Canadians claimed $9 billion in charitable donations in 2014. But had Canadians donated in 2014 at the same rate as in 2006, Canada's charities would have received an additional $3.6 billion, for a potential total of $12.6 billion."  They also noted that Americans gave 1.42 per cent of their income to charity in 2014 -- more than two-and-a-half times what Canadians gave.” I guess their main points were that Canadians are becoming less generous and Canadians are not as generous as Americans.  I have issues with the arguments and the methodology.

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December 16, 2016

Charities, Privacy and Screening Donors

Recently in the UK there were fines imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office on two prominent charities.  This raised the issue of charities and privacy of donor information.

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November 03, 2016

Mark Blumberg’s article “CRA consultation on political activities – to submit or not to submit?”

I recently wrote an article for Hilborn entitled "CRA consultation on political activities – to submit or not to submit?"  Here is the text of the article:

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November 02, 2016

An ICN Webinar – CRA Regulations and the Political Activities of Charities

I am pleased to be co-presenting to the ICN a webinar on "CRA Regulations and the Political Activities of Charities".

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October 26, 2016

CCLA Webinar to discuss the CRA’s new consultation on political activities with Mark Blumberg

As many know the CRA has launched a consultation on political activities by Canadian charities.  The Canadian Charity Law Association will be having Mark Blumberg present a webinar on the consultation and various ways of responding or not responding to it. The webinar will be on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 12:00PM EST.  You can register here for the webinar.  It is free but there is limited space.  

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October 26, 2016

UK Charity Commission finds misconduct by charity due to deficient safeguarding procedures

The UK Charity Commission has published a report regarding its inquiry into a registered charity (the Bristol Community Church Trust). The inquiry started in 2011 and related to sexual abuse allegations that were made against the charity's youth pastor and the inadequacy of the charity's internal safeguarding practices with respect to their response to these allegations.  

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October 17, 2016

The Foundation Payout Debate at Arnova in Washington

I am pleased to be on a panel at Arnova in Washington entitled "The Foundation Payout Debate: Comparative Perspectives on Distribution, Perpetuity and the Role of Foundations".

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October 08, 2016

A quick introduction to CharityData.ca from Mark Blumberg

Blumbergs has created a very interesting new website called CharityData.ca.   Here is a short video which provides an overview of this powerful tool with information on over 86,000 Canadian registered charities with up to 10 years historical information on each registered charity. This tool will be particularly important for donors, funders, journalists, volunteers, those staff responsible for financial management and regulators.

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October 04, 2016

Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor on Political Activities by Canadian charities 2016

Imagine Canada has put out a very interesting report on a survey of Canadian charities and their answers relating to political activities.  The Sector Monitor report is prepared by David Lasby of Imagine Canada and is well worth reading.  One of the conclusions was "Likelihood of reporting negative effects increased with intensity of engagement in public policy. However, while negative effects are common, this does not appear to have resulted in decreased engagement in public policy."

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September 27, 2016

CRA launches consultation on political activities by Canadian registered charities

The CRA today launched its political activity consultation.  It reinforces the importance of charities being engaged in the political process. The CRA is looking for feedback on the rules and CRA's guidance.  People or organizations have until November 25, 2016 to provide comments.   We have provided a large amount of documents and analysis on the issue of charities and political activities in our political activities and Canadian charities directory.  

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September 27, 2016

House of Commons Finance Committee 2017 pre-budget consultations

The House of Commons Finance Committee (FINA) has posted the pre-budget submissions that it received.  There are 420 briefs including our brief Increasing the  productivity of the charity and non-profit sector through greater transparency and accountability.  If anyone notices any other briefs discussing greater transparency in the non-profit and charitable sector please do let me know.   

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September 26, 2016

CRA to launch consultation on charities and political activities

The CRA has issued a media advisory that the "Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, will launch public consultations to clarify the rules regarding the involvement of registered charities in political activities."  She will make the announcement tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27, 2016 in Ottawa. This consultation will give the public an opportunity to express their views on charities and political activities.  

We have provided a large amount of documents and analysis on the issue of charities and political activities in our political activity directory.  We will be helping various organizations with their discussions and submissions on this important topic.  

September 20, 2016

Some simple and free steps to increase your Canadian registered charity’s transparency

The work that charities do is extremely important to our society, so it is vital that various stakeholders, such as the public, the media, the government, donors, employees, boards, donors and others. have access to key information on what the charity is doing and how it is doing it. In general transparency will ultimately increase public trust and confidence in the sector by making the public more informed about the work of charities and making it more difficult for people to misuse charities. However, from a legal perspective registered charities have few requirements in terms of transparency.  Registered charities must file a T3010 Registered Charity Information Return with a financial statement and various schedules with the CRA every year.

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September 15, 2016

Modernizing charity law in Canada is for now a Pandora’s box

The Liberal Government has made some noises about modernizing charity law.  Who could be opposed to modernization?  As there is no idea as to what "modernization" means, it has opened up all sorts of calls for changes to charity law in Canada - many of the ideas would be expensive, counterproductive, stifling, or ultimately destroy the positive reputation of the charity sector.  Wikipedia defines a Pandora's box as "a process that generates many complicated problems as the result of unwise interference in something."  Although only time will tell, it appears that "modernizing charity law" has a small upside and a very large downside.  

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September 07, 2016

CRA presentation on the Regulation of Charities - Overview September 2014

Here is a copy of a CRA Powerpoint presentation slide deck on the Regulation of Charities - Overview - September 2014.  It provides some useful information including the CRA's audit plan.  For example, the audit plan shows that CRA planned on auditing in 2014/15 32 registered Canadian amateur athletic associations (RCAAAs).  That is a pretty large number as there are only 119 RCAAAs in total.   Political activity audits in that same period only accounted for 2% of CRA audits.  Only 4% of charities audited resulted in CRA issuing an notice of intention to revoke.  

September 07, 2016

Cost of charitable tax incentives in Canada approximately $4 billion per year

In the notes section of a CRA presentation "Regulation of Charities - Overview" the CRA notes that in 2012 the amount of receipts issued was $14.28 Billion and that "the federal assistance for charitable donations in 2012 exceeded $2.9 ... Individuals also claimed over $1 billion in provincial and territorial tax credits billion".  Therefore the cost of having a tax subsidy just for donations to registered charities is almost $4 Billion. 

September 06, 2016

Canada Without Poverty charter challenge to political activity rules of Canadian charities

A Canadian charity has launched a charter challenge against the restrictions on registered charities in carrying out political activities. They argue that it violates freedom of speech and assembly amongst other things.  The CBC covered it in an article entitled "Anti-poverty group launches challenge of political-activity limits".

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August 24, 2016

CPA Canada’s 20 Questions Directors of Not-for-Profit Organizations Should Ask about Mergers

The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) have released today a booklet entitled 20 Questions Directors of Not-for-Profit Organizations Should Ask about Mergers. It is located on this CPA Canada page. It is written by Andrea Cohen Barrack, CEO of the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), Canada’s largest granting foundation, and Mark Blumberg, a charity lawyer and partner at Blumberg Segal LLP and editor of www.globalphilanthropy.ca, www.canadiancharitylaw.ca, smartgiving.ca and charitydata.ca

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August 12, 2016

Deficiencies in a registered charity’s T3010 filing is covered extensively by the CBC.

The CBC recently wrote an article entitled “Iris Kirby House fundraising foundation refiles public charity disclosure documents to fix errors”.  The article covered a registered charity and the mistakes in its T3010 Registered Charity Information Return filings.   It is not often that such a lengthy article is written on a charity and inaccurate financial statements/T3010 filings that I thought I should blog about it. I am only focusing here on the T3010 problems and the response of the charity to the T3010 problems, and not any of the other substantive allegations by supporters or detractors of the charity.

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August 12, 2016

Draft Guidance from the Charity Commission on “Grant funding an organisation that isn’t a charity”

The Charity Commission of England and Wales has recently released a draft guidance on the types of controls English charities should be using when providing grants to non-English charities. 

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August 06, 2016

Blumbergs’ submission to Finance on the 2017 Budget

July 27, 2016

Blumbergs launches charitydata.ca beta website to enhance transparency of Canadian charities

Blumbergs has just released a new website with over 10 years T3010 information for each Canadian registered charity.  The site is a beta being tested but if you are interested you can visit the website at www.charitydata.ca It is free and hopefully useful. If you have any feedback just let us know.

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Charity Lawyer Mark Blumberg

Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.

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