Ethics and Canadian Charities

March 22, 2017

2017 Canadian Federal Budget and its impact on non-profits and charities

The 2017 Canadian Federal Budget was released today.  Here is our article 2017 Canadian Federal Budget - How will it affect the Canadian charitable sector? 

March 19, 2017

OHA Strengthening Foundation Governance: Current Issues, Challenges and Solutions

The Ontario Hospital Association is having a conference entitled "Strengthening Foundation Governance: Current Issues, Challenges and Solutions".  I will be presenting on Charitable Giving, Transparency and Standards. There will be a number of other interesting presentations.  

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March 19, 2017

“Charity finances: trustee essentials” - great information on financial management of a charity

The Charity Commission has recently updated  their guidance "Charity finances: trustee essentials".  It provides helpful information on finances that Canadian directors and trustees, as well as staff, should be aware of.  Keep in mind that on certain points the law in Canada is different than in England and Wales.  Unfortunately the CRA provides far less guidance on financial management and governance to the charity sector than I would like.  

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March 17, 2017

CRA sending out notices on T3010 filings

Here is a redacted copy of a notice sent by the Charities Directorate of CRA reminding charities of their filing date and the consequences of not filing the T3010 Registered Charity Information Return within 6 months of the end of your fiscal year.  

March 16, 2017

FTC & NASCO Conference on Consumer Protection Issues and Charitable Solicitations - online/free

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Association of State Charities Officials (NASCO) are organizing a conference called "Give & Take: Consumers, Contributions, and Charity" on Tuesday March 21, 2017.   It will be in Washington but it will be live streamed for free for those who are interested.  The live link will be available on the day of the conference.  

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March 04, 2017

Charity Commission concerned that “poor due diligence and monitoring put charity assets at risk”

The Charity Commission of England and Wales recently released an Inquiry Report on a UK charity that identified concerns with fundraising and foreign activities.  There were a number of concerns raised but perhaps most interesting is the discussion around due diligence and internal controls, and specifically "receipts, invoices or other documentation to support the project expenditure".   

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January 30, 2017

Terrorist attack at mosque in Quebec City claims 6 lives

On Sunday January 29, 2017 there was a terrible tragedy in Quebec City. A right-wing terrorist massacred six people praying at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec and injured almost 20 others.  This is the worst terrorist attack in Canada in over 25 years.

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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 more likely 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.  

Do you require legal advice with respect to Canadian or Ontario non-profits or charities?

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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.

mark@blumbergs.ca
416.361.1982
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