Avoiding 'Charity' Scams

September 15, 2017

CRA increasingly focused on and auditing internal controls of registered charities

Although the CRA has little guidance on internal controls, they are increasingly focusing on internal controls, or the lack thereof, in charities.  Internal controls are "a procedure or policy put in place by management to safeguard assets, promote accountability, increase efficiency, and stop fraudulent behavior."  A simple example is having two people sign cheques or having two people count cash.  I am hoping that one day CRA will provide greater guidance on their expectations surrounding internal controls but for now here are some thoughts and suggestions.  

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August 30, 2017

Australian national risk assessment into the NP sector discusses terrorist financing and AML

An interesting new report from The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) as well as the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) published on August 28, 2017 looked at "the risk of money laundering and terrorism financing in the not-for-profit sector, key vulnerabilities and risk indicators of high-risk organisations, groups of high-risk organisations that will benefit from targeted outreach and support, vulnerabilities that could be exploited to support terrorism, and a strategy to counter these vulnerabilities".

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August 29, 2017

Ontario Government Proposal to Allow Compensation of Directors of Charities Without Court Order

Here is Blumbergs' comments on the Ontario Government Proposal to Allow Compensation of Directors of Charities Without Court Order that were submitted to the Ministry of the Attorney General today. 

July 31, 2017

Blumbergs’ Receipting Kit 2017 by Mark Blumberg

We have just released our updated Blumbergs' Receipting Kit 2017. The Blumbergs' Receipting Kit 2017 is for Canadian registered charities and other qualified donees who wish to issue official donation receipts under the Income Tax Act (Canada), which are sometimes referred to as "tax receipts".  It has a general description of how receipting should be conducted and then copies of documents and resources from the CRA and elsewhere that relate to receipting.

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June 18, 2017

Charities, Regulation and Donors - some international perspectives from the CCLA

The Canadian Charity Law Association (CCLA) is pleased to present: Charities, Regulation and Donors - some international perspectives on June 22, 2017 at 8:30AM in Toronto.  The 1/2 day program will cover 4 thought provoking topics (see bios below) and have two excellent international guests.  The room can only hold 33 people so if you are interested book quickly.

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May 28, 2017

Ploughman v. The Queen, 2017 TCC 64

The recent decision of Ploughman v. The Queen, 2017 TCC 64 deals with a "third-party civil penalty" against Mr. Ploughman for his involvement in what CRA refers to as "abusive charity gifting tax shelter" but this decision refers to as a "donation program".  The court dealt with an appeal of the assessment of the third-party civil penalty and rejected Mr. Ploughman's appeal.

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May 27, 2017

Blumbergs’ Canadian Charity Law Institute 2017 - save the date!

We are pleased to announce the Blumbergs' Canadian Charity Law Institute 2017 will be on Monday October 16, 2017. Further details will follow.  Registration and early bird information is here.  

May 19, 2017

Charitable Receipting: Do’s and don’ts for Canadian registered charities with CharityVillage

On May 25, 2017, I will be doing a free webinar for CharityVillage on Charitable Receipting Do's and Don'ts which will discuss receipting by Canadian registered charities.

April 11, 2017

Carleton MPNL PhilanthroTHINK: The Future of Charity Regulation on April 28, 2017 in Ottawa

Carleton University has a Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (MPNL).  They do some very interesting programs relating to the non-profit and charity sector.  On April 28, 2017 they will be holding a one day program entitled The Future of Charity Regulation: Lessons from International Experience.  You can find out more information here.

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April 07, 2017

Wallace Global Fund charity fires lawyers for being inconsistent with their values

Here is an interesting article from the NPQ entitled "Wallace Global Fund Fires Law Firm for Aiding Trump’s “Ethical Carnage”. It discusses how a large US charity has decided to sever a long term relationship with a major US law firm because they represent Donald Trump and blessed the highly questionable trust arrangement that Donald Trump is using to ostensibly avoid conflicts of interest while he is President of the US.

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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

“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 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 07, 2017

Government of Canada to combine all Federal government websites into Canada.ca

The consolidation of all Government of Canada websites into one domain at www.canada.ca has started.  In theory this is an opportunity to have a more streamlined, secure government website.  I have two concerns about how this will affect charities. 

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February 24, 2017

CRA has updated the T2050 form - Application to Register a Charity

The Canada Revenue Agency ('CRA') recently updated the T2050 form used by organizations when applying for charitable status with the Charities Directorate of the CRA. 

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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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November 03, 2016

CRA releases new educational video series on ‘Gifting and Receipting’

CRA recently released its first video as part of a new educational video series on 'Gifting and Receipting'.  This series is meant to educate the public, donors, and those involved in the charitable sector on the type of donations that are tax-receiptable and the different CRA rules regarding receipting.  

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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 12, 2016

CRA media response on Canadian charities and funding or supporting terrorism

Here is a CRA document provided under access to information rules which includes their media response on Canadian charities and funding or supporting terrorism.  Not surprisingly because of the very limited scope for CRA to divulge information under the confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada) there is little information divulged.  

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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 17, 2016

GLGI cost decision results in huge award in favour of CRA

In a 44 page cost decision Pizzitelli J. discusses how much costs should be given to CRA (the Respondent) with respect to the abusive charity gifting tax scheme, GLGI, that he had previously provided a judgment in.   The hearings on the case were over 25 days - certainly quite a thorough vetting of the issues.  You can read the full GLGI cost decision here.  Pizzitelli J. notes:

"While I appreciate the Promoter may bear the direct responsibility for the sham it has perpetrated on the Appellants and the Canadian public at large and benefited to the extent of millions of dollars in cash contributions, the Appellants and Bound Appellants did blindly or willingly jump on the Program train in expectation of receiving a net cash advantage from their donation. As I indicated in paragraph 88 of my Reasons in this matter: ..When otherwise good people turn a blind eye to the obvious reality surrounding them, they cannot lay blame on others for the consequences that follow from the fraud or sham of others. They certainly should not expect the Canadian public to fund their losses. Accordingly, I am not prepared to limit liability for costs solely to the Promoter as requested by the Appellants and Bound Appellants."

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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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July 22, 2016

Mariano v. The Queen - massive cost award against GLGI of close of $500,000

In a recent decision Mariano v. The Queen, the Tax Court of Canada (TCC) awarded a very large cost award in favour of CRA (who was the respondent in the matter) and against GLGI, the promoter, and some of its investors.  The Court ordered costs of $491,136.95 minus the costs of two expert witnesses which will have to be determined.  The TCC also noted with respect to CRA "The Respondent was totally successful in the trials of the above matters involving a charitable donation scheme which spanned over 25 days of hearings including one week of oral argument supplemented by detailed written argument given by both sides."  Please note they did not say largely successful - they said "totally" successful.   It is quite clear that the TCC after many many years is getting impatient with listening to arguments in favour of what the CRA used to call "abusive charity gifting tax schemes".   

July 15, 2016

Markou v. The Queen - deals with a Canadian tax shelter scheme - a little cash gets a big receipt!

Markou v. The Queen, 2016 TCC 137 is a super boring case dealing with the jurisdiction of the Tax Court of Canada and whether such court can make a determination as to whether certain proceeds are part of a Quistclose trust.  Beyond whether there are or are not enough legal gymnastics in this decision there is lots of interesting background on a complicated tax scheme from 2001 that probably few have heard of.  The leveraged donation scheme known as "The Donation Program for Medical Science and Technology" was implemented by Trinity Capital Corporation from 2001 - 2003.  An example of one donor is that he put in $3,520,000 and received a tax receipt for $11 million which would save him about $3.2 million in Federal taxes and $1.9m in Ontario taxes.    

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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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