Most of CRA’s view on political activities by Canadian charities can be found in Policy Statement CPS-022 Political Activities. (see Political Activities (CPS - 022) located at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cps/cps-022-eng.html I highly recommend that any charity considering conducting any activity that could be construed as political, review in detail the CPS-022 Policy Statement on Political Activities.
CRA has launched a new initiative called “Project Trident” in which they are targeting the “Triple Threat Tax Fraud” namely “identity theft, charities?related fraud, and tax preparer fraud.”
In order for Canadian charities to effectively achieve their objects or mandate they often need to engage in some “political” activities, especially when the objects or mandate require the assistance and support of government. It is important for Canadian charities to understand the types of activities that are allowed and those that are prohibited. This presentation will discusses: *the importance of political activities conducted by charities, especially in the context of international development; *expenditure limitations on political activities for registered Canadian charities under the Income Tax Act (“10% rule”) and CRA rules; *effect of political activities on disbursement quota; *the difference between allowable political, charitable, and prohibited activity and examples of each; *the difference between public awareness, educational activities, and political activities; *use of non-profits to increase political expenditures and activities; *lobbyist registration requirements for Canadian non-profits and charities interacting with the federal government.
There has been a dramatic increase in interest amongst North American NGOs in health issues in the developing world. Often well intentioned actions create more problems than they solve. According to those responsible for creating the NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening “It is now becoming clearer that NGOs, if not careful and vigilant, can undermine the public sector and even the health system as a whole, by diverting health workers, managers and leaders into privatized operations that create parallel structures to government and that tend to worsen the isolation of communities from formal health systems.”
The problem of abusive charitable tax shelters using the developing world as a marketing tool continues. It just goes to show the importance of dealing with credible and legitimate charities if you want to make the world a better place.
Although charities are greater than 10% of our economy in a federal election the charitable sector gets between 0 and 0.01 of the attention. We spend a lot of time talking about sweaters. In this blog I ask a few rhetorical questions (as no one is actually going to respond!) about some public policy issues involving charities.
This note discusses why low overhead may not be a good thing for a charity and what is appropriate.
Here is a copy of a powerpoint presentation Blumbergs recently delivered to a US 501(c)(3) on Fundraising and Grantmaking from Canada
This case dealt with whether the Charities Directorate of CRA requires judicial authorization to request certain information from a registered charity and CRA won the appeal. The CRA note headnote/summary is below.
The law firm of Scarfone Hawkins LLP in Hamilton has recently brought a class action lawsuit against a number of parties for their involvement with the Banyan Tree Foundation including the law firm of Fraser Milner Casgrain. It will be interesting to see how this case turns out. I predict that there will be other cases against other law firms that have been involved with preparing opinion letters for transactions that CRA considers to be “shams”. The allegations in the statement of claim have yet to be proved in court.
I often read commentators talking about the ‘increased burden’ placed by Canada Revenue Agency on Canadian charities operating abroad or the ‘increasingly complicated’ administrative rules. I then scratch my head and wonder what increased burden and what increased rules? The CRA has not modified RC4106 since 2000 (almost 8 years) and since the publication of that document the CRA has in fact provided greater leeway to registered Canadian charities in operating abroad for example charities that are umbrella organizations. The CRA has also provided clarifications in newsletters on various issues that they have been asked about. The CRA has also made far greater efforts to educate charities about compliance issues for Canadian charities operating abroad including through a recent educational partnership with certain charities.
Here is my article which discusses the Consultation on Proposed Policy on Fundraising by Canadian Registered Charities (RC4456-e).
Here is a link to http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/charities/consultations/fundraising-e.html which is the CRA’s “Consultation on proposed policy on fundraising by Registered Charities.” This is a 6 page document and apparently there will be another document forthcoming that is about 40 pages in length that will add to the overview document.
Here is a copy of a presentation on April 1, 2008 by Neil Cochrane and Peter Broder of the Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency to the Ontario Bar Association entitled CRA Fundraising Policy Overview.
Every year the Canadian Council for International Co-operation hosts a discussion forum and this year it was on the Paris Declaration and aid effectiveness. There are some interesting notes on equitable North/South CSO relations at http://ccic.ca/e/docs/002_aid_2008-02_roundtable_6.pdf As well Brian Tomlinson of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation delivered a speech a few month ago entitled “North / South CSO relations - A Northern Perspective” at http://ccic.ca/e/docs/002_aid_2007-08_harnosand_speech.pdf
The CRA recently posted their top ten list of why applications for charitable status will not be successful. It was placed in a Consultation document entitled “Charitable Work and Ethnocultural Groups - Information on registering as a charity “. As an aside the last time I saw a study on the difference between applications for charitable status that were accepted by CRA and those that were rejected the most important factor correlating with acceptance was use of a lawyer. Although one does not need to use a lawyer, the process is anything but straightforward. If one is going to use a lawyer it is important to use a lawyer who is knowledgeable about charity law and especially important if you plan on conducting activities outside of Canada that the lawyer be familiar with CRA requirements for Canadian charities operating abroad. Just one little example they cite for denying an application “The application does not include any copy of an agreement with representatives who are supposed to help the organization to carry out its activities outside Canada.” CRA expects when one files an application that references foreign activities to be carried out under a structured arrangement (agency, joint venture, cooperative partnership, contractor) that in fact the agreement be attached. This comes as a surprise to some including experienced practitioners. Also they don’t mean some nice looking agreement - they mean an agreement that complies with ALL the requirements in RC4106. Some may see this as harsh - however, if an organization takes shortcuts and does not have the resources and advisors to put in an appropriate application for charitable status it is not difficult to imagine that some of those same people may take shortcuts later when the charity is operating.
Although the law, governance and ethics are closely intertwined there is little written about ethics of Canadian charities operating abroad. Here are some links that may be of assistance to Canadian charities that operate outside of Canada to understand some of the ethical issues that they may have to deal with.
This European Foundation Centre and the Council on Foundations guide on Disaster Grantmaking sets out principles of good disaster management for charities, foundations and corporations.
Here are some handy resources and links for Canadian Charities conducting activities outside of Canada.
Do you require legal advice with respect to Canadian or Ontario non-profits or charities?
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.