The Charities Directorate has vastly improved its section of the CRA website over the last year, although it still has a way to go!. In the past they have improved the quality and accessibility of information placed on the site. CRA has recently improved the ability of Canadians to search their database of charities as we discuss in more detail. If you have not viewed the Charity Directorates website recently it is well worth visiting.
In terms of charity status you can now search the database by the following status:
All charities (111,183 charities)
Canadian registered charities (82,422 charities)
Canadian revoked charities (27, 196 charities)
Revoked charities for cause (215 charities)
Revoked charities voluntarily (10,032 charities)
Revoked charities failure to file (16,949) [REMINDER FILE YOUR T3010!!]
Annulled charities (14 charities)
Penalized charities (1 charity)
Suspended charities (1 charity)
More importantly with the revoked charities for cause there is information provided on the charity and the cause. In the past the search just came up “no match”. Now you get the basic particulars of the charity and also some indication of why they were revoked.
With the revoked charities there is no T3010 information. I think that it would be ideal if that information was available to the public.
Also CRA is now putting a new disclaimer on their charities database at their website:
Links to Web sites not under the control of the Government of Canada (GoC) are provided solely for the convenience of users. The GoC is not responsible for the accuracy, currency or the reliability of the content. The GoC does not offer any guarantee in that regard and is not responsible for the information found through these links, nor does it endorse the sites and their content. Users should be aware that information offered by non-GoC sites that are not subject to the Official Languages Act and to which the CRA links, may be available only in the language(s) used by the sites in question.
This disclaimer is I guess a good beginning for a government department. Here is Mark Blumberg’s additional obviously very unnofficial disclaimer that should appear at the bottom of every CRA charity search results.
Although an organization may be listed on the CRA website this does not mean that the issuance of a official donation receipt by that registered charity, for example when you are receiving an official donation receipt that is greater than your donation minus an advantage, or donating as part of a donation gifting arrangement, will be accepted by the CRA. If the donor has concerns they should visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/dnrs/lrt/menu-eng.html, which is the CRA’s Donor Alert page or call the CRA directly at +1 (800) 267-2384. Furthermore, listing the charity in the CRA database does not mean that the organization is in good standing with the CRA, just that is has not been revoked, annulled or suspended. The CRA, because of privacy concerns cannot tell you whether a charity is legitimate or just a bunch of scum bags out to make a buck. Use your common sense. If you lack common sense talk to someone who has it. Failure to heed the advice in this disclaimer will probably not result in tasering by the RCMP - but it will certainly result in multiple CRA audits and no one will feel sorry for you. The people who say they feel sorry for you are lying or legal advisors making money off your multiple year defence - they think you are an idiot. Why are you reading this long disclaimer? You should rather have spent your time reading between the lines of that legal opinion that said the fancy scheme was fine. Any donation to a charity that requires 2-3 legal opinions for you to feel less anxious is an obvious sign that the donation should not take place. There are many wonderful Canadian charities doing great work. Try supporting one that is actually doing something good.
Mark Blumberg is a lawyer at Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto, Ontario. He can be contacted at or at 416-361-1982 x. 237. To find out more about legal services that Blumbergs provides to Canadian charities and non-profits please visit the Blumbergs’ Non-Profit and Charities page at http://www.blumbergs.ca/non_profit.php or http://www.globalphilanthropy.ca
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.