Toronto, ON - Imagine Canada, the national umbrella for the charitable and nonprofit sector, today welcomed the recommendations on political activity by charities made by the Expert Panel appointed by the Minister of National Revenue.
“We are very pleased with the recommendations made by the Panel,” said Bruce MacDonald, President & CEO of Imagine Canada. “Whether it was written submissions, or in-person consultations across Canada, the message from charities was overwhelming. The current rules are confusing and difficult to interpret, and broad reform is preferable to administrative tinkering.”
Registered charities are currently allowed to devote up to 10 percent of their resources to what the Canada Revenue Agency deems “political activity”. By and large, “political activity” refers to campaigns that involve the general public in seeking to change or retain a law or policy at any level of government. In 2013, the CRA’s Charities Directorate undertook an audit program specific to “political activity”, which has seen 54 of the 60 audits initially planned go forward.
“There are real difficulties interpreting the guidance that the CRA has issued on political activity,” said MacDonald. “Auditors have given widely varying opinions on what actually falls within the definition, with some of these opinions at odds with sections of the guidance that actually seem clear. We are also very concerned about the lack of information as to what constitutes ‘indirectly’ partisan activity by charities. To date, the CRA has been unable to provide answers to a number of questions we posed to them several years ago. If the CRA’s auditors can’t agree on the definition, and if the Charities Directorate officials can’t provide answers to fairly simple questions, how are charities supposed to remain within the rules?”
“The simplest way of dealing with the issue is to amend the Income Tax Act so that the CRA focusses on whether a charity is fulfilling its purposes, rather than getting into the minutiae of day-to-day activities. Of course, we would retain a ban on partisan activity by charities – we strongly believe that our non-partisan nature is part of the reason that Canadians place such high trust in charities,” added MacDonald. “The Prime Minister’s mandate letters to a number of ministers, including National Revenue, Finance, and Justice, made clear the government’s commitment to legislative change. Charities participating in the consultation were overwhelmingly in favour of such change. The Expert Panel has provided the federal government with a road map to meeting its commitments. We look forward to working with the Minister of National Revenue and her colleagues to achieve real change.”
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About Imagine Canada
Imagine Canada is a national charitable organization whose cause is Canada’s charities. Our three broad goals are to strengthen the sector’s collective voice, create opportunities to connect and learn from each other, and build the sector’s capacity to succeed.
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