CRA HELPS CANADIAN FIND THE “RIGHT” CHARITY
C. Yvonne Chenier, Q.C.
In 2012 the Canada Revenue Agency, Charities Directorate created “quick view”, a graphic display of the information presented by a charity on their annual T3010 form. Now, in 2013 the CRA is tweeting about and otherwise promoting the existence of this quick view presentation of information. Social media will be no doubt be used more in the future to spread the news about Canadian Charities and what they are up to.
To help Canadians use quick view and be more informed about the rules for registered charities in Canada, the CRA has produced a series of videos, all available in various alternate formats and written transcripts at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/vdgllry/chrts-gvng/menu-eng.html?clp=chrts-gvng/chsngchrty-eng&fmt=mp4. Since 2010 the CRA has held a series of webinars called “Giving to Registered Charities 101”. These videos explain the relationship that exists between the CRA, donors and Canada’s registered charities. These are good videos to direct potential donors to see what general information they should be seeking from charities and also to show charities to see what information the CRA is telling donors to look for.
Now, however, the CRA has gone much further. Potential donors and volunteers for charities are being encouraged to actively seek information on the charity, looking at the T3010 specifically. In the video “Charities and CRA, make the connection” the donor actor in the video quite simply is being impressed when he finds out that ….”registered charities have to file an annual return with the Canada Revenue Agency and that it’s available online for anyone to view. Just a few clicks on their website and I could have found tons of information on the charity’s activities and financial details”.
In previous newsletter articles we have reminded charities about the “garbage in garbage out” theory. The Canada Revenue Agency Charities Directorate does not necessarily analyze or correct the information provided by registered charities on their T3010 forms. The information provided is keyed in to the form shown on the website and then quick view translates that information into a colored graphic pie for all to see. All charities should take the time to check the information and how it is presented on the CRA website and if there are any discrepancies take steps to immediately change it. This is the face they are presenting to the world. And the world is getting larger as CRA tweets and publicizes how one can get this information.
The other subtlety about the latest message from CRA, if one listens carefully, is that the CRA is emphasizing to the public that charities have to devote their resources specifically to charitable activities and fundraising and administration expenses should never overshadow charitable activities. One of the actors in the “How do I choose the right charity?” video says:
“All registered charities have to devote resources to charitable activities but some are better at making the most of their resources. For me, if a lot of money is going to non-program expenses, then I start asking questions, and do a bit of research. On the CRA Web site, I can see a charity’s full return filed with the CRA. I can also look at previous years to see if there’s a trend. If I still have concerns, I visit the charity’s Web site or contact them directly. In many cases there’s a good reason. And if not, well, the decision to give to any charity is finally up to you. ”
So the decision to give to any charity is up to the donor and Canada Revenue Agency is going to be educating them. The message is that those charities that embrace this openness with donors and volunteers and take care with the information presented will look very good compared to those that do not or those that present skewed information.
I do not know what is next for the CRA but perhaps we will soon see a discussion board where a scrutiny of the data presented on the quick view format for any given charity is there for all to see, discuss, add their two cents worth and for each and every charity who is talked about on the discussion board to defend themselves. This kind of discussion is good for other parts of society so why shouldn’t it be good for charities?