Donors are happy and charities are sometimes amazed (and perhaps a bit skeptical) when told that anyone can amass information about charities without even picking up the phone to call the charities themselves. Besides a few private research services that gather information about charities, much pertinent information about any charity is published by the Charities Directorate on their web site (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html). Much more information will be sent to anyone who asks the Charities Directorate for it (even those private research services). It is part of the deal that a charity signed up for when it received the privileged status of being granted charitable registration under the provisions of the Income Tax Act.
Transparency is not usually a problem for most charities, but many are not aware of the depth of the information that is available. Once a charity does investigate the depth of information available, often it leads to an attempt to correct the information. This is not usually due to any intentional misrepresentation on the part of any charity, but to a misunderstanding of how the information should be displayed, reported and categorized, especially when it comes to the annual T3010 return. All charities are encouraged to look at the information that is published about them by the Charities Directorate from time to time, and further consider what documents and information may be provided to the public, knowing that it is simply a reflection of the information that they themselves have or have not provided.
In an effort to reinforce to charities that their information is “out there”, the Charities Directorate has recently notified all who subscribe to their news feed how they support transparency in the charitable sector. This information is worth repeating and has been published as stated below. The links below are worth checking out.
Supporting transparency in the charitable sector
Unlike other taxpayers, subsection 241(3.2) of the Income Tax Act allows us to share some information with the public about registered charities. This is information that both donors and the public have come to rely on.
The CRA Charities Listings gives you access to public information about every charity. As well, the Act permits us to share:
- a copy of the registered charity’s governing documents, including its statement of purpose
- a copy of the public portions of a charity’s application for registration
- the names of the individuals who at any time were the charity’s directors/trustees and the periods during which they were its directors/trustees
- a copy of the notification of registration, including any conditions or warnings
- a copy of letters the CRA sent to a charity about grounds for its revocation or annulment, if the charity has been revoked or annulled
- a copy of financial statements filed as part of a charity’s annual return
- a copy of any letters or notices the CRA has sent to a charity about a suspension or an assessment of tax or penalty (other than the amount of revocation tax)
- a copy of a charity’s application, and information filed in support of requests for:
- re-designation as a charitable organization, private foundation, or public foundation
- designation as an associated charity
- permission to accumulate property
You do not need to complete an access-to-information request to get these documents. Anyone, including a donor, funder, or the charity itself, can contact us and ask for the public documents.
In 2014, we processed over 1,400 public document requests.
If you cannot find what you are looking for on our website, you can contact us. We have knowledgeable staff dedicated to helping you.
The Income Tax Act does not permit us to confirm or deny whether an organization has applied for registration as a charity, or reveal which charities we are auditing. It is a serious offence for any CRA employee to intentionally release this kind of information.
As an annual practice, it would be a good idea for most charities to take a minute and look at their information. Indeed, many other people may be looking at it. It is also a good idea to cross-reference the information at the Charites Directorate with that on file with the government department that deals with the corporate filings for the charity (if it is incorporated), i.e. the provincial corporate registry if you were incorporated provincially, or Industry Canada if you were incorporated federally. Transparency is good, but best served when it shows truth and accuracy.