The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Consultation report on political activities received charitably

August 17 2017 17 August 2017

What does “political” mean in the charitable context?

That’s an excellent question. The CBA Charities and Not-for-Profit Law Section posed it in a submission last year to the Canada Revenue Agency during consultations on political activities by charitable and non-profit agencies. And one of the four recommendations in the consultation report, released in March, is that the issue be clarified in legislation.

In the December 2016 submission, the CBA Section said that charities often experience challenges “understanding the distinction between political purposes and political activities, particularly since the term in the (Income Tax) Act is ‘activities.’ The CRA interpretation, including as set out in the political activities policy guidance, reveals no bright line dividing ‘activities’ from ‘purposes’ and this often results in considerable confusion for charities.”

Recommendation 3 is to amend the Income Tax Act “by deleting any reference to non-partisan political activities to explicitly allow charities to fully engage without limitation in non-partisan public policy dialogue and development.”

A letter to the National Revenue Minister marking the release of the report of the consultation panel notes that it touches on many areas of interest to the CBA’s Charities and Not-for-Profit Law Section.

“We welcome the opportunity to participate in future discussions with the Canada Revenue Agency, and to be consulted on any initiatives on the activities of charities in Canada,” the letter says. “We would particularly like to be involved in implementing recommendation 4 in the report, which urges the government to modernize the legislative framework governing the charitable sector as soon as possible, in consultation with the charitable sector.”

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