December 07, 2013

Interesting US article on churches and transparency/accountability

John Montague has written an article entitled “The Law and Financial Transparency in Churches: Reconsidering the Form 990 Exemptions” in the Cardozo Law Review.  In the US, churches don’t have to file the Form 990 annual return, however, in Canada almost all churches that are registered charities need to file the T3010 on an annual basis.  The US Form 990 provides the US public with far more information than the T3010 in Canada.  That being many of the points raised by Mr. Montague about church governance, accountability and transparency are relevant to Canada.  It is important in Canada that we review the T3010.  We should improve the T3010 to provide important information to donors, volunteers and others about registered charities.  While the T3010 does provide a fair amount of information, it tends to focus too much on certain issues while ignoring others.

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December 04, 2013

Partial exclusion for Canadian registered charities from anti-spam legislation

Industry released today draft regulations to Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) which will now come into effect on July 1, 2014.  An important exclusion that will be welcomed by registered charities is that the Act does not apply to an electronic message “(g) that is sent by or on behalf of a registered charity as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act and

the message has as its primary purpose raising funds for the charity”.  Keep in mind that if a charity is sending a commercial electronic message and this or other exclusions do not apply, then CASL will apply to the registered charity.  The exclusion “its primary purpose raising funds for the charity” was introduced to cover situations were a fundraising email involved some commercial activity such as the sale of a gala dinner ticket.  However, if the email fits in the definition of a commercial electronic message but it has a number of purposes, and raising funds is not the primary purpose, and another exclusion does not apply, then CASL applies.  The key takeaway for registered charities is that they are not exempted from CASL and that they should try and ensure that they have express consent from as many people as possible.

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December 04, 2013

CRA reminds groups of December 31, 2013 deadline

The CRA put a reminder on their website today “Does your organization make its resources available to, or work with a municipal or public body performing a function of government in Canada, such as a First Nation? The December 31, 2013 deadline for registration of these bodies to maintain their qualified donee status is approaching. For more information, go to Municipal or public bodies performing a function of government in Canada.”

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November 26, 2013

More from the T3010-13 on political activities

I just reviewed the latest T3010 data disk for 2013 and here are the descriptions of activities for political activities by Canadian charities.  This is only based on 7900 of the approximately 86,000 charities.

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November 22, 2013

Emily Sowah v. The Queen - legislative requirements of charitable receipt not met

In this decision, Ms. Sowah appealed the Minister of National Revenue’s assessment of her 2006 taxation year in which her charitable donation claim was denied. The court found that the charitable receipts issued by the charity did not contain all of the required elements and failed on three counts.

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November 22, 2013

Ward Carson v. The Queen -can receipt be issued for “donation” of rooms in home?

In this decision, a taxpayer appealed the Minister of National Revenue’s denial of his claim for a charitable donation in 2009. The amount he claimed represented his estimate of the fair market value of the use by a registered charity of two rooms in his home (rent-free) over a two year period. The issue in this decision was whether the use by the charity of two rooms in Mr. Carson’s home, valued at $130 a month, represented a charitable gift from Mr. Carson to the registered charity, eligible for tax credits.

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November 12, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - Canadian charities respond to humanitarian crisis

The Humanitarian Coalition has launched an appeal for Typhoon Haiyan which has killed many people in the Philippines and left many homeless.  “The Humanitarian Coalition is a joint appeal mechanism. It is comprised of CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Québec, Plan Canada and Save the Children. With a combined presence in more than 120 countries, we bring together Canada’s leading aid agencies to finance relief efforts in times of international humanitarian crises. We work together to eliminate unnecessary competition, reduce the duplication of fundraising costs, and inform the public on humanitarian needs.” DFATD has announced a matching fund for donations for Typhoon Haiyan.  There are approximately 620,000 Canadians of Filipino descent in Canada.  Many of them regularly send funds back to family and friends as remittances.  Many will also respond to this typhoon by sending funds home.  While remittances are not a charitable donation and do not receive any tax support from the Canadian government, they can be tremendously beneficial.  In fact all Canadian international philanthropy is $3 billion per year, while remittances to developing countries are around $15 billion per year. I will discuss further below.

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November 12, 2013

Saskatchewan introduces bill “The Informal Public Appeals Act”

Saskatchewan has introduced a bill that would regulate informal public appeals. This will cover situations like when a fire destroys a family home and funds are raised to help the family and what to do if there are excess funds etc.  Most importantly for charities the proposed legislation does not apply to qualified donees (i.e. registered charities, etc) and their fundraising.  This legislation will be helpful in a number of situations that commonly come up with informal appeals.  As is typical Saskatchewan leads the way!

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November 10, 2013

Blumbergs’ Snapshot of the Ontario Charity Sector 2011

We recently reviewed the T3010 Registered Charity Information Return database for 2011 as part of the Sean Blumberg Transparency Project.  We provided an overview of the whole charity sector in the Blumbergs’ Charity Sector Snapshot 2011.  We have taken a subset of the 2011 T3010 data to look at only registered charities based in Ontario.  This article provides a snapshot of the registered charity sector in Ontario based on the 2011 T3010 filings.  Here is a PDF of the Blumbergs’ Snapshot of the Ontario Charity Sector 2011.

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November 08, 2013

Finance Committee and pre-budget submissions and testimony

The Finance Committee of the House of Commons has been holding hearings.  A number of charities have presented.  Many charities have sent in submissions.

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November 08, 2013

Comments requested on Canadian Non-Profit accounting standards

The Accounting Standards Board and Public Sector Accounting Board are asking for comments by December 15, 2013 on some changes to the principles affecting non-profit accounting. 

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November 03, 2013

“Talking About Charities 2013” Public Opinion Poll Released

The Muttart Foundation has released the 2013 edition of its “Talking About Charities”.  It updates its last similar opinion poll from 5 years ago.

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Topics: Transparency

November 02, 2013

Partial Settlement of ParkLane Gift Program class action according to Paliare Roland website

At the website of the Toronto class action law firm Paliare Roland they have a note that “On Friday, October 18, 2013, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved the settlements with the Law Firm Defendants (including Edwin C. Harris Q.C.), and with the Funds for Canada Foundation, Mary-Lou Gleeson, Matt Gleeson and Gleeson Management Associates Inc. (the “FFCF/Gleeson Defendants”). ... The settlement with the FFCF/Gleeson Defendants is for $950,000, and requires them to co-operate in the ongoing prosecution of the action by producing documents and giving evidence.  The settlement with the Law Firm Defendants is for a minimum of $23,130,789 and a maximum of $27,242,843. The Law Firm Defendants will also be obliged to produce documents and give evidence.”  It will be interesting to see how the litigation proceeds.

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October 31, 2013

Peter Braid’s Bill on “National Charities Week” and to amend donation deadline has been withdrawn

Peter Braid on October 23, 2013 withdrew his bill entitled “An Act respecting a National Charities Week and to amend the Income Tax Act (charitable and other gifts)”.  We welcome the withdrawal of the private members bill as we, and a number of organizations, had expressed concerns with the private members bill, especially the idea of extending the deadline for charitable contributions, and the lack of consultation with the sector.

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October 31, 2013

CRA revocation letter to the Corban Foundation on forgivable loan program

Here is an interesting series of letters from CRA to the Corban Foundation in the 1990s relating its revocation as a registered charity.  It deals with the meaning of a gift,  and various programs to provide tuition assistance to those attending Christian schools.  It provides CRA’s views on the legal arguments and cases.

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October 29, 2013

Presentation to the Schulich School of Business, York University on Structures for Social Enterprise

I enjoyed giving a presentation tonight to an MBA class at Schulich School of Business at York University on Structures for Social Enterprise.  Great students and lots of questions.

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October 27, 2013

CRA’s view of compensation of directors of registered charities.

I am looking at a number of old audit letters from CRA.  In one of the audit letters it discusses the CRA’s views on director compensation.  We have previously discussed this issue on our blog.  Here are some paragraphs from a CRA letter calling for the revocation of a particular registered charity’s status with one of the concerns being director compensation.

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October 26, 2013

How does a Canadian charity change its fiscal year end with CRA?

Occasionally a Canadian registered charity will want to change its fiscal year end.  Sometimes it is because you want to align with another charity or funder.  Sometimes you just find that there are better or worse times to be involved with financial statements and audit.  If you are a Canadian charity and want to change your fiscal year end here is information from the CRA on how to do that.

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October 24, 2013

Article “Initial T3010 Descriptions of Political Activities by Canadian Charities” by Mark Blumberg

So far the CRA 2013 database has about 7900 charities on it.  There are in total approximately 86,000 Canadian charities who will file their T3010s.  Therefore, less than 10% of the 2013 T3010 forms have been filed and inputted into the CRA database. We have imported the information from the T3010 database in Schedule 7 dealing with description of political activities from the small number of charities that have made filings.

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October 23, 2013

Presentation to Circle on “Compliance Issues with Successfully Funding Aboriginal Groups”

I had the privilege of presenting a presentation today on Compliance Issues with Successfully Funding Aboriginal Groups for The Circle of Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s All My Relations Gathering in Toronto.

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October 19, 2013

Advisory from Blumbergs– it is best not to incorporate a charity under the Ontario Corp. Act

It looks like the new Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, 2010 (“ONCA”) will not come into force until July 2014 or perhaps in 2015.  If one is considering establishing a new charity today and you are based in Ontario we would strongly encourage you to use a Federal corporation under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA) and avoid using the old Ontario Corporations Act (OCA).  Otherwise, you will establish an Ontario corporation and you will probably have to make changes to bring it into compliance with the new ONCA in a year or two or three.  For most, save the aggravation and double work and start off Federal.

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October 19, 2013

Updated Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act Suitcase from Blumbergs

Here is an updated from Blumbergs Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA) Suitcase .  The Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA) came into force on October 17, 2011.  Organizations now have less than one year to continue to the new act or face involuntary dissolution and if you are a charity then loss of registered charitable status.  You might find the CNCA Suitcase a useful resource.

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October 19, 2013

Cost decision in Lipson v. Cassels Brock & Blackwell - law firm ordered to pay $298,000 in costs

In the ongoing case of Lipson v. Cassels Brock & Blackwell there has been a cost award in the certification motion.  The Ontario Court of Appeal had earlier heard an appeal of Mr. Justice Perell’s decision in the certification motion and Ontario Court of Appeal sided with Mr. Lipson and which is dealt with on this blog and elsewhere.  The Ontario Court of Appeal ordered “Costs of the certification motion remitted to the motion judge to be dealt with in light of this Court’s reasons.” and now Mr. Justice Perell, in his decisions, determines the cost as “I think the appropriate exercise of discretion is award Mr. Lipson the $298,582.71 that he seeks but to make $150,000.00 payable to him by Cassels Brock in the cause and the balance of $148,582.71 payable forthwith. I would not backdate the costs award. I make no order as to costs with respect to the costs submissions.”  This award of costs is in addition to an earlier award of costs from the Ontario Court of Appeal which provided costs for the appeal “on a partial indemnity basis in the amount of $50,000 for fees, $10,000 for disbursements, and in addition the amount of the applicable taxes.”

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October 18, 2013

Charities Directorate of CRA adds additional webinars to website on charity law

The CRA has added a number of new webinars to their websites on arts, CED, the T3010 and political activities.

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October 16, 2013

CNCA Suitcase 2013

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Charity Lawyer Mark Blumberg

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.

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