“Second Thoughts: Why I Changed My Mind About Philanthropy and Public Policy” by David Callahan

May 08, 2017 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: What's New from the Charities Directorate of CRA, Canadian Charity Law, Political Activities and Canadian charities

David Callahan, is the editor of Inside Philanthropy, and he is one the top progressive experts on philanthropy in the US.  His article "Second Thoughts: Why I Changed My Mind About Philanthropy and Public Policy" has nothing to do with Canada - but it has everything to do with the dilemma that the Liberal government is going to be dealing with over the next year or two as to how much "political activities" is too much for charities.  I would argue that the current rules give lots and lots of room to charities to conduct political activities - but yes not enough for maybe 50-100 groups.   At what point do we prioritize the sector over those groups?  

For a very Canadian take on the issue and from a conservative perspective you have Andrew Coyne and his recent piece in the National Post in response to the report to CRA on political activities entitled Take the politics out of charity? Far better to just cancel the tax break.  An earlier and more detailed article by Andrew Coyne which elaborates far more on his argument is Problem with charities isn't their politics, it's their generous tax credit.  

Some people are very upset that Coyne has called for the elimination of the tax incentive for donating to charities. But remember that unlike funding for Catholic Schools, the donation tax incentive is not enshrined in our constitution.  The left (e.g. NDP) is concerned with the incentive primarily benefiting wealthy people who sometimes are not the most progressive chaps and the right is concerned that the donation incentive is an obstacle to reducing the overall tax rates that all wealthy people pay.  

The Liberals have already canceled two major tax breaks for donating to charity namely related to donations to charities after the sale of private company shares and real estate.  The more that charities are empowered to be involved in political activities the easier it is for the Liberals to cut tax incentives for donations to charity even further.  Sorry my fundraising friends but if the Liberals allow much more political activities by a small number of "charities" then the next few years might be a bit difficult.    

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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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