CRA has been processing charity applications during the COVID pandemic – even when they were “shut down”.   This recent CRA notice advises charities that if they have a deadline to respond to on a charity application that the deadline will be extended (makes good sense) and that charity applications will not be closed just because there is no response.  Keep in mind that this is a dual-edged sword – if you take longer to respond to CRA’s requests, your charity application will also take longer.

CRA also reminds groups that often it is better to work with an existing group rather than establishing a new group.  Simple foundation applications at the moment take about 3.5 – 4 months and operating charity applications generally take about 6+ months so if you want super quick in dealing with COVID you might be better off working with an existing charity.  Also, many groups don’t need charity status and to set up a Federal NPO under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (“CNCA”) can take as little as one day.

CRA also reminds groups that applying online is the fastest way to have an application reviewed.   Also unless you are really familiar with all the requirements for a registered charity – it is also the fastest way to get a negative response.   Most charity applications are not successful and you might want to review our article Top 68 CRA Reasons for Denying your Canadian Registered Charity Application.

There are an interesting few sections dealing with expedited review.  Not that clear what it means.   Honestly, if you want your charity application to get through quicker – there is one guaranteed approach and that is file it sooner!   Many of my clients and others complain about the time it takes CRA to review applications but we often have clients who can take 6 months or a year or 3 years to decide that they wish to apply but it is “unconscionable” that it takes CRA 4-6 months to go through the process.   The 4-6 month process is far better than the 1.5-year delays which were routine about 10 years ago.

You can ask for expedited review and CRA seems to be indicating that they will prioritize “those that are providing charitable programs to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic” but it may only speed the application slightly because there are various steps that need to be taken and because you are dealing with something related to COVID isn’t a high-speed train from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Putting in a better application that is exclusively charitable and providing CRA with all the information they require is the best way to “expedite” your application.

We have a number of online courses dealing with whether one should establish a non-profit and how to run a charity that you might find helpful if you are interested in becoming a charity.

Here is the notice from CRA:

Charity registration applications

Updated May 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited the CRA’s operational capacity, which includes the review of applications for charitable registration.

If you have received a letter from the Charities Directorate requesting more information or documents in response to your application, we are extending the deadline to respond and we will not close any applications without prior contact.

Before applying, organizations seeking to provide pandemic relief programs should consider donating or offering services to existing registered charities that have the experience, resources, and infrastructure already in place to respond to the needs of Canadians. However, if an organization wants to apply for registered charity status in order to respond to the pandemic, we ask that the organization apply online for registered charity status.

Many organizations that have already applied are requesting expedited review of their applications. We understand that many organizations are providing critical services within their communities at this time and are in need of access to funding and the ability to issue official donation receipts.

The CRA has resumed the review of digital and paper-based applications. In order to process applications in the most expedient manner, the CRA is conducting a preliminary review of all applications to identify those that are providing charitable programs to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.