The Charities Directorate on August 15, 2011 put out a note CG-008 - Confidentiality – Public Information Guidance which discusses the circumstances in which the CRA can divulge information about a charity. What most people don’t realize is that the confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act (s. 241) preclude CRA from disclosing almost anything about a charity other than the application and T3010 public filings until after such charity has been revoked. So for example in the extreme case if a charity is involved with a $500 million dollar fraud CRA is forbidden to say anything until after revocation which could be years afterwards. There are only a small number of charities doing really bad things and I personally believe that the public has a right to know more about these few charities. The interesting thing is that the situation is even worse with non-profits that are not registered charities who we can find out almost no publicly accessible information. So here is the CRA note on the charity confidentiality provisions and at the bottom is a Pre-Budget Submission from our law firm to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance dealing with the issue of transparency.
Here is the CRA piece:
Confidentiality – Public Information Guidance
August 15, 2011
This guidance replaces Summary Policy CSP-C12, Confidentiality – Income Tax Act.
Generally, the confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act prevent the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) from discussing the affairs of a particular organization without the consent of an authorized representative.
The Act makes specific exceptions, however, to allow the CRA to make available to the public certain information about registered or previously-registered charities.
General information on a registered or previously registered charity, including its status, is available to the public in the form of a searchable list in the Charities Listings.
Information return (Form T3010)
The information contained in the public portion of a registered charity’s information return is available to the public. This information is made available in the Charities Listings and is also available in other formats upon request.
Other specific exceptions
The CRA may also provide to any person the following information relating to a charity that at any time was a registered charity:
•a copy of the charity’s governing documents, including its statement of purpose;
•any information provided in prescribed form to the Minister of National Revenue by a charity in its application for registration as a charity under the Act;
•the names of the persons 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 the charity’s registration, including any conditions and warnings;
•if the registration of a charity has been revoked or annulled, a copy of the entirety of, or any part of, any letter sent by or on behalf of the Minister to the charity relating to the grounds for the revocation or annulment;
•financial statements required to be filed with an annual information return;
•a copy of the entirety of, or any part of, any letter or notice by the Minister to the charity relating to a suspension or an assessment of tax or penalty (other than the amount of a revocation tax); and
•an application by the charity, and information filed in support of the application, for re-designation as a charitable organization, private foundation, or public foundation; for designation as associated charities; and, for the permission to accumulate property.
The CRA may provide this information upon request.
•Income Tax Act, R.S.C. 1985 (5th supp.) c. 1, ss. 149.1 (14) and (15) and 241(3.2)
Here is a copy of my Pre-Budget Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance relating to these confidentiality provisions:
Do you require legal advice with respect to Canadian or Ontario non-profits or charities?
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.