Political activities have been a hot topic for the CRA’s Charities Directorate in the last few years.
In the CRA’s 2015 Program Update, the Charities Directorate stated that its recent political activity audit included 60 charities, with various results (i.e., education letters, compliance agreements, revocations, etc.).
Generally, a registered charity may not engage in partisan political activities, but a modest amount of political activities are permitted (i.e., those political activities that are non-partisan and connected and subordinate to the charity’s purposes). As a general guideline, a registered charity cannot devote more than 10 percent of its total resources to political activities (the CRA applies slightly different percentages to small charities).
Political activities were revisited again recently when the Charities Directorate published an “Advisory on partisan political activities”, which stated:
Since we are in an election period, we remind registered charities that they are prohibited from devoting any of their resources to partisan political activities. A partisan political activity is one that involves the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party at any time, whether during an election period or not, or a candidate for public office.
Given the time and resources spent by the CRA educating the charitable sector on the subject, most or all charities should not be surprised to see this latest update from the CRA.
However, a surprising part of the Advisory may be the following statements:
Charities that use the Internet or social media to post information should ensure the information does not contain partisan political statements. Also, the information should not link to statements made by a third party that support or oppose a candidate or political party.
When a charity invites comments on its website, blogs, or on social media, it should monitor them for partisan political statements and remove, edit, or moderate such statements within a reasonable time.
Charities should be aware of the CRA’s views on social media and political activities, and during the 2015 federal election charities should be careful to ensure that any invited comments on a charity’s website, blog, Facebook page or Twitter account do not conflict with the CRA’s views on partisan political activities.
Charities may wish to consult their professional advisers if there are any questions about compliance with the Income Tax Act and the CRA’s views.