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CRA Publishes Reminder on Charities’ Political Activities

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.

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CRA Publishes Reminder on Charities’ Political Activities

Finance Releases Annual Financial Report for 2013-14

The Department of Finance has released the “Annual Financial Report of the Government of Canada Fiscal Year 2013–2014”. Highlights include:

  • The Government posted a budgetary deficit of $5.2 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, down from a budgetary deficit of $18.4 billion in 2012–13.
  • Revenues increased by $15.0 billion, or 5.9 per cent, from 2012–13, reflecting increases across all revenue streams. Program expenses increased by $2.4 billion, or 1.0 per cent, as increases in major transfers to persons and other levels of government were offset in part by a decrease in direct program expenses. Public debt charges were down $0.7 billion, or 2.3 per cent.
  • Direct program expenses, which include other transfer payments, the operating expenses of government departments and agencies, and the expenses of consolidated Crown corporations, have now decreased for four years in a row. This is the first time this has occurred since 1961–62, the earliest year for which records are available. This decline reflects effective control of government spending.
  • The federal debt (the difference between total liabilities and total assets) stood at $611.9 billion at March 31, 2014. The federal debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio was 32.5 per cent, down from 33.5 per cent a year earlier.
  • As reported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada’s total government net debt-to-GDP ratio, which includes the net debt of the federal, provincial/territorial and local governments, as well as the net assets held in the Canada Pension Plan and Québec Pension Plan, stood at 40.4 per cent in 2013. This is the lowest level among Group of Seven (G-7) countries, which the OECD expects will record an average net debt of 84.3 per cent of GDP for the same year.
  • For the 16th consecutive year, the Government has received an unmodified audit opinion from the Auditor General of Canada on the consolidated financial statements.

For additional articles on the financial report see here and here, and see Ralph Goodale’s commentary and Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s response.

Finance Releases Annual Financial Report for 2013-14