Transcript - Video 1: Overview of political activities for charities

If you’re watching this video, chances are that you’re involved with one of Canada’s registered charities or you’re interested in knowing how Canadian charities are regulated. This video is one of three brought to you by the Canada Revenue Agency about charities and their participation in political activities.

A registered charity is an organization registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, focused exclusively on charitable purposes.  An important part of the Canadian social fabric, registered charities are involved in relieving poverty, advancing education or religion, promoting the arts, providing health care, conducting research, and more.

Registered charities don’t have to pay income tax, and are able to issue official donation receipts to donors. But, to keep these advantages, the Income Tax Act lays out some very specific rules about how they must conduct their activities.

These rules concern how a charity can use its resources. Resources are anything that a charity owns or controls, such as money, buildings, or volunteer time.

Charities in Canada are uniquely positioned to contribute to the development of public policy. Front-line experience in their field of operations gives them valuable insight that can help inform public debate and government decision-making.

Considering this, the Income Tax Act permits any charity to carry out a limited amount of non-partisan political activity in support of its charitable purposes. For those charities that choose to become involved in political activities, the law is clear: charitable purposes must always come first. Political activities can only be a minor focus, serving to support an organization’s charitable purpose.

A charity that doesn’t comply with these rules can face serious consequences, including having its charitable status revoked. Whenever appropriate, the CRA follows an education-first approach to help charities comply with the rules.  However, in severe circumstances a charity’s registration may be revoked. 

Simply put, charities are not political entities. At the end of the day, it’s really about staying focused and using all resources for the purposes the charity was registered for in the first place.

Visit the Canada Revenue Agency’s webpage called "Resources for Charities about Political activities." You’ll find information sheets, guidance, a self-assessment tool, and questions and answers about political activities and Canada’s charities. 

This video is part of the Canada Revenue Agency’s balanced program of education and responsible enforcement to make sure that if a charity is carrying out political activities, it is doing so in a manner that complies with the law. The next video in the series addresses what is considered to be a political activity for registered charities.

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