Readout: Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector – December 1, 2020

The Advisory Committee on the Charitable Sector (ACCS) met by videoconference on December 1, 2020.

Mr. Gabriel Bourget, Special Assistant from the Minister of National Revenue’s Office, attended the meeting on behalf of the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, to represent her continued interest in the work of this committee.

Mr. Geoff Trueman, Assistant Commissioner, began the meeting by welcoming the attendees to the final ACCS meeting of 2020. He recognized that while this past year presented unprecedented challenges, there has been significant progress in the work of the committee and working groups. He also thanked the committee for providing valuable input on the guidance documents that were published on the website on November 27, 2020. The guidance documents are designed to help charities understand the Canada Revenue Agency’s interpretation of the provisions of the Income Tax Act and common law pertaining to registered charities, so that charities can remain compliant.

Mr. Tony Manconi, Director General of the Charities Directorate, provided an overview and update on the charitable sector. He noted that the Charities client services phone line has received over 50,000 calls in the past 8 months. These figures are consistent with previous years. He mentioned that the Directorate is anticipating more calls as the T3010 filing deadline approaches. Mr. Manconi also reminded sector members that there is government funding available to charities who have been impacted by COVID-19, notably the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. He urged the members to pass on the message to charities to call the CRA if they are not sure of the eligibility criteria. The Canada Revenue Agency has already processed over 76,000 applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to date, and over $2 billion has been paid to charities.

Committee Co-Chair Hilary Pearson asked the sector members to provide updates on how charities are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact on the sector. The members, including Co-Chair Bruce MacDonald, noted that there has been a significant increase in the demand for services, but in many cases capacity has remained the same or decreased. While the pandemic has led many organizations to innovate to continue their operations, not all organizations are able to adapt in the same way, especially if they mainly provide in-person services. Charities who own their buildings have been particularly hard hit as they are not eligible for the emergency rent subsidy. This has led to the closure of facilities, in some cases. The members also noted that many organizations are spending most of their time and resources dealing with immediate challenges, and that volunteer and director fatigue is a real concern.

During the second half of the meeting, the committee had a detailed discussion on the current draft of their first report, including the draft recommendations prepared for the Minister of National Revenue and the Commissioner of the CRA on important issues facing registered charities. Members had the opportunity to review the draft report prior to the meeting, and provided detailed feedback on the draft recommendations. The committee heard from representatives from each of the five workings groups, and members discussed common themes, potential gaps, and a work plan for 2021. The discussion was led by Ms. Kim Fuller, an external facilitator.

The five working groups will continue to advance their priorities and to consult with a wide range of stakeholders, to gather information on different issues. Members will use their findings from these consultations to inform future recommendations. The first report with recommendations is expected in the coming months.

The meeting ended with breakout group discussions to recognize the work that has been done and talk about the goals for the committee moving forward. The co-chairs recognize that the committee has created a collaborative, inclusive environment to have policy discussions with leaders in the charitable sector, and look forward to continued progress in the new year.

The next ACCS meeting will take place virtually on January 29, 2021.

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