Questions and answers about applying for registration

1. Is there a fee to become registered?

No. However, if a charity is applying for re-registration after its registration has been revoked for non-filing, it must include a late-filing payment of $500 with the application form. Additionally, if a charity applies for incorporation, there is usually a fee charged by the incorporating authority. 

2. Does a charity need to be incorporated to become registered?

No. Choosing to become incorporated is at the discretion of the charity. Many charities choose to incorporate as it affords limited liability protection to its members. Upon incorporation, a charity becomes a separate legal entity (a corporation) and the corporation (not the members) is generally liable for its debts and obligations.

3. How should an organization's purposes be stated in its governing document to be considered charitable?

To qualify for registration, an organization must be established and operated exclusively for charitable purposes (also referred to as objects). An organization that has a mix of charitable and non-charitable purposes cannot be registered. An organization's purposes are stated in its governing document (constitution, trust deed, or incorporation documents). The purposes must be stated in precise rather than broad or vague terms to identify a recognized charitable purpose as clearly as possible. For more information and a non-exhaustive list of acceptable purposes, see Charitable purposes.

4. How long does the registration process take?

The CRA generally processes applications for registered charitable status on a first-come, first-served basis. Our goal is to provide an initial response within six months of receiving a complete application.

If an application does not contain enough information for us to determine whether the organization qualifies for charitable registration, we will contact them either by letter (by mail or through the My Business Account portal) or telephone.

To avoid delays, please make sure the application is complete and contains detailed information. To determine which documents you need to submit with your application, we encourage you to try our application document checklist tool.

For more information about wait times, see our service standards.

5. What should an organization know about re-registration?

After revocation, any application for re-registration is treated the same way as a first-time application. Therefore, an organization must complete Form T2050, Application to Register a Charity Under the Income Tax Act, and provide all the necessary documentation, information, and signatures. Incorporated organizations must include a certificate of good standing. A charity that loses its registration because it did not file its annual information return must also include a late-filing payment of $500. 

Before it can be re-registered, an organization must file missing information returns and financial statements (for the years before and after revocation).

Statute law, common law, and administrative policies concerning charities change over time. Therefore, an organization that qualified for registration several years ago may not qualify today.

For more information, see Apply for re-registration.

6. What is a Registered Charity Information Return?

This is an annual return that registered charities are required to file within six months of their fiscal year-end. Failure to do so can lead to the revocation of the charity's registration. The return is for information purposes as registered charities do not pay income tax. It records the charity's assets and liabilities and its revenue and expenditures. The information filled out on the return also determines whether or not the charity has met its annual spending requirement (disbursement quota). For more information, see Annual information return (T3010).

7. Are registered charities subject to other federal and provincial/territorial requirements?

Yes. Registered charities can be subject to other federal or provincial/territorial legislation that is associated with their operations, such as provincial or municipal standards for a nursing home, hospital, school board, or housing project. If a charity is incorporated, it must meet certain requirements under the incorporating statute, which may include other filing requirements. Additionally, there may be provincial, territorial, or municipal laws governing fundraising and other operations of the charity.

For more information, contact the federal, provincial, or territorial authority that issued the incorporation papers (if applicable), or refer to Provincial and territorial government information for charities.

8. Will the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) review applications submitted with draft governing documents?

No. The Charities Directorate will not review applications submitted with draft governing documents. Applications received with draft governing documents will be treated as incomplete and returned to the applicant. To submit a complete application, you must include certified governing documents.

For incorporated organizations (examples include organizations established by letters patent, a memorandum of association, an application to form a society), certified means that the documents have an effective date and are stamped or signed by the appropriate incorporating authority. For organizations created by a constitution, certified means that the constitution contains the signatures of at least three current directors/trustees or like officials of the organization and has an effective date. For trust documents, certified means that the document contains the signature of at least one trustee and has an effective date.

If an applicant believes that the purposes in its certified governing documents no longer accurately reflect its programs, it can provide proposed purposes with its application in addition to the organization’s current certified governing documents. For more information on charitable purposes, see Guidance CG-019, How to Draft Purposes for Charitable Registration.

9. What documents should I include when I submit my application?

The Charities Directorate will only review complete applications. A complete application consists of a completed Form T2050, Application to Register a Charity under the Income Tax Act, and all the necessary attachments. For more information and to determine which documents you need to submit with your application, we encourage you to try our application document checklist tool.

10. What is the difference between charitable and charitable at law?

An organization providing a valuable contribution to society may be viewed as doing charitable work, but the term 'charitable' in Canadian society does not mean that the organization is 'charitable at law'. The term 'charitable at law' is derived from common law (court decisions) as well as from the Income Tax Act. The CRA can only register organizations whose purposes and activities are charitable at law. For more information, see Charitable purposes.

11. How can I predict what my revenues and expenditures will be if I'm just starting out?

Establishing a proposed budget can prove to be difficult for many applicants. We recognize that not all the categories in the proposed budget section of the application form will apply to all organizations. We also understand that the amounts we are asking for will only be approximate amounts, since they are projections of what the organization expects to receive and spend in its next fiscal year. However, providing a proposed budget is necessary so that we have a general idea of how the organization intends to raise it funds and how the funds will be spent.

12. How can I find out about the status of my application?

If you are an authorized representative of the charity and have been identified as such on the application form, you can call our toll-free line at 1-800-267-2384 to inquire about the status of your application.
13. What is the minimum number of directors, trustees, or other officials required to operate a registered charity?

One. However, if a charity has only one director, trustee, or other official, it will automatically be designated as a private foundation upon registration. To be designated as a charitable organization or public foundation, more than half of the directors, trustees, or other officials must be at arm's length. If there is only one, this is not possible. For more information, see Types of registered charities (designations)

Charities wishing to incorporate should verify the minimum requirement for directors/trustees with their incorporating authority.

14. Where can I find out about the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) and payroll deduction obligations for charities?

Charities that have employees generally have payroll deduction obligations. Some charities are required to register for GST/HST purposes, and there is a GST/HST rebate available to registered charities. For more information, go to Payroll and GST/HST checklist.

15. Can a registered charity lend us its registration number while we are waiting for our application to be reviewed?

Under no circumstance should a registered charity lend its registration number. A registered charity is responsible for all official tax receipts issued under its name and number and must account for the corresponding donations on its annual information return. Lending the registration number to another organization could lead to the revocation of the charity's registered status. In addition, a registered charity that issues incorrect or incomplete donation receipts or donation receipts that contain deliberately false information is liable to a penalty.

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