Books and records

For more information, watch our recorded webinar Financial statements and books and records

A registered charity must keep adequate books and records. A charity's books and records must allow the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to:

  • verify revenues, including all charitable donations received;
  • verify that resources are spent on charitable programs; and
  • verify that the charity's purposes and activities continue to be charitable.

Books and records include:

Governing documents (incorporating documents, constitution, trust document), bylaws, financial statements, copies of official donation receipts, copies of annual information returns (Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return), written agreements, contracts, board and staff meeting minutes, annual reports, ledgers, bank statements, expense accounts, inventories, investment agreements, accountant's working papers, payroll records, promotional materials, and fundraising materials.

Books and records also include source documents. Source documents support the information in the books and records, and include items such as: invoices, vouchers, formal contracts, work orders, delivery slips, purchase orders, and bank deposit slips.

Where should books and records be kept?

Books and records must be kept at the Canadian address that the charity has on file with us. This includes all books and records related to any activity carried on outside Canada. The charity's books and records cannot be kept at a foreign address.

Graphic educational tool: Stay on top of your charity's books and records (PDF)

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Stay on top of your charity’s books and records
Proper books and records make it easier for you to complete your charity’s annual information return and demonstrate to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that your charity is using its resources for charitable purposes.

Examples of records

  • Governing document
  • By-laws
  • Meeting minutes


  • Financial statements
  • Copies of donation receipts
  • Payroll records

Source documents

  • Emails
  • Written agreements
  • Contracts and invoices

Storage tips

  • Store at a Canadian address on file with the CRA.
  • Keep backup copies in a separate place, preferably off-site.
  • Use a readable format for electronic records such as PDF, Excel, or Word.
  • Any electronic records must be easily accessible from Canada.

Note: Even if you hire a professional to keep your books and records, your charity is responsible for their completeness, accuracy and accessibility.

Retention of documents

  • 2 years:
    • Copies of donation receipts
  • 6 years or 2 years after revocation:
    • Transaction reports
    • Source documents
    • Copies of T3010s
    • Financial statements
    • Summary of year-to-year transactions
  • Life of the charity and 2 years after revocation:
    • Governing documents
    • By-laws
    • Meeting minutes
    • Records for 10 year gifts

To learn more about books and records, go to

How long must a charity hold on to its books and records?

A charity must keep books and records as follows:

Can books and records be kept in electronic format?

Yes, however:


Books and records maintained outside Canada but accessible electronically in Canada do not meet the requirement of being kept in Canada.

 Refer to IC05-1R1, Electronic Record Keeping for additional information.

What are the responsibilities for properly maintaining books and records?

A registered charity is responsible not only for keeping books and records, but for maintaining, retaining, and safeguarding these records as follows:

What are the consequences of improper record keeping?

Failure to keep adequate books and records may result in the suspension of a registered charity's tax receipting privileges, or the loss of its registered status.

More questions and answers

1. Our last treasurer has our books and records and refuses to give them to us. As a result, we can’t get the necessary information to file our T3010 information return. What should we do?

You should advise us in writing, because you are responsible for maintaining adequate books and records and for meeting your filing requirements. You may want to consider legal means to get the documents from the treasurer.

2. Our computer crashed and it looks like all our records have been lost. What should we do?

You may be able to retrieve your records through the use of a computer specialist. You should also be able to use your back-up files. It is your responsibility to make sure your electronic books and records have been archived or backed up properly and adequately to meet your books and record-keeping obligations.

3. Should we keep our books and records in one of Canada’s official languages even if we serve a population in a language other than English or French?

We ask that you keep your books and records in English or French. They can be translated from their original language if they were created in a language other than English or French.

For information on GST/HST requirements, see General Requirements for Books and Records.

4. Can we destroy our books and records before the required retention period has passed?

Yes, with the Minister’s written permission. To ask for permission, fill out Form T137, Request for Destruction of Records, and send it to:

Charities Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
Ottawa ON  K1A 0L5

Note that the Charities Directorate accepts Form T137 even though the form doesn’t mention registered charities.

5. Do we need to keep the envelopes from our church offerings?

Yes. Where an envelope is used as a source document, it must be kept for a period of six years from the end of the tax year to which the envelope relates. This position is effective as of 2016 and includes envelopes for the 2015 tax year and onward.

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