Publishing a magazine

Policy commentary

Release date
February 3, 2006

Reference number
CPC-027

Subject

Charitable purposes - Whether publishing a magazine can be considered a charitable activity under the advancement of education.

Purpose

To clarify the Directorate's policy regarding organizations publishing magazines in furtherance of educational purposes.

Commentary

To be registered as a charity and to maintain registration, an organization must meet the legal definition of a charity and abide by the rules set out in the Income Tax Act. In broad terms a charity is an organization that relieves poverty, advances education or religion or furthers certain other purposes that benefit the community as a whole and in ways that the law regards as charitable.

The courts, through various decisions, have defined the advancement of education in the charitable sense as the training of the mind; advancing the knowledge or abilities of the recipient; raising the artistic taste of the community; or improving a useful branch of human knowledge through research.

In addition to this definition, the Supreme Court of Canada set out a number of criteria to determine whether a purpose or activity is charitable:

  • there must be structure and a genuinely educational purpose
  • there must be a teaching or learning component
  • there must be a legitimate, targeted attempt to educate others (simply providing an opportunity for people to educate themselves, such as by making available materials with which this might be accomplished but need not be, is not enough)

Finally, although the decision of the Supreme Court extended the definition of education beyond traditional academic subjects, to include teaching practical topics and skills such as necessary life skills or providing information to a specific practical end, the knowledge being conveyed must be useful knowledge Footnote 1 (that is, in the sense that its acquisition by the individual provides a benefit to the community).

The Income Tax Act requires that a charity devote its resources to exclusively charitable activities. The Canada Revenue Agency accepts that registered charities can achieve the recognized charitable purpose of advancing education through the use, creation, publication and distribution of magazines, however, to be considered an acceptable charitable activity, the contents of that publication must be predominantly educational in the sense understood by charity law.

Magazines also contain some material that would not be considered educational - for example, games, entertainment, opinion, advertising. Such content is allowable provided that it is highly limited and always remains ancillary and incidental to the main educational purpose.

Each organization is judged on the merits of its own application.

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