Progress status of the joint action plan

The Small and Rural Charities: Making a Difference for Canadians included a joint action plan with a number of recommendations. The following table lists each of those recommendations and what the Charities Directorate has done to implement them.

No.
Recommendations
Details on the implementation
1.1 Respond accurately and consistently to charities' enquiries on the 1-800 number by providing standardized technical training for telephone agents. A reference and procedures manual has been developed and adopted by all client service agents.
1.2
Interact more effectively with small and rural charities by recognizing that volunteers and treasurers may not fully understand their obligations or know what questions to ask. Actions could include providing training to CRA agents to be better able to understand callers' questions and provide appropriate and consistent responses. A training course has been developed and provided to all client service agents.
1.3
Identify the training needs of front-line staff by conducting a client service survey to measure taxpayer satisfaction. Client satisfaction surveys were conducted in 2001, 2003, and 2011. The last survey helped the Directorate to develop its current service standards.
1.4
Resolve technical taxpayer enquiries more efficiently by having the telephone agents who are trained to answer more complex questions identify themselves, and provide contact information so that charities can call the same officer directly (within a reasonable period of time) for any related technical enquiries. This procedure has been implemented.
1.5
Provide community-based, in-person service for small and rural charities through the development of community partnerships with umbrella groups, universities, or colleges, where feasible. In 2008, the Charities Directorate provided 24 special charities information sessions to address organizations' specific topics. This was in addition to its 73 national regular Charities Information Sessions.
2.1
Send compliance letters to authorized representatives and, if there is no response, send a copy of the letter to the president. This procedure has been implemented.
2.2
Provide newly registered charities with feedback on the first Registered Charity Information Return (T3010A) filed, as well as their first year's financial statements and receipts. After further analysis, the Charities Directorate has concluded that it is not able to fully implement this recommendation as worded. As an alternative, the Directorate has developed a Web page on avoiding common mistakes, as well as sample T3010s, financial statements and receipts. In addition, the Directorate provides information on common mistakes and filing tips in the Registered Charities Newsletter.
2.3
Provide charities with a checklist of annual reporting obligations and timelines. A number of Checklists for charities have been developed to provide charities with a quick reference to their obligations and timelines.
2.4
Withhold Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) rebates from charities that do not file their Form T3010A on time. After further analysis, the Charities Directorate has concluded that it is not able to implement this recommendation.
2.5
Provide a clear rationale for requesting directors' dates of birth in the appropriate documents. A clear rationale has been posted in the Guide T4033B, Completing the Registered Charity Information Return, Form T1235, Directors/Trustees and Like Officials Worksheet, and Guide T4063, Registering a Charity for Income Tax Purposes.

The rationale has also been included in messages sent to professional associations and published in our Newsletter.
3.1
Provide a simplified and shorter Form T3010A, to reduce the amount of information small and rural charities have to report and to minimize the time needed to complete the form. Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return has been implemented for fiscal periods ending on or after January 1, 2009. It should reduce the filing burden for most small charities.
3.2
Allow charities with revenues under $100,000, regardless of the value of the charity's assets, to provide simplified information. Charities with revenue under $100,000 are eligible to provide simplified financial information in Section D of Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return. However, some small charities, depending on the nature of their activities, may be required to complete one or more of Form T3010B's schedules.
3.3
Include checklists as part of the Form T3010A, including a checklist of what documents and forms should be included with a completed form and a checklist of all pieces of information required to complete the form. A checklist has been included as part of Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return with the recommended elements.
 3.4
Reformat the Basic Information Sheet to clarify its purpose and ensure charities are aware that it must be filed with the return. The reformat of the Registered Charity Basic Information Sheet has been added to our process for regular form review and revisions and will be updated in the future.
3.5
Provide a glossary to accompany the Form T3010A to explain the terms used on the form. A glossary of key terms is included with the mailout of Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return.
3.6
Use plain language on the Form T3010A and the glossary, as well as in the corresponding guide. Provide clear and precise instructions and examples. The Charities Directorate ensures language is helpful, effective, and positive.

This was applied when developing Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return, the accompanying glossary, and the new Guide T4033B, Completing the Registered Charity Information Return. The new guide also includes clear and precise instructions and examples.
4.1
Provide a link on the Charities and giving Web site for directors, allowing them to access information such as frequently asked questions (FAQs), glossaries, and checklists outlining their responsibilities. A link to Operating a registered charity for directors and trustees has been added to the Charities and giving main Web page and includes over 20 links to more than 60 pages of helpful information.

An alphabetical index of topics and the Toolbox for directors, officers and volunteers are other tools that have been developed to help directors quickly find information they need. 
4.2
Identify questions frequently asked through the 1-800 number and use these to identify opportunities for improvements to forms and publications, as well as to provide a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to the sector. A list of FAQs is used in the annual review of all forms and publications.
Also, a list of Questions and answers about operating a registered charity and a list of Question and answers about applying for registration have been added to the Charities and giving Web site.
4.3
Provide a list of services available to charities in their communities (such as municipal benefits, pro-bono university legal services, etc.). An initial list of links to Other sources of assistance and support has been posted on the Charities and giving Web site. The Charities Directorate is looking at adding to this list.
4.4
Mail two copies of the checklist on maintaining charitable status to all registered charities (one to the treasurer and the other to the president) with an accompanying letter explaining its importance and purpose. Two copies of the Basic Guidelines for Maintaining Charitable Registration checklist, with an accompanying explanation letter, were mailed in April 2008.
4.5
Provide a list of questions that charities are not asking, but should be asking. Charities are often not aware of important questions that they should ask the CRA. Questions that charities should be asking have been added to the list of Questions and answers about operating a registered charity on the Charities and giving Web site.
5.1
Create a one-page checklist on goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) for charities, outlining the implications, benefits, and need for GST registration (including a decision-making tree), and mail it to all registered charities with Form T3010A or other mail-outs, as well as to newly registered charities. The GST/HST checklist for charities was developed and mailed to all charities in December 2008.

The checklist is also included with the initial mailout to all registered charity.
5.2 a)
Include a GST/HST information module in the Roadshow (Charity Information Session). As part of the 2008 Charities Information Sessions, the Excise and GST/HST Rulings Directorate delivered presentations on GST requirements for charities. GST handouts were also inserted in the Charities Information Sessions kits.
 5.2 b)
Include a GST/HST information module in: the Roadshow (Charity Information Session) DVD. See 7.2
5.3
Create links in both directions between the Charities and giving Web site and the GST/HST Web site. Links have been created:
6.1
Develop promotional materials about the Charities and giving Web site and distribute these materials to small and rural charities and to newly registered charities.
  • A promotional article was included in an information bulletin and mailed out to all charities in December 2008.
  • Excerpts have been added to other products such as mailouts and the Registered Charities' Newsletter.
  • An insert is included in the Charities Information Session kit.
  • The Web site is promoted during the Charities Information Sessions and the Charities webinars.
  • The registration letter for newly registered charities refers to the Web site several times, describing tools and services available on our Web site.
  7.1
Develop and distribute educational products, including a Roadshow (Charity Information Session) DVD, to small and rural charities, as well as to newly registered charities, non-compliant charities, and other charities, upon request. See 7.2
7.2
Develop online tutorials and related links. Recordings of the live webinars are posted on the Webcast page of the Charities Webinars site. The sessions' transcripts and questions and answers are also posted. The topics presented at the Charities information sessions and many more are posted on this page.

The Charities Directorate will continue to add webcasts as new webinars are conducted.
7.3
Increase small and rural charities' awareness about outreach and educational programs and events through the CRA Web site, the mailing of notices, advertisements on umbrella groups' networks and, if cost-effective, telephone calls.
  • A Charities Information Sessions and a Charities Webinars Web site were developed.
  • The Information Sessions schedule is posted on the CRA Events and seminars Web page and on the Charities and giving - What's new page.
  • An electronic notice is sent to all subscribers of the Charities and giving electronic mailing list.
  • Information about the Charities Information Sessions and Charities Webinars is included in the Registered Charities Newsletters.
  • A notice about the Charities Information Sessions is sometimes included in mailouts, such as the Checklists mailout; see 4.4.
  • Some provinces promote the sessions on their Web sites.
  • The Charities Directorate has asked umbrella organizations and charities that provided an email address on their T3010 to promote the sessions to their members.
  • Client service agents encouraged charities to register for the sessions when calling in for services.
7.4
Address the educational needs of small and rural charities by developing and delivering specialized Roadshows (Charities Information Sessions) for them. The 2009 Charities Information Sessions focused mostly on Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return, and targeted small and rural charities.

The Charities Directorate also visited additional rural areas in 2009.
7.5
Improve the awareness of the Roadshows' purposes by changing the English name to one that is positive and informative. The name was changed to Charities Information Sessions.
7.6
Deliver the Roadshow information sessions to charities across Canada. Sessions have been delivered to charities across Canada for the past 15 years. In 2008, 73 regular sessions were delivered across the country and 24 special sessions were delivered to various organizations.

For more information on the 2009 sessions, see Charities Information Sessions.
8.1
Distribute educational resources to small and rural charities through multiple communication channels. The Charities Directorate distributes educational resources through the following communication channels: the Charities and giving Web site, publications, Charities Information Sessions, Charities Partnership and Outreach Program, a Charities and giving electronic mailing list, and various mailings.

The Charities Directorate also piloted webinars in February and June 2009 and, due to their success, continues to deliver them on an ongoing basis. For more information on webinars, see Charities Webinars.
8.2
Write communication products in a positive and helpful tone. The Charities Directorate will ensure language used is helpful, effective, and positive.
8.3
Meet the educational needs of small and rural charities by producing resources in plain language. The Charities Directorate will ensure language used is helpful, effective, and positive.
8.4
Consult with small and rural charities about the development and review of new products and policies. This is being done on an ongoing basis; for example, for new policies we invite anyone to provide their comments at Online consultation on proposed guidance.

We also consult the sector when we release new products. For example, for Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return, the CRA conducted focus testing with small and rural charities as well as other types of charities.
 8.5
Produce consistent, easy to read, and quality products in both official languages by hiring a professional editor and translator, and by consulting with Revenu Québec on terminology to ensure consistency. The Directorate hires professional translators and has a full time reviewer/editor on staff to ensure that all documents are consistent and that the language used is helpful, effective, and positive.

Consultation with Revenu Québec is ongoing.
8.6
Improve definitions and key terms by using plain language and ensuring they are used consistently. The glossary has been updated and continues to be enhanced.
9.1
Make the on-line fillable forms more user-friendly and "saveable." The most-used fillable forms, such as the T3010B and T2050, are now saveable.

These forms were designed to be user-friendly. For example, some forms can perform basic calculations.
9.2
Provide assistance over the 1-800 numbers to small and rural charities needing help navigating the Charities and giving Web site. Anyone requiring help navigating the Charities and giving Web site can call 1-800-267-2384, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday to Friday (except statutory holidays) and a client service agent will be pleased to help.
9.3
Investigate and, if feasible, implement the use of "Smartlinks" to allow Web users to access a CRA agent directly from the CRA Web site. After investigation, the Charities Directorate has concluded that Smartlinks will not be implemented for the following reasons:
  • our contact information is easily accessible from the Web site;
  • Client service agents provide assistance to charities navigating the Charities and giving Web site; see 9.2;
  • Client service agents provide their name and contact information for clients to call back if they need more clarification; see 1.4; and
  • Client service agents consistently meet the telephone service answering standards.
The Charities Directorate will concentrate on developing training and tools for client service agents so that they can continue to provide consistent and accurate responses; see 1.1 and 1.2.
9.4
Develop, or work with software providers to develop educational learning products, similar to Quick-Tax, for small and rural charities, and make them available for a nominal fee. After further analysis, the Charities Directorate has concluded that it is not able to fully implement this recommendation as worded. As alternatives, the CRA consults with software providers yearly to review and authorize the use of their customized T3010; see List of companies authorized to produce a customized T3010 form. Some of these software providers do provide their software at a nominal fee.

The CRAhas also developed several educational products to assist charities in completing their annual return, namely:
  • the Annual information return (T3010) and related filing obligations;
  • fillable and savable T3010B and related forms; and
  • Samples: T3010, Registered Charity Information Return with accompanying forms and financial statements.
10.1
Verify Web site content and update, correct, or remove outdated and redundant information. The Charities and giving Web site has been reviewed and corrective measures were taken.

Updating policy statements, commentaries, information letters, and information bulletins is an ongoing process. As soon as a document is revised it is posted on our Web site.
10.2
Optimize access to information by developing individualized charity profiles and an electronic decision-making tree to direct small and rural charities to only the specific information they require or request. The Charities and giving Web site has been completely redesigned to make it more user-friendly and accessible. The main page now categorizes information under relevant headings such as Operating a registered charity, Applying for registration, and Revoking registered status.

In addition, new tools with a series of pertinent/need-to-know links have been developed to help charities quickly find the information they need, for example:
 10.3
Develop an accessible, easy-to-find link for pertinent/need-to-know information for charities.
10.4
Label Web site pages and links consistently. All Web pages and links have been labeled consistently and a process has been developed to ensure all future pages will also be labeled consistently.
10.5
Develop accessible Web pages for dial-up users. Most guides are now available in HTML and PDF format. Both versions will be made available when developing/updating new guides. HTML allows for faster download times for dial-up users.
10.6
Publish the Compliance Continuum for Registered Charities on the Web site. The Compliance Continuum has been posted on the Charities and giving Web site.
10.7
Make the Charities and giving Web site more accessible for the visually impaired who use screen readers. The Charities Directorate follows the CRA's guidelines for readability to provide accessibility to the people with a visual impairment who use screen readers.
11.1
Inform and educate small and rural charities by developing and making available online documents, a resource binder, and a CD-ROM of Web site materials. The Charities Directorate has developed two versions of the resource binder. The first version is a comprehensive electronic version with relevant links; see Important links for directors, officers and volunteers. The second version is a shorter electronic version that is also available in a PDF format for printing and that summarizes the important information that charities need to know to maintain their registered charity status; see Maintaining charitable registration.

After further study, the Charities Directorate has concluded that a CD-ROM of Web site material will not be developed for the following reasons:
  • the Web site is constantly updated, which would make the CD-ROM outdated very quickly; and
  • charities that don't have access to the Internet and would like a copy of Web site material can contact our Client Service Section at 1-800-267-2384.
11.2a)
Provide charities with: sample T3010A forms, financial statements, receipts, and books and records, along with information on the audit process. Information about the audit process, as well as sample receipts, T3010, and financial statements were developed.

Sample books and records have been identified as a funding priority through the Charities Partnership and Outreach Program. Two projects were funded to increase the capacities of charities to meet their regulatory compliance obligations by improving their accounting practices and procedures with respect to books and records; see Imagine Canada Charity Tax Tools and Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. More information will be provided on the tools available once these projects are completed. Charities can also view the checklist for Keeping adequate books and records or Guide RC4409, Keeping Records for guidance in maintaining proper books and records.
 11.2b)
Provide charities with: links to sector resources on good governance, in both the resource binder and on the Charities and giving Web site. Good governance has been identified as a funding priority through the Charities Partnership and Outreach Program. Three projects were funded to increase accountability and transparency in the charitable sector: Éducaloi, Imagine Canada, and Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. The Toolbox for directors, officers, and volunteers includes key resources to help charities manage day-to day operations.
12.1
Provide applicant organizations with a decision-making tree or another type of information to help them make decisions about becoming a registered charity under the ITA. A new section called Is Registration right, for you has been developed. It includes a mini-quiz that potential applicants can complete to help them determine if they should register as a charity.
12.2
Provide applicant organizations with a clear and concise list of what is and what is not charitable. New Web site sections, Charitable purposes and activities and Factors that will prevent an organization from being registered as a charity, have been developed to help organizations determine if their purposes and activities are charitable.
12.3
Provide a simplified registration guide that focuses on the key elements applicants must know and is organized by the four categories of charitable purposes (with the ability to print only the sections needed or related to the applicant's activities). A complete new section with more than 20 pages of useful information has been developed specifically on Applying for registration. The page What is charitable? provides specific information on the four categories of charitable purposes.
12.4
Work with federal, provincial, and territorial partners to adopt model objects (sometimes referred to as purposes) and make them available online for applicants. Charitable purposes have been posted on the Charities and giving Web site.

Provinces and territories have been consulted to encourage them to adopt the CRA's model purposes.
13.1
Develop uniform audit requirements for small and rural charities, where possible. The Charities Directorate uses a consistent audit approach for all charities regardless of the size of the organization. The audit's scope is determined by the type of activities the charity undertakes.

However, a new communication procedure has been developed. Prior to an audit, charities are provided with Leaflet RC4454, Auditing Charities, which contains information on the audit process as well as the auditor's and team leader's name and telephone number.

13.2
Provide links on the CRA Web site to provincial obligations and resources for registered charities. Links to Provincial and territorial government contacts have been posted on the Charities and giving Web site.
13.3
Develop the Federal, Provincial, Territorial network of Charity Regulators A Federal, Provincial, and Territorial network of Charity Regulators was created in 2005 and it consults regularly on topics of common interest.
13.4
Increase collaboration with the Provinces and Territories in the regulation of registered charities through activities such as harmonizing reporting requirements and sharing information to reduce reporting duplications for registered charities. This is being done on an ongoing basis. For example, harmonization of the annual return between the Canada Revenue Agency and the Government of Ontario began in 2009. For more information on this initiative, see Important information for registered charities incorporated, continued, or amalgamated in Ontario and subject to the Ontario Corporations Act .
  14.1
The CRA will work with the sector to promote the benefits of volunteering. See 14.2. In addition, the Charities Directorate has promoted the National Volunteer Week and the International Volunteer Day in its Newsletters and in provincial calendars.
14.2
The CRA should provide space on the Form T3010A for charities to report the level of volunteers (number and/or hours) and the services the volunteers delivered. Section C2 of Form T3010B, Registered Charity Information Return provides space for charities to report the contributions of volunteers (number of volunteers and hours).
  15.1
Develop a Web listing of all registered charities to allow donors to easily find charities when using Internet search engines. After further analysis, the Charities Directorate has concluded that it is not able to fully implement this recommendation as worded. As an alternative, the Charities Listings allows donors to easily find any registered or revoked charity.
15.2
Investigate whether the CRA can put live links from the Charities and giving Web site to those charities that have Web sites. A hyperlink has been added to the Charities and giving Detail page for those who have provided a Web address when filing their Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return. This page is displayed when searching for a particular charity in the Charities Listings.
16.1
Encourage the creation of Web links between registered charities, umbrella groups, provincial and territorial governments, and the Charities and giving Web site. Links between the federal, provincial and territorial governments are continually updated; see 13.2.

On an ongoing basis, the Charities Directorate encourages charities and umbrella groups to link to the Charities and giving Web site.

Links to Other sources of assistance and support have also been posted on the Charities and giving Web site.
 16.2
Promote the development of community networks, to enable small and rural charities to communicate, share best practices, and learn from each other. Providing access to resources for small and rural charities has been identified as a funding priority through the Charities Partnership and Outreach Program. One project was funded to establish a community network and expertise locator for small and rural charities; see Université du Québec in Montréal.
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