Authored by Philip A.S. Milley, Associate Director, Legal Affairs
For over thirteen years, the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) policy on the advancement of religion has not been updated. Over the past number of years, there has been a concern that the scope of this charitable head might be narrowed, and we are aware that some para-church organizations have faced difficulty in obtaining charitable registration. Over these thirteen years, many organizations, including the CCCC, have participated in consultations on guidelines concerning the advancement of religion. Since these consultations, the religious sector has been waiting for the release of a new or updated guidance
On October 24, 2017, lawyer Mark Blumberg, by way of an access to information request, obtained a copy of CRA’s draft guidance on the advancement of religion and charitable registration. You can access a copy of the disclosure on Blumberg’s website, globalphilantropy.ca, here.
CRA Policy Guideline Generally
CRA policy guidance represents CRA’s interpretation of the law as it relates to charities. The CRA policy guidance is, in large part, internal guidance for CRA on how it will apply the law to charities. However, CRA policy also plays a significant role in communicating the rules, standards, thresholds, and expectations that CRA has of registered charities. The recent publication by Blumberg is of great significance to the religious charitable sector. Without a clear communication of the rules under which charities are expected to operate, confusion and the expenditure of unnecessary time and expense are likely to occur.
The Draft Guidelines
The guidelines released by the access to information request are only draft guidelines. This internal document is presumably being applied to charitable regulations and religious charities. While this policy may be currently applied CRA, we await the release of a finalized version of this guidance to confirm the standards to which CRA expects charities to comply.
- eligibility for registration;
- the meaning of religion;
- purposes and activities that advance religion, including examples; and
- other topics such as advancing religion through a narrow focus, religious retreats, regional or national organizations, and the production and distribution of religious publications.
- the religion that is intended to be advanced;
- the means of advancing that religion; and
- the intended beneficiaries.
- are clearly and materially connected to the religion’s teachings, doctrines, or observances; and
- constitute a targeted attempt to manifest, promote, sustain, or increase
belief in the religion to or by adherents or the public.
For purposes of registration, CRA states that the elements required by a religion for registration include:
- a doctrine that there is a God(s) or Supreme Being(s);
- a doctrine that adherents worship or revere the Supreme Being(s); and
- a particular and comprehensive system of faith and worship.
- all the requirements of the other charitable category are met (i.e., advancement of education, relief of poverty, or other benefits the community)
- the activities are clearly and materially connected to the religious teachings, doctrines, or observations of the religion being advanced; and
- the activities are capable of being linked by the public to the religion being advanced.
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.