Charities and Political Activity: is speaking to policy issues a violation of CRA rules?

Charities are often unaware of the rules regarding their involvement in political activities. Charities are permitted to participate in political activities, which includes the ability to speak to current and ongoing public policy issues. Charities are permitted, subject to limited exemptions, to spend up to 10% of its resources on political activities that are connected and subordinate to its charitable purposes.

While the Income Tax Act does not define political activities, the Canada Revenue Agency policy CPS-022 s. 6.2 presumes an activity to be political if a charity:

  1. explicitly communicates a call to political action (that is, encourages the public to contact an elected representative or public official and urges them to retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country)
  2. explicitly communicates to the public that the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country should be retained (if the retention of the law, policy or decision is being reconsidered by a government), opposed, or changed
  3. explicitly indicates in its materials (whether internal or external) that the intention of the activity is to incite, or organize to put pressure on, an elected representative or public official to retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country

An important caveat, however, is that charities are not permitted to engage in partisan political activities, which is an activity that either directly or indirectly supports or opposes a political party or candidate.

CCCC has a number of resources available to its members to assist in understanding the political activity rules. CCCC materials can assist in many ways, including delineating types of permitted and prohibited activity. Please refer to the following material for further information:

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.