The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has issued a Press Release on their website; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/cmmnctn/pltcl-ctvts/dvsry-eng.html, reminding registered charities that they are prohibited from devoting any of their resources to partisan political activities.
The CRA has determined that a “partisan political activity is one that involves the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party at any time, whether during an election period or not, or a candidate for public office.”
For those of you quick to conclude that this is a recent change – made by the Conservative Party of Canada to protect themselves from negative press, the prohibition on partisan political activity is a long-standing requirement under the Income Tax Act (ITA).
Charities are responsible for their resources, and must devote these resources to exclusively charitable purposes.
Charities that devote any resources to partisan political activities may no longer be eligible for registration. A charity’s resources include funds, property, and personnel (volunteers, employees, and directors).
Partisan political activity may include, but is not limited to:
- providing financial or material contributions to a political party or candidate
- making public statements (oral or written) that endorse or denounce a candidate or political party
- criticizing or praising the performance of a candidate or political party
- organizing an all-candidates meeting or public forum in a way that could be seen to favour a political party or candidate
- inviting candidates to speak at different dates or different events in a way that favours a candidate or political party
- posting signs in support of, or opposition to, a candidate or political party
- distributing literature or voter guides that promote or oppose a candidate or political party explicitly or by implication
- explicitly connecting its views on an issue to any political party or candidate
These restrictions on partisan political activities do not prevent volunteers, employees, or directors of charities from:
- helping in a political campaign, as long as they do this in their personal capacity and do not suggest they represent a charity
- making partisan political comments in public (including on social media), as long as they make it clear they are speaking in their personal capacity and not as a representative of a charity
Charities that use the Internet or social media to post information should ensure the information does not contain partisan political statements. Also, the information should not link to statements made by a third party that support or oppose a candidate or political party.
An important note surrounds the responsibility charities have to ensure their social media also complies with these rules, and as such, when a charity invites comments on its website, blogs, or on social media, it should monitor them for partisan political statements and remove, edit, or moderate such statements within a reasonable time.
For more information on political activities, you can refer to the CRA’s website, specifically their section on Resources for charities about political activities, including Policy Statement CPS-022, Political Activities, and Partisan political activities, or call the CRA’s Client Service Section at 1-800-267-2384.