On August 21, 2015, the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) published an important notice reminding charities of the rules in the Income Tax Act that prohibit registered charities, and charities’ staff and volunteers in their capacity as representatives of charities, from engaging in partisan political activity. It is worth noting that the new CRA advisory contains examples of partisan political activity that are not found in CRA’s existing policy on political activity, Policy Statement Number CPS-022, which has been in effect since 2003.
The purpose of the advisory is to remind charities to be especially diligent in monitoring for partisan political activity in light of the upcoming federal election. CRA specifically mentions that charities must delete or edit any partisan political statements that members of the public make on their websites, blogs, or social media platforms. Charities must also make sure that any public comments made by their staff or volunteers (including on social media) clearly indicate that the comments are made in the personal capacity of a particular staff member or volunteer.
The full text of the CRA’s newly-published advisory is reproduced below.
- 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
- 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.