In June 2016, the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) introduced two new web forms that give the public much greater access to information about Canadian charities by allowing individuals to make online requests for documents and information from CRA:
The first form, the Charities Listings request form, allows the public to request electronic versions of data that was previously accessible through the general Charities Listings web page. However, it appears that this new form will allow the public to request customized, aggregate data combined from several different options, including, for example, a list of charities registered with either an education, health, public welfare, or religious purpose. Information can also be requested by type of charity, location, and status (whether registered, revoked, or other). This information was previously available online, but users did not have access to aggregate data. In the past, charities were only searchable by name and status. Upon making a request, the data will be provided in Comma-Separated Values (CSV) format and will be sent by email, mail, or CD-ROM, depending on the size of the file. Individuals are not required to list the name of their organization when making a request.
The second form, the Request for registered charity information, allows the public to request information that was not previously available through the general Charities Listings web page. This form contains a list of the most “commonly requested documents” and contains a box where other documents, not specifically listed on the form, can be requested. To use this form, individuals must specify a particular charity (i.e., there is no option to obtain aggregate data). The commonly requested documents are as follows:
- Form T2050, Application to Register a Charity Under the Income Tax Act;
- Governing documents (i.e., Letters Patent, Articles of Continuance);
- Notification of registration as a charity;
- Letters relating to the grounds for revocation; and
- Financial statements.
It appears as though an authorized representative of a charity can also use this form to make online requests for information about their charity that is not part of the public record. CRA has not provided any details regarding how long it will need to fill these requests.
These two new forms clearly allow greater public access to information about charities and can be seen as reducing barriers to accessing data about the sector, which was an issue that was raised in the 2016 pre-Budget consultation process. Nevertheless, some potential new concerns arise, such as whether there will be adequate protection of the personal information of directors and other individuals involved with charities. CRA has indicated at the top of each form that personal information is protected under the Privacy Act (Canada) and that privacy complaints can be made to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
*The authors would like to recognize Abid Ahmed, Miller Thomson LLP summer law student, for his assistance in preparing this article.