Right-leaning charities reporting zero "political" activity raises new questions about CRA’s auditing program

Report shows inquiry needed to examine CRA processes to ensure transparency and fairness

OTTAWA—Right-leaning charities are reporting zero “political” activity while engaging in work that appears to meet the Canada Revenue Agency’s definition, a new Broadbent Institute report has found. This raises new questions about the agency’s selection process for determining which charities are targeted for political-activity audits and how charities are interpreting CRA’s definition of “political” activity.

The survey, titled Stephen Harper’s CRA: Selective audits, “political” activity, and right-leaning charities, examined publicly available CRA tax filings of 10 charities related to their finances and activities and cross-referenced these with their publicly available work.

In each of the 10 case studies covering a three-year period, the charities reported that they had conducted no political activity, as defined by CRA, thus falling under the 10% threshold permitted under the law. However, this review, which includes the Fraser Institute, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and Focus on the Family, provides examples of activity for each of the 10 charities between 2011 and 2013 that appear to meet CRA’s definition of “political.”

“We know charities that have been critical of policies of the Harper government are being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency. With mounting evidence suggesting bias in auditing decisions, we need to find out what’s going on here,” said Broadbent Institute Executive Director Rick Smith.

Given these findings, the Institute is calling for the establishment of an independent inquiry with a clear scope of action to examine CRA processes to ensure transparency and fairness in its decision-making criteria around political-activity audits andinterpretations of “political” activity, and to ensure such processes are not subject to political pressures or interference. 

There are currently 52 charities being targeted in a $13.4 million program launched by the Harper government in 2012 to determine whether any are violating a rule that limits their spending on political activities to 10% of resources.

“Political activity is a critical part of many charities’ work.Progressive or conservative, blunting the ability of civil society to advocate and to engage in debate and, occasionally, dissent should concern us all,” added Smith.

Stephen Harper’s CRA: Selective audits, “political” activity, and right-leaning charities is available online at http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/


For more information, please contact:
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