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Participating in Federal Public Policy: A Guide for the Voluntary Sector

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Charities and political activity: can charities lobby government?
Yes…within limits. Although many people believe that charities cannot become involved in political activity, there are allowances for involvement. Registered charities in Canada can become involved in lobbying, advocacy and other forms of non-partisan political activity. In most cases, a charity can devote up to 10 percent of its resources to such activity as long as it is related to their charitable objectives.

In its administrative role, CCRA interprets the Income Tax Act in determining whether to grant charitable status to an organization or to remove that status from an existing charity. The CCRA may analyse which non-partisan activities do or do not fall into the political activity realm based on current guidelines.

CCRA publishes an interpretation bulletin that outlines the restrictions on political activity by registered charitable organizations. Some of this information is currently under review. For the most up-to-date information, consult the CCRA Web site at http://www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/tax/charities/menu-e.html.

It should be noted that some "political activities…within expenditure limits" are permitted by CCRA. These activities are not considered to be charitable themselves but are allowed by CCRA as long as they occur within the expenditure limits set out by the Income Tax Act. According to the CCRA interpretation, this means that 90 percent or more of a charity's resources must be spent on charitable activities. This leaves up to 10 percent "of all the financial and physical assets of the charity as well as the services provided by its human resources" as the maximum that a charity can spend on "permitted political activity." Smaller charities may devote a slightly higher amount depending on their annual income.

After you have determined the extent to which your organization can become involved in "political activity" in the policy process, you must develop a sound internal policy position to bring forward. This process is described next.

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Last Updated: 2019-11-21