CRA Compliance

Charity Revocation: What You Need to Know

If you’re looking for information about registering a charity, there’s a good chance you have a big mission that you hope to achieve. That’s great, and it’s very noble to work towards changing the world. But, in case you haven’t discovered it yet, there are a lot of laws and regulations that govern how charities can operate Canada, and that includes a lot of regulations about what is known as revocation.

While registering a charity is the process of creating it, revocation is the process that revokes registration, and removes the privileges that charities enjoy. So, before you even get started working on or in your charity, you should know exactly how revocation works.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary

The first thing you should know is that revocation is not always an involuntary process. Sometimes charities might have their status revoked because of an accidental or deliberate act or omission, but occasionally, charities choose voluntary revocation.

Voluntary revocation happens when the charity themselves file a request to remove their charitable status. This could be done when two organizations merge, to create a new charity, or when one charity is absorbed into another.

Or it could be because the charity has achieved their stated purpose. Finally, it could be because the charity no longer needs the resources they have been using to run their charity, whether those are physical, like a premise, or financial.

By definition, voluntary revocation of your charitable status usually happens when you have achieved something good, so it’s often a reason to celebrate!

If You Want to Have Your Charitable Status Revoked

If you want to have the status of your charity revoked, you can contact the Government of Canada to request a voluntary revocation. You can do this online, through a MyCRA account, or you can download the documents, fill them in and mail them manually.

It’s especially important to be absolutely sure that you are ready to have your charitable status revoked. If you change your mind later, you will have to re-register the organization. So, if there is any doubt that this is the right step, take some time to consider the issue.

Involuntary Revocation

If voluntary revocation usually marks a good milestone, involuntary revocation is often the opposite.

This type of revocation of charitable registration usually happens when you haven’t done something that is required, or when you have done it incorrectly.

This may include things like failing to file a required return, if your organization is audited and there are discrepancies found in how funds are raised or used, or if you have committed or are suspected of committing some other act that breaks one of the laws that govern charities in Canada.

Involuntary revocation is never a good thing, and very often, it does not happen on its own. If there have been other laws broken, or laws that are suspected of being broken, additional criminal and other charges could apply too. Although those are not related to revocation.

If Your Status Is Being Revoked Involuntarily

If your charitable organization status is being revoked against your will, you will have 90 days from the date you receive the written notice of revocation to file an objection.

As you can imagine, depending on the circumstances, this can be a legal minefield, and unless you are completely certain that you have all the facts and are completely correct, you might need to get advice from the government, an accountant or someone else with knowledge of the process.

If you plan to object to the revocation of your charitable status, there is limited time too, and it can take time to work out the details of a complex situation, so you should get started right away. Don’t wait! As soon as you receive any letter like this, start working to fix the problem.

After Revocation

After your charity’s status is revoked, the Government of Canada will publish a notice in the Canada Gazette and elsewhere, and it will be a matter of public record. You will have to file a return for your final year of operation, and you will not be entitled to any of the privileges your charity had while registered.

It is possible to re-register a charity that has had its status revoked, but if it’s not a voluntary revocation, it’s always better to try to avoid this altogether. As with any legal proceedings, particularly those involving the government, it can be complicated, time consuming and much better to avoid.

Most importantly, remember that receiving a notification of revocation isn’t always because you willfully did something wrong or are a bad person. Very often, it happens simply because you didn’t know what was right.

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