Canada Revenue Agency's Charities Directorate modernizes with new digital registration platform

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You may not have been aware, but on June 1, 2019, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)’s Charities Directorate rolled out a new, online, digital registration platform for charities. Yes, modernization has arrived at The Agency.

The new Charities IT Modernization Project, aka “CHAMP”, was years in the making, and is now helping to replace outmoded paper applications and, according to the Agency, ease the administrative burden, among other things, for new charities that wish to register with the CRA.

Turn the (digital) page

CHAMP has been widely hailed as a much-needed upgrade to the CRA’s intake systems for charities and charity information. In a recent post on Globalphilanthropy.ca - the news blog page of Toronto-based charity law firm Blumberg Segal LLP – associate lawyer Maddy Sawyer attested to the Agency’s technological achievement, albeit with a caveat.

“This new system is meant to streamline the application process and any communications with CRA on the application process. It is also designed to reduce the paper waste associated with mailed and faxed applications. Applicants will also be able to respond to any CRA questions on their applications via the portal,” Sawyer writes. “However, as is the case with most new computer systems and portals, we suspect that there will be glitches in the system and that it may be slow to begin. Charity applicants will also have to account for the time to set up a MyBusiness account. It is our understanding that there will not be any major changes to the T2050 – Application to Register a Charity Under the Income Tax Act.”

In addition to the no-paper, ostensibly easier T2050 filing through this new system, both new and existing charities can now also submit their T3010s - Registered Charity Information Returns online. This is a significant new option, given that the T3010s contain important information about the annual finances and disbursements within charities to their staff and stakeholders. Information that so-called “charity watchdogs” use to rank and/or evaluate the efficacy of a nonprofit’s dollars-to-cause ratios.

However, despite the option to file the latter documents digitally, the CRA is not mandating its digital usage, as it has with the T2050.

“Unlike the charity application [form], the online T3010 filing is not mandatory,” says Sawyer. Still, those who do file it online will be forced to complete the form properly.

“Through CHAMP, the T3010… online form will not let you proceed to the next section until the previous section has been completed. And certain features may help remind charities to complete all relevant sections and schedules to the form, as well as to attach related documents, such as the T1235 - Directors/Trustees and Like Officials Worksheet and the charities financial statements.”

A work in championship progress

For its part, the Charities Directorate is hoping that CHAMP provides better and more robust access to registration. However, a deluge of online applications has not manifested.

According to CRA spokesperson Dany Morin, as of the end of June, only nine new online applications to CHAMP had been processed.

“The CRA anticipates this amount to increase as the charitable sector and public become more aware of the convenience of these new services. For example, these services provide instant confirmation to a charity’s authorized representative that an application for registration, or an annual information [filing] has been received by the CRA, which allows them to monitor the processing status of those forms,” Morin says.

He also notes that the CRA wants directors and trustees of registered charities to know that if they have never before used any CRA login services, they will need to create a MyBA account to get the process started. But that’s not all.

“While the CRA encourages the use of its new digital services through the MyBA portal to apply for charitable registration online, it also provides forms, publications and personalized correspondence in alternate formats to ensure accessibility,” Morin says. “It includes different methods of applying for charitable registration and filing of Form T3010. As a number of organizations use third party software in order to file their forms, the CRA wanted to ensure that they would be able to continue to file using their preferred methods with the transition to the new online services. This also allows individuals with accessibility concerns to continue to file.”

Some helpful hints

Back over at Blumbergs, principal Mark Blumberg has some more advice for charities seeking to interact more with the CRA through the new online system.

In a June 27 news post to his site, Blumberg encourages charities to exercise all digital options available to them through CHAMP. Some of these now-online options include the ability to indicate a change of director, amend governing documents, amalgamate, change their legal status and sundry other choices pertaining to the functioning of the organization.

“Charities should look into accessing their CHAMP account,” Blumberg counsels.

Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf is a professional writer living in Toronto. He can be reached at aajzenkopf@yahoo.com.

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