I wrote this post shortly after our church went through our very first Revenue Canada audit. Don’t worry… we passed with flying colours but we learned a TON along the way!!!
The more and more I read up on Canada’s Charities Act… the more I want our church to go off the grid!
Did you know that over the last year Revenue Canada has hired 1,200 – 1,500 new auditors to work in their charities division? Their plan is to have every church and charity in Canada audited over the next 3 years. Our church just finished an audit and the process taught us a ton about what we can and what we can’t do.
The Canada Revenue Agency has been saying for some time that it wishes to remove “the advancement of religion” as a legitimate charitable purpose. Once that happens, churches (denominations and independents alike) will no longer qualify as charities able to issue tax receipts.
In the last few decades, Christianity has become increasingly marginalized. There is a movement that has begun the process to have the “pursuit of religion” removed from the “service to the community” which is part of the CRA definition of what a church does. Churches would then become something that is simply about a private relationship with God, which it is but that’s not all it is. What good is our walk with God if we can’t show it in tangible way?
Here are a few things our church learned from our recent CRA audit that we have to adhere to if we want to be able to issue charitable receipts (we don’t give for a receipt anyways… we give because we love God and His people with everything we are and have!):
#1) As a church, we can’t actually help anyone in our own church!
If someone gives an offering towards a family in the church that needs help, we aren’t allowed according to the Charities Act, to give it to them (if they want a receipt). This is considered a benefit and the Church “cannot benefit it’s members”. So helping a family in the church who has just eaten their last meal or had their electricity turned off… is considered a benefit and we can’t do it by law, using monies that people received a charitable receipt for. Other churches, over the last 1 – 2 years, have had their charitable status removed for “benefiting their members” in this very same manner. Receipted monies can be used but only on a loan basis and not a gift.
#2) An honorarium / offering for a guest speaker that goes over $500 (per annum) the church must issue the guest a T4 slip and then are required to pay payroll taxes.
If you say, yah, they should do that… go ask your Pastor or board trustee member if they do it? I bet you’ll hear a resounding “No!”.
#3) Did you know that if your church owns it’s own building, it’s doesn’t really belong to the church?!
If Revenue Canada or any other government agency feels that that church has not lived up to the Charities or Income Tax Act in any way, they can take away not only the building but all of the assets within the building! Government agencies supersede Church Constitution By-Laws.
#4) Did you know that the Charities Act prohibits you from helping other organizations/charities outside of Canada?
Canadian monies collected and receipted in Canada to Canadians must remain in Canada.
#5) The CRA website must be visible on every single charitable receipt given out and revocation of charitable status is possible for not following this ridiculous procedure!
Check your donation receipts… if the www.cra-arc.gc. blah blah blah is not on there… that charity has broken the law.
The more time we spend reading up on the law and the government’s rules and regulations over churches, the more anti-Scriptural it actually is.
Having charitable status allows the government too much say in the life of the church and actually prevents us from doing what Christ told us to do, why would we want to be a part of that?
Yes, people wouldn’t receive a tax receipt for giving to the church but we give for God’s benefits not man’s. I guess you’d quickly find out who’s giving for what reason. Canada and the US are the only two countries that are able to supply charitable receipts, I’m beginning to think the other countries don’t have it so bad after all!!
I think a Church that is following Scripture – wanting to do what Christ told us to – has to get off the grid!