This year, the government introduced a new category of tax-exempt qualified donee for non-profit journalism organizations that produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians.
The Government of Canada provides support to certain categories of organizations, including charities, that are referred to in the Income Tax Act as “qualified donees” and that operate for some broad public purpose. Canadians may claim the charitable donation tax credit (for individuals) or deduction for donations (corporations) for donations to qualified donees. Qualified donees can also receive gifts from Canadian registered charities.
In order to qualify for registration, a qualified Canadian journalism organization will be required to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to be registered as a qualified donee and meet certain additional conditions, as described below.
Registered journalism organizations will be required to be corporations or trusts and to have purposes that exclusively relate to journalism. Any business activities carried on by these organizations will be required to be related to their purposes. For example, the sale of news content and advertising would be considered activities related to journalism. These organizations will not be permitted to distribute their profits, if any, or allow their income to be available for the personal benefit of certain individuals connected with the organization.
To ensure that registered journalism organizations are not used to promote the views or objectives of any particular person or related group of persons, a registered journalism organization:
- will be required to have a board of directors or trustees, each of whom deals at arm’s length with each other;
- must not be factually controlled by a person (or a group of related persons); and
- must generally not, in any given year, receive gifts that represent more than 20 per cent of its total revenues, including donations, from any one source (excluding bequests and one-time gifts made on the initial establishment of the particular registered journalism organization).
To provide transparency, the names of all registered journalism organizations will be listed on the website of the Government of Canada. Registered journalism organizations will be required to file an annual return with the CRA containing information on their activities. In addition, registered journalism organizations will be required to disclose, in their information returns, the name(s) of any donors that make donations of over $5,000 and the amount donated. Similar to registered charities and registered Canadian amateur athletic associations, these information returns will be made public along with certain additional information.
Qualified donees are required to issue official donation receipts in accordance with the Income Tax Act, to maintain proper books and records and to provide access to them upon request by the CRA. As qualified donees, these rules will apply to registered journalism organizations, including the regulatory sanctions for failing to follow these rules (i.e., a monetary penalty, the suspension of its qualified donee status and the revocation of registration).
Where a registered journalism organization no longer meets the requirements for registration as a qualified donee (including because it fails to qualify as a QCJO), the CRA will have the authority to revoke its registration. Where a journalism organization’s registration is revoked, it will no longer be exempt from income tax as a registered journalism organization and will no longer be entitled to issue charitable donation receipts.
Where the CRA proposes to revoke the registration of a registered journalism organization, it will be able to file an objection with the Appeals Branch of the CRA. If the organization disagrees with the decision of the Appeals Branch, it will be entitled to appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.
This measure will apply as of January 1, 2020.