International Civil Liberties Group Disappointed with Review of CRA Audits of Muslim Charities
Feb 2022 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on February 24 2022

By Ryan M. Prendergast
   
 

An update on the Taxpayer Ombudsperson’s review of audits of Muslim charities in Canada has raised concerns from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG). After reports of systemic anti-Islamic bias in the CRA, the Minister of National Revenue tasked the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson to examine complaints by Muslim-led charities about their experiences, which the Ombudsperson began in August 2021. The Ombudsperson published an update (the “Update”) on February 9, 2022 about its examination of the fairness of the CRA’s Charities Directorate’s audit process. In response, the ICLMG expressed surprise and disappointment in a press release about the apparently limited scope of the examination.

According to the Update, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson created a Special Ombudsperson Response Team (SORT) to sort out:

  • how the CRA selects registered charities for audit, and if the process is designed and applied fairly
  • if there are areas in the audit process that may be inequitable
  • the impact the audit process has on registered charities

The Update lists the following questions the Ombudsperson intends to answer in the examination:

  • Are charities selected for audit fairly?
  • How are audits carried out?
  • Is the audit process equitable?

Meetings with the CRA officials and various stakeholders, including charities “to understand concerns and identify issues, if any” are going and will continue in 2022, the Update reports. While “some stakeholders have said that they were comfortable with the CRA’s processes,” according to the Update, others raised concerns:

  • the CRA’s charity audit process can sometimes last for years
  • audit results and compliance approaches may not be provided in a timely manner
  • compliance approaches are not consistent
  • some charities feel they are being unfairly or arbitrarily treated by the CRA

As its examination continues, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson has published a webpage to “keep Canadians informed of the examination’s progress.” The webpage includes an online questionnaire for the charitable sector to provide feedback about their experiences with the CRA’s Charities Directorate by no later than March 31, 2022.

In its February 9, 2022 press release, the ICLMG called on the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson to expand the scope of the examination to include “missing elements” and to include a focus on the CRA’s Review and Analysis Division (RAD) rather than only on the CRA Charities Directorate in general. The Taxpayer Ombudsperson should include an examination into whether current practices have created a “presumption that Canadian Muslim charities must be monitored, and possibly audited, to verify no terrorist financing risks exist.” The RAD’s activities should be immediately suspended, the ICLMG stated, and the government should “commit to reforming its National Risk Assessment on terrorist financing in order to ensure fairness and eliminate unintended consequences on Muslim-led charities in particular, and the charity sector overall.”

   
 

Read the February 2022 Charity & NFP Law Update