CRA’s CHAMP portal not always a winner

  • June 30, 2020

The Canada Revenue Agency’s CHAMP portal is a fast and efficient option for filing certain kinds of applications. But it falls short when it comes to the online application for charitable status.

The CBA’s Charities and Not-for-Profit Section has written to the CRA to detail the numerous areas where the online filing system creates difficulties both for the prospective charitable organization and for the lawyers working on their behalf, and suggests ways it could be improved.

The letter outlines 25 separate issues that range from nuisances – the 120-second time-out warning is unnecessarily brief – to obstacles such as a 3000-character limit for a detailed description of charitable activities, which is not nearly enough space for the detail required by the CRA.

In one instance, “examples or explanations to questions can be so specific that they can be interpreted to limit the question’s scope in a way that prevents an applicant from giving an accurate answer,” the Section notes.

Another example of a problem that the online form creates is the question of who certifies that the information on the form is correct. On the paper copy, there was a section for the applicant to make the certification, but online the application enters the name of the person on whose computer the last change was made. “While lawyers could create their own file certification form, the person certifying the information’s accuracy on file should be the applicant, not their legal counsel or their assistant.”

The Section first raised questions and concerns about the online application process nearly a year ago. It commends the CRA for making improvements to the form but says more remains to be done, and offers to work with the Agency to improve it. It suggests one way to do it would be a webinar offered by CRA to present the process as they see it and address the issues raised by Section members who use the system.

“We believe our specific concerns arise in the absence of clear instructions on the CRA’s website,” the Section writes. “We appreciate that the CRA’s online portal has been a public access gateway to its digital services for several years but the mechanism is new to the charitable sector and the legal profession representing charities. … It would be helpful for CRA to give clear step-by-step instructions to the legal sector representing charities.”