Protect your organization: Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation coming July 1, 2014

Staff Post
By Anna Mathew, Knowledge Associate

CASL (Canada’s Anti-spam legislation) will become law July 1, 2014. What does this mean for your organization? It means that you can no longer send commercial email to recipients without their consent. Organizations (and individuals) who send unwanted commercial electronic messages (CEMs) are subject to serious financial penalties ($10M for organizations and $1M for individuals). Directors and officers of an organization may also be liable.

There are two types of consent: implied and express. Implied consent is based on a current business relationship (such as a customer or client), and is subject to expiry depending on the changing nature of the relationship over time. Express consent is based on the recipient of a CEM having provided explicit consent to receive the communication, typically through an online sign up. Express consent does not expire, unless the recipient unsubscribes.

The legislation covers other requirements, in addition to the issue of consent, including providing a conspicuous and simple unsubscribe process, and providing clear identification and contact information about the email sender, as well as what classifies an email communication as being ‘commercial’.

One silver lining for charitable organizations: emails sent for the purpose of fundraising are exempt from CASL.

You can read more fully about CASL here on the CRTC website and here on the Government of Canada website.

What does your organization have to do to be compliant with the legislation?

  1. Secure implied or express consent from CEM recipients (BEFORE July 1, 2014). The simplest way to do this is to contact your list and provide them a link to provide their express consent and/or provide their contact information.
  2. Maintain records about who has provided consent. The onus is on the sender to prove consent.
  3. Do not send CEMs to anyone who has not consented to receive them.
  4. Provide an unsubscribe option.
  5. Identify your organization as the sender and provide contact information.

Here are some further resources on how to become CASL compliant:

Miller Thomson – Countdown to CASL

Borden, Ladner, Gervais – CASL: Impact on C’harities and Not-for-profits

Borden, Ladner, Gervais – Not-for-profit and Charity Law in Canada Blog

Ontario Arts Council News – Arts Organizations Note Canada’s Anti-Spam Law – Effective July 1

Hillborn – Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation in force this July – will you be ready?

Ontario Nonprofit Network – Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and Your Nonprofit

Imagine Canada – Update and clarifications on Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

CRTC – Canada’s Anti-spam legislation 

Government of Canada – Fight Spam: Canada’s Anti-spam legislation

Samantha Zimmerman talks ‘smart data’ to Arts Consultants Canada

DATA SMART: More Than “Show me the Money.”

By Samantha Zimmerman, Practice Manager, Senior Associate & Data Management Consultant (Young Associates)
Originally published in the May 2014 ACCA e-bulletin

We’ve all heard about data: the importance of data; the need to keep data safe; the value of turning raw data into actionable information. But what does it mean for our clients? Most organizations are already comfortable making strategic decisions based on their financial data, because GAAP provides guidelines for maintaining financial data so that it is viewed as SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely); but what about our statistical data? Not only is there no one set of rules for dealing with statistical data, there are also privacy laws that dictate how we must collect, store and use data. It can all be very overwhelming.

The arts sector must also conform to CADAC which requires our clients to analyze and report their statistical and financial data to Government funders. CADAC and its partner funders across the country are becoming more rigorous and demanding in reconciling and verifying statistical data, which makes it even more important for organizations to properly track the necessary data required for CADAC reporting. More and more, clients have been reaching out to Young Associates in search of either full service data entry and processing, or targeted data management support with assistance in collecting data, pulling and reviewing periodic reports (monthly, annual), and reconciliation with bookkeeping software, as well as staff training or prospect research.

There is so much potential for data collection, but the majority of small and mid-size not-for-profit organizations often lack the human resources, the technology/software packages or the time to deal with all the data. We’ve all seen those organizations that are tracking their donations, event attendance and other lists in Excel spreadsheets. Much of the data stored in these Excel spreadsheets lives independently from other organizational data, and many of the lists lack standardization in the collection and presentation of the data.

While most of us are using Excel adequately, the majority will never use it to its full potential. Generally it’s seen as a tool for tracking static data; a moment in time, an individual project, or small pieces of information from a single cycle. How many years has a patron attended that event? How many donors are attending our events as well, and vice versa, are program participants returning as supporters? Young Associates has developed a proven system for helping organizations determine their data goals, and develop systems that work within the means of the organization to collect and analyze the data that gives the true picture. Where the mindset needs to change is not thinking of those Excel spreadsheets as a moment in time, but as a piece of a larger picture. Just as the financial information of the organization tells a story, the statistical data of an organization also has a story to tell.

T4A’s: Should we or shouldn’t we?

Staff Post
By Heather Young

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, fees for services provided by contract staff should be reported on a T4A slip in Box 048.

CRA’s Guide – titled RC4157 Deducting Income Tax on Pension & Other Income, and Filing the T4A Summary – directs payers to: “Enter any fees or other amounts paid for services. Do not include GST/HST paid to the recipient for these services.”

A couple of observations.

The CRA makes no distinction regarding who provided the services. Many companies assume T4A slips are for freelancers – but that’s not what the Guide says. An email to the Canadian Payroll Association’s InfoLine confirmed that incorporated businesses should also receive T4A slips.

And for sure HST registration makes no difference! Every year, clients’ contract staff tell Young Associates bookkeepers that they don’t want a T4A slip because they have an HST number. Whether or not a contractor charges HST is irrelevant to the payer’s T-slip obligation.

Make no mistake: this has nothing to do with individual preferences. Our job is to do our best to help our clients – the payers – comply with the Income Tax Act.

We hear all sorts of variations from payers too. Some companies are willing to issue T4As to freelancers who work under their own name but not to those who have a company name. Other organizations make apparently arbitrary decisions; for instance, that they’re willing to issue T4As to actors but they don’t want to generate slips for technicians.

Indeed, there’s a lot of confusion out there – and, to boot, a tacit acknowledgement on the part of the CRA that the T4A requirement is unclear.

CRA’s Guide RC4157 goes on to say: “Currently the CRA is not assessing penalties for failures relating to the completion of box 048.”

We don’t take this as a blanket pass for organizations to do whatever they want – and we don’t think you should either.

The wisdom from the Canadian Payroll Association – experts in the field – is that organizations should implement a process for issuing T4A slips to contractors so that when the CRA provides clear guidance they are able to comply immediately.

We can add to this some experience of payroll audits, where CRA examiners have scrutinized companies’ practices around T4A slip preparation.

Young Associates’ position is that clients need to work with their auditors and boards to interpret the Guide as best they can for their own situation. We always advocate for CRA compliance – and, if anything, for a more conservative interpretation that protects you from unwelcome attention from the government.

We appreciate comments on this post, although please note that Young Associates specializes in services for organizations. If you are an individual with a question about a T4A issue related to personal tax, we suggest that you contact a bookkeeper or accountant who prepares personal tax returns.