Location and Retention

BR10. Where should the books and records of a registered charity be kept?

BR10. Where should the books and records of a registered charity be kept?

Books and records must be kept at the Canadian address that the charity has on file with the Canada Revenue Agency. This includes all books and records related to any activity carried on outside Canada. The charity’s books and records cannot be kept at a foreign address.

BR11. The treasurer of our charity prefers to keep our registered charity’s books and records at his house. Is that okay?

BR11. The treasurer of our charity prefers to keep our registered charity’s books and records at his house. Is that okay?


Short answer

No. Books and records must be kept at the Canadian address that the charity has on file with the Canada Revenue Agency. It is, however, permissible for a charity to be run out of a home office, and if this is the registered address on file, the group’s books and records can be get at that location.

Note that this includes all books and records related to any activity even if it is carried on outside Canada. A Canadian charity’s books and records cannot be kept at a foreign address.

Long answer

Any “foreign-based information or documents” need to be available when requested by the Minister of National Revenue. The Minister may require a charity to provide any foreign-based information and/or documents and it is an offence not to produce such information as and when required.

BR12. Our charity has information and documents —all related to our charitable activity— located outside Canada. Do I need to concern myself about these?

BR12. Our charity has information and documents —all related to our charitable activity— located outside Canada. Do I need to concern myself about these?

Yes, you do.

The Minister of National Revenue may require a Canadian-based charity to provide any foreign-based information and/or documents. It is an offence not to produce any foreign-based information, as and when required.

BR13. How long does our charity need to hold on to its books and records?

BR13. How long does our charity need to hold on to its books and records?


Short answer

It depends on the type of record. Some may be kept as short as two or six years after the end of the calendar year in which they were produced. More important records must be retained for as long as two years after the charity is no longer registered.

Long answer

The Income Tax Act and Regulations spell out the length of time each record must be kept. The Minister responsible for this Act can also give written permission for the earlier disposal of records.

Here’s a checklist of retention periods for your charity’s books and records:

  • Copies of official donation receipts (other than for 10-year gifts) must be kept for a minimum of two years from the end of the calendar year in which the donations were made.

  • Records for 10-year gifts must be kept for as long as the charity is registered and for a minimum of two years after the date the registration of the charity is revoked.

  • Minutes of meetings of the directors/trustees/executives must be kept for as long as the charity is registered and for a minimum of two years after the date the registration of the charity is revoked.

  • Minutes of meetings of the members must be kept for as long as the charity is registered and for a minimum of two years after the date the registration of the charity is revoked.

  • Governing documents and bylaws relating to the charity must be held for as long as the charity is registered and for two years after the date the registration of the charity is revoked.

  • General ledgers or other books of final entry containing summaries of year-to-year transactions and the accounts necessary to verify the entries must be kept for six years from the end of the last tax year to which they relate, while the charity is registered, and for two years after the date the registration of the charity is revoked.

  • Financial statements, source documents and copies of annual information returns (T3010 forms) must be kept for six years from the end of the last tax year to which they relate or, if the charity is revoked, for two years after the date of revocation.
More…

The length of time varies by the type of record. A Canada Revenue Agency table outlining the length of retention for different types of records is available here.

BR14. Does the six-year retention period mean that we can destroy all of our financial information every six years?

BR14. Does the six-year retention period mean that we can destroy all of our financial information every six years?


Short answer

No! The six-year retention requirement means that you can destroy only that information that you have kept six years from the end of the taxation year to which the records relate.

Long answer

Each year you can destroy the records that reach six years of shelf life. This year you can destroy the records that are six years old. Next year you can destroy another batch of six-year-old records.

Of course, this only refers to certain records, for example,

  • books and records, together with the accounts and vouchers, containing the summaries of the year-to-year transactions of the charity
  • financial statements
  • invoices and vouchers
  • completed T3010 forms
More…

The Canada Revenue Agency’s complete table of retention requirements