Leslie Rosenblooddollar sign with religious symbols

Did you know that Canadians subsidize religious organizations to the tune of billions of dollars every year? CFIC, in its Cost of Religion in Canada series of reports, quantifies the cost of one type of religious institution: charities with the primary purpose of “advancement of religion.”

Using information submitted by the charities themselves for their 2018 fiscal year (the most recent full dataset available at the time of writing), CFIC analyzes the favourable treatment religious charities receive with respect to tax credits, various exemptions, and direct subsidies. The first two reports in the Cost of Religion series have now been published.

The introductory report defines the scope of the series, describes the benefits of being a registered charity, and provides examples of religious charities from across Canada. Some highlights:

• Religious charities are free to discriminate based on religious faith in their government-funded charitable efforts.
• Over 32,000 registered charities in Canada exist primarily to advance religion.
• Religious charities in Canada have used their favourable tax treatment to amass over $38,000,000,000 in wealth.

The second report examines the cost of religious charities issuing tax receipts for donations. When Canadians make donations to charities, they receive receipts that can be used for an income tax credit. CFIC looks at donations to organizations that exist primarily (or solely) to advance religion. Amongst its findings:

• Religious charities received donations worth nearly $7.5 billion in 2018.
• Applying a conservative set of assumptions, this translated to over $3.2 billion in tax credits.
• There are alternatives to maintaining “advancement of religion” as a valid charitable purpose.

CFIC will continue to publish additional reports in the coming weeks and months, including a summary of direct government subsidies to religious charities and the tax breaks religious charities enjoy. Bookmark this CFIC page to see the entire series as it’s published.