Data Storage and Security for Canadian Churches

Did you know that utilizing cloud-based systems such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or church management software hosted on servers outside of Canada may pose challenges in terms of data compliance for your church? According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), there are regulations stipulating that books and records must be kept at the Canadian address registered with the CRA. Understanding these guidelines can empower your church to make informed decisions for the safety and security of your data.

According to the Canada Revenue Agency

“Books and records must be kept at the Canadian address that the charity has on file with us. 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.”

These rules apply not only to paper files but to the storage of electronic files. Further, 

“Failure to keep adequate books and records may result in the suspension of a registered charity's tax receipting privileges, or the loss of its registered status.”

The CRA emphasizes the significance of keeping adequate records, and failure to do so may lead to consequences such as the suspension of tax receipting privileges or the loss of registered status. It's a lot to take in, and it's common for churches to inadvertently find themselves in non-compliance, especially when it comes to intricate details of Canadian tax law.

At Sunergo, we understand the challenges churches face in navigating these regulations. Our church management tools have been thoughtfully designed to meet the specific needs of Canadian churches, ensuring an improved experience that follows CRA guidelines. Rest assured, our support team is well-versed in assisting you with additional steps to enhance the security of your data.

Let’s take a closer look at the issues at hand. It is important to understand that even though these data-security regulations come from the CRA, the rules apply to more than just the storage of accounting files. 

Because churches are registered charities under the Income Tax Act (ITA), every activity of the church is required to be “charitable in law.” In this sense, the requirements for charities are more stringent than they are for not-for-profit organizations. For example, charities are required to spend a minimum amount of their resources on their charitable activities, while not-for-profits can spend their income as they like as long as they do not provide a monetary benefit to members.

What it all boils down to is that to maintain their charitable status, churches are accountable to the CRA in everything they do. Therefore, all of the church’s records, including governance documents; meeting minutes; payroll documents; contracts; bank statements; donor records and source documents; promotional and fundraising materials; and more, are subject to the records’ storage regulations.

Here is a helpful infographic provided by the government of Canada that your bookkeeper or treasurer might like to keep on hand:

Understanding compliance goes beyond CRA regulations; there's also the consideration of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). While these policies may not apply to all churches, they are still good guidelines to adhere to in order to protect your congregant's data. As your church collects personal information from congregants, it becomes imperative to safeguard that data. For example, PIPEDA dictates that individuals must be informed if their data leaves the country.

If you suspect your church may not be fully compliant with CRA regulations, take a proactive approach. Open a conversation with your church's leadership, create a list of steps to address the situation, and consider exploring how Sunergo's online tools can contribute to your church's compliance journey.

By choosing Sunergo, you are automatically aligning with government requirements for data storage. Our servers are securely located in Canada, within professional-grade data centres featuring regulated access via keycards and biometric scanning, along with 24/7 physical and electronic surveillance.

Our solutions include:

  • Websites
  • Child Protection
  • Connect + Ministry Groups
  • Facility Rental
  • Online Giving
  • Event Registration
  • Secure Document Storage and Sharing
  • Attendance and Points
  • and more!

Thanks for reading this blog post. Please note that this information is provided for general educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional legal or accounting advice. Consult a lawyer, accountant, or the CRA for the most accurate information.

*Large cloud providers often have data centres in Canada, but your organization has to work with your provider to guarantee your data is stored there. Depending on your service level this may not be possible.

Categories: Charities, Data Storage, Planning, Security, Sunergo