Legal Considerations

Those who operate a non-profit or charity have a number of legal considerations to keep in mind. Information on some of these issues is included on this page. Looking for something that you can’t locate here? Let us know!

Becoming a Registered Non-Profit or Charity

One major decision that has to be made when operating a community organization is to determine whether to incorporate as a non-profit, or register as a charity. The two processes, and the benefits of each, are described briefly on this page. The differences between a registered charity versus a non-profit are outlined in this table opens in new window opens in new window from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Non-profits register with the Commercial Registrations Division of ServiceNL. Some reasons to incorporate a non-profit include:

  • To have a formal structure under which to operate;
  • To hold title to land;
  • To qualify for grants or funding;
  • To apply for a lottery license; and
  • To limit the personal liability of members.

Community organizations may consider becoming a Registered Charity. The Federal Government, through Canada Revenue Agency, has responsibility for this process. Learn more about this see Canada Revenue Agency opens in new window opens in new window. Some non-governmental organizations have helpful tips on incorporation and other aspects of starting a non-profit or charitable organization. For more information, see Resources.

Registering a Non-Profit

Non-profits can register with the Commercial Registrations Division of ServiceNL, which has responsibility for maintaining nine legal registries for the province, such as the Registry of Companies (including the incorporation of nonprofits), Co-operatives, Deeds and Condominiums.

Information, fee structure and forms are available through the website:

The Commercial Registrations Division also provides the general public greater accessibility to some of the services through the Companies and Deeds Online (CADO) system opens in new window opens in new window (please use Internet Explorer browser to view this page). This allows anyone the ability to search online for corporations, active co-operatives and deeds registrations (from 1982-present). Through CADO, non-profit organizations can incorporate online and existing non-profit corporations can file corporate documents such as an annual return, change in directors or change in registered office.

Registering a Charity

Canada Revenue Agency has a wealth of information for non-profits and charitable organizations through its feature section called Charities and Giving opens in new window opens in new window. The following links highlight some services and information offered by CRA.


Determining the type of organization you are operating is essential for the taxation process. Whether or not your organization generates income affects the taxation process that you need to follow. This is particularly vital if you are operating a social enterprise, or an organization that has an income generating aspect. Fortunately, the Government of Canada, as well as a number of other organizations, have compiled helpful information to consider when preparing for tax season. Please see the Resources section below for more information.

Fraud Protection

Fraud has become a serious concern for non-profit groups not only provincially but across the country. According to a study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and researchers at Concordia University, over 10 percent of all non-profit groups fall victim to occupational fraud. Fraud has many faces and includes, larceny, skimming, cheque tampering, billing fraud, falsified financial statements and falsifying tax receipts just to name a few. Please see the Resources section below for more information.

Need a lawyer? Contact Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador’s referral service opens in new window opens in new window.