Rescinded [2012-03-30] - Membership Fees Policy - Chapter 6-1

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Policy objective

To specify the circumstances under which memberships and registration fees may be reimbursed.

Policy statement

It is government policy to pay membership fees only when departmental memberships in a particular organization are in direct support of a government program, or, when membership is a federal statutory requirement for individual employees to carry out the functions of their positions.


This policy applies to departments and agencies listed in Schedule I, I.1 and II of the Financial Administration Act (FAA). The policy covers all types of memberships, registration and licensing fees. It takes effect on June 1, 1993 and supersedes previous Treasury Board authorities on membership fees.


The government contributes to the self-improvement of employees through its policies on training, education, career assignment, executive interchange, developmental leave, conferences, etc. However, it does not pay fees for individual memberships in professional, quasi-professional and specialized organizations unless such payments are permitted within the provisions of this policy.

Personal development, the attainment of career benefits and keeping up-to-date on developments in job-related fields is the responsibility of employees. Consequently, whether or not ancillary benefits accrue to the department concerned, payment of individual memberships for these types of reasons shall not be authorized by the employer.

Policy Requirements

  1. The Deputy Head may delegate the authority to approve memberships which are a federal statutory requirement of a position. Such memberships are only payable where the employee actively practices professional duties that cannot be legally carried out unless the incumbent is an active member of a recognized professional body. (See Appendix A (a))
  2. The Deputy Head's personal approval is required for:
    1. all other professional registration fees or memberships in the name of an individual. These are payable only where the actual duties of the position cannot be legally carried out unless the incumbent is an active member of a recognized professional body. (See Appendix A (b))

      In all other circumstances the maintenance of professional, quasi-professional or other qualifications is the responsibility of the individual employee.

    2. more than one membership in any organization in a given geographic location (region) for which there is no federal statutory requirement;
    3. registration fees or memberships which are primarily in the interest of the employee;
    4. memberships that are not directly related to the department's programs; and
    5. corporate memberships in excess of $700.
  3. The Deputy Head may delegate the authority to approve corporate memberships costing up to $700 in the following circumstances:
    1. where the receipt of specialized information relates directly to departmental programs. Such memberships should be held in the name of the departmental library;
    2. as described in (a) for cases where the membership cannot be held in the name of the department, or a departmental position, and must be held in the name of an employee. It should be clear in such cases that the resulting benefits and publications accrue to the department; and
    3. where memberships in organizations provide an opportunity for departmental contact with that segment of the public most concerned with the department's operations, such as, a Chamber of Commerce. If possible, such memberships shall be obtained in the name of the department.
  4. Memberships and registration fees shall not be paid (or reimbursed) in regard to associations, societies, etc. to which employees or appointees may belong, or join, in order to become eligible for appointment to a position.
  5. Memberships in organizations that are primarily social, recreational or fraternal are highly exceptional and therefore require the personal approval of the Minister.
  6. Before renewal, the requirement for membership shall be reviewed by the appropriate responsibility centre manager to ensure that the purposes for the membership remain valid.
  7. The authority to approve memberships requiring the personal approval of the Minister or Deputy Head, as specified in paragraphs two and five above may not be further delegated. Annual renewals of fees originally approved by the Minister or Deputy Head may be delegated in subsequent years provided that the conditions of the original approval remain the same and the master list of all such memberships is periodically updated. However, following each change in Minister or Deputy, the next annual renewal must again be personally approved by the Minister or Deputy, respectively, as if it was a new membership.


Departments and agencies are required to record membership and registration fees under Economic Object 0483, and retain the following information on a fiscal-year basis for evaluation or audit purposes:

  1. the total amount spent on all memberships:
    • in associations, societies, etc. and
    • in national or international bodies;
  2. the number of memberships held, stating the general purpose of each membership:
    • on behalf of employees, and
    • on behalf of the department.

From time to time, the Treasury Board Secretariat will evaluate the application of this directive.


Enquiries about this policy should be directed to the responsible officers in departmental headquarters who, in turn, may seek interpretations from:

Safety, Health and Employee Services Group
Staff Relations Division
Human Resources Policy Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat
300 Laurier Avenue West
6th Floor, West Tower
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0R5

613 952-3263 (Facsimile)

Appendix A - Types of Memberships

  1. Professional and quasi-professional memberships

    For the purposes of this policy, there are basically three types of memberships that can be held in the name of an individual, namely, those required by federal statute in order for an individual to perform the duties of their profession; other professional related memberships; and those that are of a corporate rather than with a professional association nature but must be held in the name of an individual:

    1. Statutory

      The only instances in which it is absolutely necessary for a federal employee to be licensed or registered are those in which the requirement is established by federal statute such as, the Food and Drug Act. The only occupational groups affected by these statutes are: Dentistry, Land Survey, Law, Medicine, Pharmacy and Veterinary Science, and this applies only to those individuals actively practising their respective professions in those occupational groups. In accordance with this policy, such fees are reimbursed and no T-4A Supplementary is issued in these cases. Memberships are not paid to employees in these occupational groups who are working in an administrative capacity or who are working in a related field but outside the above occupational groups.

    2. Other professional

      This category includes memberships that are not required by federal statute but are considered necessary by the employer because the employee would be unable to fulfill the duties of the position from a legal standpoint unless the incumbent retains active membership in a recognized professional body. These situations are rare but would include the engineer or architect who must use a professional designation to certify the department's plans or drawings.

      Such memberships are not taxable when they are a legal requirement of the position.

    3. Corporate memberships in individual's name

      This category includes work-related memberships that are not with professional bodies, taken out in the name of an individual or position title, where it is not possible to be held in the name of the departmental library. Such memberships, for example, the Press Club are not taxable when the department is the primary beneficiary.

  2. Professional designations

    Since the Federal jurisdiction takes precedence over the provincial and municipal levels of government it should be noted that a provincial association has no authority to control Federal government employees. In the private sector employees have no choice but to join a professional association in order to:

    • use a professional designation;
    • use a seal of office or stamp certifying documents to get municipal or provincial approvals or funding;
    • prove that their educational standards have been met;
    • be accepted on the job market by private sector companies or in private practice;
    • ensure that the number of people in the profession is limited to control job opportunities;
    • guarantee educational standards and work ethics;
    • join the group life and liability insurance offered by that association to protect its members; and
    • lobby on behalf of the profession, as necessary.

Employees in the public service do not need externally set standards, insurance, or liability protection, as these are provided by the government for its employees. Furthermore, they do not require a professional designation unless there is a legal requirement. (See 1.(A) & (B)) In private practice a designation is needed in order to protect the public when hiring a professional. The public must be certain that the person stating to be a professional is in fact qualified. This can be determined through verification with a provincial association which certifies members in good standing. These safeguards are not required by employees working in the federal government.

The decision to join or maintain current membership in a professional association is therefore a personal one, for which the individual, not the taxpayer, is financially responsible.

Management should be aware of the fact that in accordance with the majority of employees' collective agreements:

The Employer shall reimburse an employee for his/her payment of membership or registration fees to an organization or governing body when the payment of such fees is a requirement for the continuation of the performance of the duties of the position.

Unlike the federal government, other levels of government and the private sector must comply with provincial regulations which require certain professional and quasi-professional memberships to be maintained. It is also noteworthy that it is not the employer but rather the employee who is normally responsible to pay the related costs.

Payment of other expenses that may result from membership, such as attending a conference, or a seminar, the cost of meals etc. may be authorized when such expenses are clearly in the interest of the department and are within the limitations contained in the directives on Conferences, Hospitality and Travel.

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