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A recent decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario (the “ONCA”) has created doubt as to the enforceability of certain arbitration clauses in independent contractor agreements – which will likely require all direct selling companies to want to review and retool their own clauses.

In Heller v. Uber Technologies Inc., 2019 ONCA 1 (“Heller”), an Ontario Uber driver commenced a proposed class action against Uber entities.  The Uber driver alleged that Ontario Uber drivers were improperly classified by Uber as independent contractors, when they were lawfully employees entitled to the protections of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”). The class action sought a declaration that Uber had violated the provisions of the ESA and asked for $400 million in damages.

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Should you really dispute the CRA’s finding that your supplies are taxable and not exempt?

Many of the “exempt” versus “taxable” cases that we see from the GST/HST perspective put the recipient (the one usually arguing for “exempt” treatment) and the supplier at odds.

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Every business operating in Québec should already be aware that it is a French-speaking province and that given the population it would make sense to operate in French when carrying on business in the province.

We are frequently asked, however, about the requirements of the Charter of the French Language (the “CFL”), particularly about whether specific documents must be translated, and whether websites must be offered in French as well.  

The December 20, 2017 decision of the Québec Court of Appeal in 156158 Canada Inc. v. Attorney General of Québec, 2017 QCCA 2055 provides a useful summary of the major provisions of the Charter of the French Language and upholds the validity of all of them, including the relatively recent requirement for French language websites.

The Appellants were businesses run by Anglophones (Québecers whose first language is English, and who comprise approximately 7.5% of the population) who had been charged with various offences under the CFL including:

The Appellants were all found guilty in the Court of Québec, and on appeal to the Superior Court. The issue before the Court of Appeal was whether the Appellant’s Canadian and Québec charter rights were violated by the French-language requirements in the CFL.

The Court of Appeal reviewed prior jurisprudence, including decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada on the issue, and concluded that while the CFL was indeed an intrusion upon freedom of expression, it was a justified (and therefore constitutionally permissible) infringement. In this respect, the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada were binding on the Court of Appeal absent a new legal issue not previously considered, or significant developments or changes in circumstance that would have fundamentally shifted the parameters of the debate.

The Appellants had argued that the use of French in Québec was no longer in jeopardy based on linguistic statistics, and that it was now time to revisit past jurisprudence and decide the issue anew. In dismissing this argument the Court of Appeal held that the evidence before the court did not demonstrate that the situation had markedly changed, and that there was conflicting expert evidence on the issue.

While the Court did not directly consider the constitutionality of the individual sections with which the Appellants were charged, among them was section 52 of the CFL, which reads as follows:

52. Catalogues, brochures, folders, commercial directories and any similar publications must be drawn up in French.

While the section does not mention websites, the Office québécois de la langue française (the “OQLF”, known informally as the “language police”) views section 52 of the CFL as applicable to all advertising documents made available to the public. Accordingly, as set out in the publication Information and Communication Technologies in French, any commercial advertising on a business’ website also comes within section 52.

The Québec Court of Appeal’s decision effectively confirms that websites of businesses carried on in Québec are subject to section 52 of the CFL and must be provided in French (or bilingual with French given equal prominence pursuant to section 89 of the CFL).

Every business operating in Québec should be aware of this requirement, and the other requirements of the CFL, and ensure that they comply with same.

Do you require assistance in this area? If so, contact us here

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The recent decision of the Federal Court of Canada (the “FC”) in Canada v. Toronto Dominion Bank, 2018 FC 538, (“TD Bank”) could make it much more difficult for business owners to get personal loans and mortgages.

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Subsection 141.01(2) of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) deems a property or service acquired for use in a business to be for use in commercial activities only to the extent that it is used in the making of taxable or zero-rated supplies. On the other hand, subsection 141.1(3) provides that any action of a person in connection with the acquisition, establishment, disposition, or termination of a commercial activity is deemed to occur in the course of commercial activities. An apparent conflict therefore exists where a property or service is acquired by a registrant in connection with the acquisition, establishment, disposition or termination of a commercial activity, but where taxable supplies have not yet been made or have ceased: a registrant is deemed to have incurred the property or service in the course of commercial activities by subsection 141.1(3), but also deemed to have incurred same in the course of non-commercial activities by subsection 141.01(2).

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The Ontario Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Canada Life Insurance Company of Canada v. Canada (Attorney General) (2018 ONCA 562) seems to have put a final stake in the heart of equitable remedies in tax matters.  The case dealt with rescission, and has the effect – along with prior Supreme Court jurisprudence – of clarifying that the equitable remedies of rescission and rectification will not generally be available to taxpayers seeking to correct drafting or planning mistakes.

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Recent experience suggests that the CRA may have an ongoing project (internal code for either tax evasion special investigations, or civil auditing of possible sham transactions – or both) in the Staffing Agency context.

While the following example is totally hypothetical, it does tend to follow the situations first identified in recent Quebec jurisprudence, where GST/HST non-compliance by staffing agencies first came to light:

Aco, a GST Registrant, acquires temporary workers through a third-party Staffing Agency, Bco.  The temporary workers are often undocumented, for whatever reason, and are unknown to Aco, other than through its relationship to Bco.  Bco charges Aco for the cost of the workers, plus a profit element, plus GST/HST.  Aco pays that, and takes an ITC for the GST/HST on the strength of the invoice from Bco.  Bco later absconds with the GST/HST (does not remit it to the CRA), and CRA finds reason to deny the ITCs in the hands of Aco (perhaps Bco was not validly registered for the GST/HST at the time that Aco was invoiced for it). 

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Section 223(1) of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) requires a registered supplier to indicate clearly on its receipt or invoice to a purchaser/recipient of supply the consideration paid or payable by the purchaser and the GST/HST payable in respect of the taxable supply, or that the amount paid or payable by the purchaser includes the tax.  However, the section is silent as to when a supplier must give the tax disclosure to a purchaser.  The Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”) was asked to determine if after-the-fact invoices could satisfy section 223(1) obligations in National Money Mart Company v. 24 Gold Group Ltd. (2018 ONCA 812).  The answer is yes!

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A New Housing Rebate (“NHR”) is available under ss. 254(2) of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) to enable those who qualify to obtain a rebate of GST/HST paid on the purchase of a new residential property. To qualify para. 254(2)(b) says a “particular individual” must acquire a property for use as a primary place of residence of that individual or a family member.

In Cheema v. The Queen, 2016 TCC 251, the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) held that based on the general principle that a bare trust is considered a non-entity for tax purposes, a guarantor that signs an agreement of purchase and sale as a bare trustee for the beneficial owners was not a “particular individual”.

The TCC decision was recently overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) in Cheema v. The Queen, 2018 FCA 45 (“Cheema”) where a 2-1 majority held that a bare trustee was a “particular individual”.

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Canadian energy traders often misunderstand their tax collection obligations for the GST/HST and other sales taxes.

The issue may relate to a 2014 administrative decision by the CRA to begin to take a very restrictive approach to the application of section 144 of the Excise Tax Act (ETA), and a very broad approach to other deeming provisions in the ETA, which has arguably changed how the GST/HST applies to many Canadian energy transactions.

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The Ontario Ministry of Finance continues to turn the Ontario tobacco industry upside down – continuing to assess companies for failure to collect the Ontario Provincial Tobacco Tax (PTT) on sales of cigars and other non-cigarette tobacco (loose tobacco, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, etc.) to Status Indians on Federal Indian reserves.

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Section 182 of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) generally deems any payment made to a registrant as a consequence of a breach, modification, or cancellation of an agreement (other than as consideration for a supply), to be a taxable supply. This rule, in effect, means that where there is a breach of an agreement to supply property or services, a payment to the supplier by the recipient to compensate for that breach will generally be deemed to include GST/HST.

Unfortunately, section 182 is often overlooked by parties resolving legal disputes, as the recent Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) decision in THD Inc. c. La Reine, 2018 CCI 147 demonstrates.

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On October 29, 2018, Canada became fifth country to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (the “CPTPP”), joining Mexico (June 28, 2018), Japan (July 6, 2018), Singapore (July 19, 2018), and New Zealand (October 25, 2018).

Canada’s ratification meant that only one other country needed to ratify the agreement to trigger implementation of the CPTPP. Fortunately, Canada did not have to wait very long because on October 30, 2018 Australia became the sixth country to ratify the CPTTP, triggering a 60-day countdown to the implementation of the agreement on December 30, 2018.

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On October 23, 2018, the Conservative-led Government of Ontario announced Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018. If Bill 47 passes, it would make a number of significant changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995, including repeals of many of the workplace reforms made last year by the then-Liberal government.

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Special rules in the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) provide the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) with tools to request or require information for verification and administrative purposes. The CRA can send out a “requirement to provide information” – known as RFI – relating to the enforcement of Part IX of the ETA to a registrant or third party (section 289). Where the person refuses to comply with an RFI, the Minister may make an application to the Federal Court and obtain a “compliance order” and, if the person still fails to comply with the compliance Order and provide the information as ordered, the person can be subject to contempt of court penalties (section 289.1). (Note that there are parallel provisions under the Income Tax Act (“ITA”): see section 231.2(1) and section 231.7 of the ITA).

As shown in the recent federal court decision, Minister of National Revenue v. Chi (2018 FC 897), contempt of court is a serious offence and failure to properly respond to a CRA RFI can lead to substantial fines and/or imprisonment.

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The Canadian government has chosen to make many financial services tax exempt under the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”). In particular, under the definition of “financial service” in ss. 123(1) of the ETA, a service is an exempt financial service where it is included in any of paras. (a) to (m), and not excluded by any of paras. (n) to (t). Unfortunately, determining what constitutes a financial service and what ancillary or supporting activities are subject to GST/HST is not always clear. It’s been particularly difficult since the introduction of Bill C-9, the Jobs and Economic Growth Act (“Bill C-9”) on March 29, 2010, which refined the definition of “financial service” in ss. 123(1) to clarify that that services that support the delivery of a financial service that are in the nature of management, administration, marketing or promotional activities are not themselves financial services and are thus taxable.

The Bill C-9 changes have created considerable uncertainty in many industries as to whether exempt financial services under ss. 123(1) prior to the enactment of Bill C-9 remained exempt after the Bill C-9 changes. The uncertainty was particularly felt by issuers, acquirers, merchants, credit card companies, and any other entity that operates in the payment/credit card processing industry where prior to Bill C-9 the ss. 123(1) definition of financial service had been broadly applied to ancillary services in cases such as Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. v The Queen, 2009 TCC 134.

That said, the question of whether or not parties operating in the payment/credit card processing are supplying exempt financial services has gotten even more uncertain after the recent decision of the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) in CIBC v The Queen, 2018 TCC 109 (“CIBC”).

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Amendments to Canada’s federal privacy legislation, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), are coming into force on November 1, 2018. These amendments impose upon organizations mandatory reporting, notification, and record-keeping requirements in the event of a privacy breach. The new rules are intended to ensure that Canadians receive sufficient information about privacy breaches regarding their personal information, to promote better data security practices by organizations, and to harmonize with the privacy laws in other jurisdictions (most notably with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation).

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The distinction between employees and independent contractors has always been an important one in Ontario because while employees are covered by the protections of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (e.g. sick pay, maternity leave, etc.), independent contractors are not.

While there is no simple formula to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the Ontario government has outlined some factors to consider when trying to make this determination.

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Section 165 of the Excise Tax Act imposes GST/HST on taxable supplies "made in Canada". A supply is deemed to be made in Canada if “delivered or made available” to the supply’s recipient in Canada (para. 142(1)(a)), but deemed to be made outside Canada if “delivered or made available” outside Canada (para. 142(2)(a)). “Delivery” refers to physical delivery, and “made available” refers to constructive or “legal” delivery.

The recent decision of the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) in Jayco, Inc. v. The Queen, 2018 TCC 34(“Jayco”) is a good example of issues that can arise when a contract is silent as to the place of physical or legal delivery.

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The term "arranging for", which is not statutory defined, is generally interpreted to include activities performed by financial intermediaries such as agents, brokers and dealers in financial instruments. If it is determined that an intermediary is providing a supply of a financial service under paragraph (l) of "arranging for" a service (and not excluded by any of paragraphs (n) to (t)) of the definition of “financial service” under section 123(1) of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”)), the service is exempt under Part VII of Schedule V of the ETA. In Barr v. The Queen (2018 TCC 86), the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) determined that the activities performed by the brokers in relation to a private sale of a business were not exempt from GST/HST as “arranging for” services and, therefore, the commission received by the brokers was subject to GST/HST.

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