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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Tax Evasion

Under section 230 of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”) and section 286 of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) all taxpayers must keep records that are adequate to determine the amount of taxes owing. When these sections are complied with and a taxpayer maintains adequate records, the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) will generally rely on those records when conducting an audit to determine the taxpayer’s tax obligations. However, if a taxpayer does not maintain adequate records, the CRA can use alternative assessment methodologies to assess a taxpayer under subsection 152(7) of the ITA and subsection 299(1) of the ETA.

In the recent decision of Truong v. Canada, 2018 FCA 6 (“Truong”), the Federal Court of Canada (“FCA”) confirmed that alternative assessment methodologies are permissible when the CRA is unable to audit a taxpayer using the traditional method.

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In a recent blog, we introduced the ongoing tax saga of Tony and Helen Samaroo, a husband and wife that owned and operated a restaurant, a nightclub and a motel, who were charged with 21 counts of tax evasion.

The Samaroos were acquitted of all charges in a 2010 criminal trial where the trial judge found the Crown’s case “weak” and supported by “unreliable” and “highly uncertain” evidence which contained “significant flaws” and “discrepancies”.

Following their acquittals, the Samaroos sued the prosecutor and CRA for malicious prosecution. The claim against the prosecutor was dismissed; however, in a scathing 70 page decision Justice Punnett of the British Columbia Supreme Court found the CRA guilty of malicious prosecution and ordered the CRA to pay approximately $1.7 million in damages to the Samaroos.

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When a corporation finds itself in the midst of huge potential tax liability, that is often not the end of the story for the various parties involved. Directors may find themselves pursued for civil director’s liability for any taxes, interest or penalties remaining unpaid by the corporation, and directors, officers, employees and other involved parties may also find themselves being pursued by the CRA for possible criminal offences, and being charged criminally pursuant to section 327(1)(c) of the Excise Tax Act (the “ETA”). Criminal charges will generally follow any situation where the CRA is of the view that the corporation by dishonest means, sought to evade payment or remittance of the GST/HST and/or repurposed the funds to serve its own uses. In these instances, the CRA will be looking to the operating minds of the corporation, and any other persons (e.g., directors, officers, employees, agents, aiding and abetting parties) having a hand in the criminal activities (the “Underlying Parties”).

If convicted, the Underlying Parties are subject to their own fines, and could also face both a fine and imprisonment.

While the CRA often has a very low threshold for what it considers “criminal activity”, a recent Nova Scotia Provincial Court (the “NSPC”) decision appears to confirm that a person’s “suspicious conduct” alone may be insufficient to ground a criminal conviction for “tax evasion”.

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In a recent blog titled “Can I go to jail for tax evasion”, we discussed how the CRA has been increasingly seeking jail time for people engaged in tax fraud or tax evasion. In fact, relatively recently a Toronto man was sentenced to five years in jail for filing false GST/HST returns.

The recent decision in (British Columbia (Director of Civil Forfeiture) v. Sanghera, shows that not only can those who commit tax evasion face jail time, but they can also have their assets seized by the government under civil forfeiture statutes.

To date, civil forfeiture statutes have been enacted in the following eight Canadian provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.

These civil forfeiture statutes allow the government to seize and transfer ownership of property without compensation when the property is suspected of having been acquired through an illegal act or suspected of being used to commit an illegal act.

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If the CRA believes that taxpayers have knowingly failed to report income or remit GST and other taxes owing they will often bring concurrent criminal tax evasion charges in addition to simply re-assessing a taxpayer. In this scenario, the protections afforded to taxpayers in the criminal tax evasion matter – the burden of proof being on the Crown to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt – are not present in the tax appeals.  Similarly, unlike in the criminal context, the burden of proof in tax appeals is on the taxpayer, who must demolish the CRA’s assessment and any relevant assumptions of fact. 

Given the differing standards in criminal versus civil proceedings, criminal acquittals typically have little, if any, impact on a subsequent civil proceeding. The CRA is therefore often successful in tax appeals before the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) even after a taxpayer has been acquitted in a criminal prosecution based on the same fact pattern.

Samaroo v. The Queen, 2016 TCC 290 (“Samaroo”) is an exception to the general rule.

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In a previous blog post titled “CRA coming for contractors?” we discussed the recent decision of the Federal Court of Appeal in Rona Inc. v. Canada (Minister of National Revenue), which seemed to suggest that CRA may have a special project on the go to target Canadian home improvement contractors that are currently operating in the underground economy.

An email and website post from PayPal to its users earlier this week seems to indicate that the CRA is now going after all Canadians that buy and sell online.

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Over the past number of years the CRA has been taking an increasingly aggressive stance against Canadian taxpayers who don’t meet their tax obligations.  This approach has only intensified – and perhaps very rightly so – since the Panama Papers scandal broke.  Since then the Canadian government has earmarked an additional $444.4-million between 2016 and 2021 to help the CRA crackdown on tax evaders. 

In years past, tax evaders caught by the CRA could expect hefty fines and penalties, but would rarely face jail time. More recently however the CRA has been trying to put people engaged in tax fraud or tax evasion in jail.

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