Two recent decisions advance the law of privilege. Lizotte v Aviva Insurance Company of Canada (2016 SCC 52) and MNR v Iggillis Holdings Inc. (2016 FC 1352) respectively clarify the difference between solicitor client privilege (SCP) and litigation privilege (LP), and also establish that so-called advisory common interest privilege (CIP) - privilege that protects transactional negotiations between parties with separate legal representation - does not exist in Canada. The two decisions are reminders of the scope of privilege in the tax context, and also highlight the importance of understanding the proper ambit of privilege when engaging in tax transactions or tax litigation.
Tax & Trade Blog
In Fairmont Hotels Inc. (2016 SCC 56) and Jean Coutu Group (2016 SCC 55) the Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) clarified the law of rectification. The result might be disappointing for taxpayers and tax practitioners alike, yet the decisions bring Ontario back in line with the rest of Canada by establishing that an application for rectification refer to a detailed intention.
The CRA has a mandate to improve compliance of GST/HST registrants and to encourage GST/HST registrants to meet their filing requirements. As part of its commitment to this mandate, the CRA will be implementing changes to its current processes.
At the CRA Roundtable at the recent CPA’s 2016 Commodity Tax Symposium, the CRA declared a current mandate to use alternative audit methods more frequently. Two recent cases are a useful reminder of what may be in store for Canadian GST registrants in that regard, namely 9103-4348 Québec Inc v The Queen (2015 TCC 220) (“The Golden Pub”), and 9091-2239 Québec Inc (2016 TCC 198) (“Hamade”)
The recent FCA decision, Canada v Chriss (2016 FCA 236), underscores the resignation obligations of directors. If directors do not execute their resignations properly and completely, they will remain liable for the actions of the corporation, including director’s liability assessments issued by taxing authorities like the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”).
In The Great-West Life Assurance Company v The Queen (2016 FCA 316) [“Great-West Life”], the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the TCC’s decision that services related to processing claims for drug benefits were not financial services, and so not exempt from GST/HST.
Section 141.1(3) of the of Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) broadens the scope of what is considered to be in the course of commercial activities to activity done “in connection with” extraordinary transactions such as starting and winding-up commercial activities. The Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”), in Onenergy Inc. v. The Queen (2016 TCC 230), discussed how the section should be interpreted.
The recent Federal Court case Saad v CBSA (2016 FC 1382) is a cautionary tale in two respects.
In the first place, it is a reminder that travellers who are found not to have properly declared imported goods, risk having their vehicle seized by the Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”), which has a broad range of powers under the Customs Act.
In order to be successful in tax appeals, the rules of evidence can sometimes play a key role.
In Boroumand, the Appellant appealed assessments for unreported income under the Income Tax Act to the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) (2015 TCC 239). The Appellant’s position was that the funds came from non-taxable sources, including primarily an inheritance from family in Iran. The Appellant sought to introduce documents from money exchange enterprises purporting to show that he received nearly $2 million from Iran. The Minister objected to admitting the documents as they were hearsay and under normal circumstances were inadmissible.
In Mazo v The Queen (2016 TCC 232), the Tax Court of Canada considered the tax consequences applicable to income earned through an illegal pyramid scheme.
Facts - Roberta Mazo participated in a pyramid scheme run by the company Business In Motion International Corporation (“BIMIC”). She profited from the scheme and was subsequently reassessed by the Minister of National Revenue as having unreported income for the 2007, 2008, and 2009 tax years.
In Kashefi v Canada Border Services Agency (2016 FC 1204), the Federal Court suggested that travellers going to the United States with their prescription drugs should verify whether their medication is a controlled drug. In the event that a traveller’s medication is a controlled drug, the traveller should be sure to keep the medication in its original pharmacy or hospital packaging, travel with less than a 30 day supply, and if entering Canada declare the medication to a customs officer.
Section 165 of the ETA imposes GST in respect of supplies “made in Canada”. The so-called “place of supply rules” in section 142 of the ETA serve to deem particular supplies to be made either inside or outside of Canada. As a result of a legislative inconsistency these rules can conceivably deem a particular supply to be made both inside and outside of Canada. This inconsistency was analyzed by the TCC in the recent decision of Club Intrawest (2016 TCC 149). In doing so, the TCC arguably expanded the place of supply rules such that GST now applies to more supplies than even CRA had previously contemplated.
The TCC concluded in Rojas (2016 TCC 177) that the taxpayer’s mortgage-related services were exempt from HST as financial services under ETA subsection 123(1) and not taxable as administrative services provided to a brokerage firm.
The taxpayer was a real estate agent and also assisted clients in obtaining mortgages on the properties they wished to purchase. Because she provided mortgage services, Ontario required her to be licensed as a mortgage broker and also to obtain registration under a mortgage brokerage firm’s umbrella.
For years, the CRA has consistently assessed taxpayers for GST/HST and interest in circumstances where although there was technical non-compliance with the rules, there was no true financial impact to the government. Examples of such situations (e.g. so called “wash transactions”) would include the wrong person collecting and remitting the GST/HST in a closely related group, or GST/HST not being collected in circumstances where the recipient would have been entitled to a full Input Tax Credit (“ITC”) in any event.
The practice of demanding interest for monies that the CRA already had in its possession, albeit received from another person, is viewed as patently unfair by many of the taxpayers so assessed. In the recent GST/HST case Gordon v AGC (2016 FC 643), the Federal Court put into issue the fairness of the CRA’s approach, and found that the CRA must consider waiving interest in these circumstances on a case by case basis.
If your business ever provides a good or service in exchange for advertising, you should be aware of a recent CRA ruling (RITS 2015-158946), dated November 4, 2015), which sets out how GST/HST applies to barter transactions and includes an example of a person who exchanges advertising services for goods or services. Case law such as 9022-8891 Québec Inc. (2006 TCC 60)confirmed that a barter of goods or services for advertising may constitute two taxable transactions for GST/HST purposes. RITS 2015-158946, however, provides more details on the tax consequences of a barter exchange - consideration, place of supply, input tax credits, and zero-rating - and represents a blueprint for the GST/HST analysis of barter transactions.
Gail Baker v The Queen (2016 TCC 120), illustrates the extent to which s. 160 of the Income Tax Act can apply. The decision shows that a taxpayer’s debts may be imposed on his or her inheritors to the extent of any unpaid tax debts at the time of the transferor’s death, even though tax avoidance was not a motivating factor for a transfer of property and the inheritors were unaware of the potential tax liability involved.
Living Friends Case - In Living Friends Tree Farm (2016 TCC 116), the central issue was whether the taxpayer’s expenses in respect to preparation for a Christmas tree farm were incurred in relation to commercial activity. The TCC held for the Minister, noting that it was impossible to determine how much of the alleged commercial venture was genuinely commercial and how much reflected the registrant’s personal lifestyle desires.
Whether or not a supply is a financial service is a significant issue for suppliers because suppliers of financial services are unable to claim ITCs for the GST/HST they pay on their inputs. Accordingly, financial service providers scrutinize their own suppliers carefully to ensure they are only paying GST/HST where appropriate.
An out-of-court statement is generally inadmissible as evidence in court to prove the truth of the statement’s contents – this is the general rule against hearsay. There are a number of exceptions to this rule including an admission – where a party wishes to use a statement made by the opposing party against that opposing party. An admission is admissible as evidence of the contents of that admission. Where that opposing party’s agent makes such a statement, it is also admissible as evidence of the truth of its contents. The recent decision in Spears et al. (2016 NSPC 20) stands for the proposition that a taxpayer’s accountant’s statement to CRA can be admitted as evidence for the truth of its contents. This is an important case for business-owners who rely on their accountants to deal with the CRA on behalf of the business.