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Rob Kreklewetz & Jenny Siu

Rob Kreklewetz & Jenny Siu

Rob Kreklewetz & Jenny Siu has not set their biography yet

When a supplier pays GSTH/HST on a property or service acquired for consumption, use or supply in the course of commercial activities, the supplier is entitled to claim an input tax credit (“ITC”) equal to the tax paid on expenses incurred:  see section 169 of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”). 

“Commercial activity” excludes exempt supplies listed in Schedule V of the ETA.  (Suppliers that make exempt supplies do not charge and collect GST on their outputs, and are thus also ineligible to claim ITCs on inputs.)

This area has been ripe for recent assessments, with the CRA often struggling to determine whether exempt or commercial (taxable) supplies are being made.   In many instances, the CRA assesses suppliers making “exempt” supplies on the basis that their supplies are actually taxable, assessing large amounts for “GST not collect”:  see, for example, Applewood Holdings Inc. v. The Queen and Zomaron Inc. v. The Queen, the suppliers challenged the CRA’s conclusion of “taxable” supplies in the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”), arguing that their services were in fact exempt financial services.  The suppliers won on “exempt” supplies argument at the court, thus, relieving them from any obligation to charge and collect GST/HST on their services.  (Note the possible downside of the “winning” such an assessment, as that usually leads to a denial of ITCs that may have been inadvertently claimed by the exempt supplier, which was highlighted in our prior blog on Applewood.) 

In other cases, the CRA makes a 180 degree-turn and takes the position that the suppliers providing “taxable supplies” (and collecting GST, and claiming ITCs) are in fact either not making supplies for consideration, or are making exempt supplies – in an attempt to deny the ITCs that have been historically claimed.   Such is the case in Canadian Legal Information Institute v. The Queen2020 TCC 56 (CanLII).

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Section 231.1 of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”) provides the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) with broad powers to examine records of taxpayers that may be relevant for audit and for the administration or enforcement of the legislation.   If a taxpayer fails to provide the required information, the CRA may seek a compliance order from the Federal Court (“FC”) pursuant to section 231.7(1).  (Parallel provisions in the Excise Tax Act are sections 288 and 289.1.) 

As section 231.1(a) says “any document of the taxpayer or of any other person that relates or may relate to the information that is or should be in the books or records of the taxpayer or to any amount payable by the taxpayer”, what is the legal test for relevance?  In The Minister of National Revenue v. Atlas Canada ULC (2018 FC 1086), the FC confirmed that the Minister is only required to meet the very low threshold for relevance in respect of production of documents.

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Importers of goods have both current and ongoing responsibility and obligations under the Customs Act (the “Act”) and its Regulations. On a “current” basis (i.e., at time of importation), include reporting the goods for import, and proper declarations of value, tariff class and origin, and payment of applicable duties and other taxes. On an “ongoing basis”, the importer is required to correct errors in those declarations up to four years after the time of importation.

What if an “importer” is neither the owner nor purchaser of the goods?  Does that “importer” escape liability for the duties and GST imposed under the Act?

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This is an update of our May 2018 blog regarding Samaroo v. Canada Revenue Agency (2018 BCSC 324), a landmark decision for a successful claim against the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) for malicious prosecution.  The underlying prosecution involved allegations that Tony and Helen Samaroo (the “Samaroos”) and their companies evaded income tax by not reporting income generated by their businesses.  The Samaroos were also charged criminally for tax evasion. After their acquittals of all the charges in the criminal trial, the Samaroos brought an action against the CRA for malicious prosecution.  The trial judge found the CRA liable principally because its investigator knew that the actus reus of the tax evasion offence could not be proven, misled others involved in the prosecution and, by abusing his office, acted with malice.  At the end, the trial judge ordered the CRA to pay approximately $1.7 million in damages to the Samaroos.

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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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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 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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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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Whether a notice of assessment was mailed or not has important legal consequences for taxpayers.  There is an irrebuttable presumption of receipt of the notice of assessment by a taxpayer once it is mailed by the Minister (S,248(7)(a) of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”)); a notice of objection must be served on the Minister within 90 days of the date on which the notice of assessment was mailed (s.165(1)); upon receipt of a notice objection, the Minister is obliged to reconsider the assessment and vacate, confirm or vary the assessment or reassess and to notify the taxpayer of its decision (s. 165(3)); and the taxpayer may appeal the assessment to the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) if the Minister has not vacated or confirmed the assessment or reassessed within 90 days of receiving the notice of objection (s. 169(1)). Parallel provisions are found in the Excise Tax Act.

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Canada's new "Anti-Spam" Legislation will come into effect on July 1, 2014 (for simplicity, Canada's "ASL").

While a step forward for Canada in this legislative area, a more pessimistic view of it might position it as largely ineffectual when it comes to removing spam from my inbox and your inbox (because it does not contain any real measures aimed at enforcement on foreign owned computer systems or internet providers where much of Canadian spam actually originates), and the spam that it does effectively remove (Canadian-based spam) seems to be at a huge cost to legitimate Canadian businesses that seek to market their legitimate products and services to Canadians in the digital market-place).

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The Canada Border Services Agency ("CBSA") recently issued Customs Notice N-13-011 ... well maybe not so recently ... in May ... but it sometimes takes that long to keep up to date with these pressing announcements :). 

The changes relate to CBSA”) administration of customs Administrative Monetary Penalties(“AMPs”) which may apply to the most basic of errors by Canada’s commercial importers, and can in some instances be as high as $500,000.  These penalties are often imposed in connection with CBSA customs verifications -- short terms of "audit" and are aimed at securing compliance with customs legislation.

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The Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") recently reversed its long standing administrative policy regarding the exempt nature of nursing staffing agencies, taking the position that these services are taxable and not exempt:   see Excise and GST/HST News No. 89 (issued without much fanfare in late Summer 2013).

This effectively decision has effectively reversed the CRA's twenty year old position in GST Memorandum 300-4-2 (Health Care Services, September, 17, 1993) which had previously concluded that these services were all exempt, under section 6 of Part II of Schedule V of the Excise Tax Act.

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The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has recently been assessing tobacco wholesalers that sell their cigarettes and other tobacco products to status Canadian Indians, on federal Indian reserves, for GST/HST that CRA says should have been collected because their purchasers were dealing with the tobacco on a commercial basis -- something that we would have thought was completely contrary to section 87 of the Indian Act, and the historic exemption from all taxation provided to Indians in respect of property situation on a reserve.

Indeed, one would have thought that the question as to whether tobacco sold and delivered on reserve to a status Indian was exempt of GST/HST was rhetorical (the answer being “yes” per the very clear wording of section 87 of the Indian Act, and over 20 years of CRA policy to the same effect), but it appears that the CRA is attempting to float a “commercial mainstream” argument in favour of its position.

Tagged in: GST/HST and Tobacco
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When all else fails, taxpayers will often take the path of last resort to recover taxes, interest or penalties, called "Remission Applications", which are made under the Financial Administration Act (FAA).  Specifically, section 23 of the FAA confers discretion on the Governor in Council, exercisable on the recommendation of the Minister, to remit any tax or penalty when it considers that the collection of the tax would be “unreasonable or unjust” or that it is “otherwise in the public interest to remit the tax or penalty” – a hugely powerful discretion.

Yet the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tends to administer these provisions with an alarmingly tight fist, essentially allowing such applications only in instances of (their words):  extreme hardship, incorrect action or advice by the CRA, financial setback combined with extenuating factors, or the unintended result of legislation.

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