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Judicial review applications for injunctive relief attempting to circumscribe or prohibit the CRA’s collections powers are usually doomed to failure – the test requires a high threshold to meet! Such matters must be dealt with immediately on audit, as unlike in the Income Tax situation, all GST/HST is due and payable immediately and cannot be delayed by filing a Notice of Objection!

In Iris Technologies Inc. v. Canada (National Revenue), the Federal Court denied a motion for injunctive relief to prohibit the CRA’s collections actions after a $79 million GST/HST Assessment – demonstrating in spades how difficult it is to obtain an order prohibiting CRA collections!

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After suspending most audits for the early part of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) has been slowly but steadily gearing up its audit activity through 2020 and the first half of 2021. This is expected to continue through the second half of 2022 as the CRA resumes a regular level of audit activity.

While the CRA always has a number of different audit priorities on the go simultaneously, Budget 2021 specifically announced an additional $304.1 million in funding for the CRA spread over five years for, among other things, GST/HST audits of large corporations.

This announcement seems, at least in part, designed to reverse the decline in new corporate audits which recently made headlines when it was reported that new large corporation audits dropped by over 30% from 2016/2017 (6,281 new audits) to 2019/2020 (4,257 new audits).

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The Canada Revenue Agency’s (“CRA”) administrative position on computation of interest and penalty for late-filed GST/HST returns has been that it applies on “all amounts outstanding” (notwithstanding possible available refunds, rebates or input tax credits (“ITCs”) that could reduce the amounts outstanding, if properly claimed). This approach has recently been corrected by the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) in Canada v Villa Ste-Rose Inc. 2021 FCA 35, which has confirmed that this interest and penalty only applies to the amount of “net tax” that remains after deducting (in this case) possible rebate claims.

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The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) has been rigorously challenging intermediaries in the financial services industry, categorizing their services as taxable promotional, advertisement or taxable administrative services (as opposed to treating them as GST/HST exempt financial services).

While this aggressive approach seems (at first blush) consistent with the definition of a “financial service” under 123(1) of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) (which exempts the “arranging for” processing of credit and debit card payments, while excluding from exemption “promotional or advertising services”), many have suggested that contrary:   that CRA was trying to pigeon-hole what these service providers do in order to find “taxable” services.

In the recent Zomaron Inc. v. The Queen case (“Zomaron”), the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) found against CRA, and concluded that the dominant element of the services being provided were “exempt” in nature, and that the promotional, advertisement or administrative elements of the services did not serve to disqualify from GST/HST exemption.

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In a prior Blog on the “Time Bomb Ticking on Canadian Home Construction Industry” we discussed the problems facing Canadians who make money buying, fixing up, and reselling their alleged “principal residences”.

We said then: “An individual buying a run-down house, fixing it up, and living in it a while, and then selling for a tidy income tax exempt profit (the house being the individual’s principal residence) sounds like a recipe for success. [But repeat] that 21 times in a row, and you may have a different kettle of fish!”

Apparently, all you have to do is “repeat 2 times in a row” to be liable for income taxes on our profits, and uncollected GST/HST on your sales revenue!

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