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In a prior blog, we had suggested that rectification, rescission, and other equitable remedies would likely no longer be available to correct most tax mistakes.  This conclusion stemmed from the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in Canada (Attorney General) v. Fairmont Hotels Inc. (2016 SCC 56) (“Fairmont”) and the subsequent Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Canada Life Insurance Company of Canada v. Canada (Attorney General) (2018 ONCA 562) (“Canada Life”). Both of these decisions highlighted the Courts’ concerns with taxpayers using equitable remedies to effect what might be considered “retroactive tax planning”.

However, in a recent decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA) has kept a window open for rescission in tax matters!

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Unreported income discovered by the CRA may lead to consequences on the GST/HST component related to that income which, in turn, can sometimes result in personal liability to the director.

This situation arose in the recent case of Duque v. Canada, 2020 FCA 73.  Mr. Duque was the sole director of a corporation providing carpentry services, which was incorporated in 1996 and ceased to carry on business sometime before February 28, 2007.

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As the world struggles with COVID-19, and small and medium businesses endure the worldwide economic slowdown, directors of Canadian corporations need to know about the long arm of the CRA when it comes to ensuring that GST net tax obligations and ITA source withholding requirements are met by corporations!

One particularly egregious collections power that the CRA has is its ability to issue so-called derivative assessments to relatives of taxpayers who have received money, property or dividends from the corporate tax debtor, at a time that the corporation or the director are liable for tax.

A “derivative assessment” refers to an assessment whereby the CRA collects from a third party an amount owing that it is unable to collect from the taxpayer.  Where a tax debtor transfers property to a non-arm’s length party for less than fair market value (FMV) consideration, section 325 of the Excise Tax Act (ETA) and section 160 of the Income Tax Act (ITA) may apply to allow the CRA to assess the transferee personally.

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Many will remember the almost hysteric approach that some professional advisors took to “Y2K” (e.g., the one conference topic that burned deep into my brain was “The Commodity Tax Implications of Y2K”) – which ultimately proved to be either entirely alarmist, or just good marketing or both. 

While Y2K was a bit of a strawman in terms of “tax issues”, it appears that the economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have in fact already given rise potential indirect tax issues for those in the real estate sector.

Two areas of particular concern are commercial rent deferrals and conversions of short-term Airbnb accommodations into long-term residential rentals.

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A recent case highlights the fact that at law, an agency agreement can be implied to exist based on the conduct of the parties alone – without any explicit written or verbal references to “agency”.  This is often referred to as an “Implied Agency”.

The case of Lohas Farm Inc. v. the Queen (2019 TCC 197) cites a number of past cases and textbooks for the concept of implied agency, and serves as a useful resource for taxpayers and counsel making similar arguments.

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