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The recent Auditor General Report is not good news for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The CRA has nine call centres located across Canada that are supposed to provide taxpayers with timely and accurate information about their taxes, credits and benefits.

Based on the Auditor General of Canada’s report, however, a taxpayer calling the CRA is more likely to get blocked than to speak to a live agent, and when reaching a live agent, often has a fairly good chance of obtaining incorrect information.

Not good news at all, if you are the CRA.

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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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In Canada, the CRA can often pursue a corporation’s directors for unpaid tax debts of the corporation.  But there are certain “pre-conditions” that must be met.

One of these, which rarely gets any attention at all is the requirement that “a certificate for the amount of the liability of the corporation [be] registered in the Federal Court… and execution for that amount [be] returned unsatisfied in whole or in part”:  see section 323(2)(a) of the Excise Tax Act (ETA) and section 227.1(2)(a) of the Income Tax Act (ITA).

Historically, the Courts have considered that these provisions do not impose an obligation upon the CRA to make reasonable efforts to search for assets of a corporate debtor; rather, all the CRA needs to do is “act in good faith”:  see Barrett (2012 FCA 33).

In Tjelta (2017 TCC 187), the Tax Court of Canada (TCC) was asked to determine what the FCA meant in respect of the CRA’s good faith requirement. 

Not much it seems!

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The Tax Court of Canada (TCC) recently considered how the GST/HST works in situations where individuals and businesses buy and sell used motor vehicles, and the case is instructive.

In Brian & Deborah Dewan Enterprises Ltd. v. The Queen (2017 TCC 135), the TCC dismissed the appeal of the appellant which failed to collect and remit the GST/HST on disposition of vehicles used in its commercial activities on the mistaken belief that the GST/HST was paid by the purchaser to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) on registration of the vehicles. 

Businesses which fail to understand the possible interaction of the federal GST/HST and provincial sales tax in certain circumstances, for example, in this case, the Ontario Motor Vehicle Tax (MVT) on disposition of used vehicles, would be put in a disadvantageous position and suffer losses.

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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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