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The January 2020 Canadian International Trade Tribunal (“CITT”) decision in Landmark Trade Services v. President of the CBSA (Case No. AP-2019-002) was a welcome relief for customs brokers because the CITT held that Landmark was not liable as the “importer” of the goods, despite the fact the import documentation described Landmark as the importer and purchaser. Accordingly, Landmark would not be on the hook for the additional duty owing from the incorrect tariff classifications used on those import documents.  

Over a year later, however, Landmark’s victory has resulted in headaches for their customers, some of whom are now being reassessed by the CBSA and held liable for the additional duty as owners of the goods at the time they were imported into Canada. To understand why, one must understand what Landmark was doing.

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One of the least understood areas of CBSA administrative policy are the rules surrounding the operation and licensing of customs warehouses. These warehouses (of which there are several types) allow goods brought into Canada to be stored within the country while deferring the payment of applicable duties and taxes in respect of their import until they are ‘released’. The rules in this area are administratively complex, and expert legal advice should be considered for any business looking to use or operate a customs warehouse.

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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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As with have blogged about many times in the past (see here, here, here, and here), one of the most misunderstood areas of the law around corporate directors is the concept of director’s liability for the corporation’s unremitted tax.

Several recent cases in our practice have reminded us of the critical importance of these rules and how all directors can benefit from a refresher of their basic structure.

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In Budget 2021 the Government of Canada proposed a “luxury tax” effective January 1, 2022 on sales of certain luxury vehicles – cars/trucks, aircraft, and boats - whose selling price exceed a $100,000 threshold for cars/trucks and aircraft, and a $250,000 threshold for boats. The proposed tax would be the lesser of 20% of the value above the threshold, or 10% of the full value of the luxury vehicle. At the time the government said the luxury tax is expected to raise $604 million over 5 years.

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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 Government of Ontario has now made a long-hoped for change to the Ontario Business Corporations Act (“OBCA”) removing the director residency requirement effective July 5, 2021.

This means that corporations incorporated or continued into Ontario no longer need to have any Canadian resident directors and will help put Ontario on a level playing field with provinces like British Columbia which have been without a director residency requirement for nearly two decades!

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On June 4, 2021, the Government of Canada published an Order Amending the Export Control List (the “Order”), changing the regulatory landscape for businesses that deal with controlled goods and technologies in Canada. While a seemingly minor update — set to come into force after July 23rd, 2021 — this change actually has very far-reaching implications for firms looking to stay in compliance with these important rules!

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One of the most hotly contested areas in trade litigation is the “value for duty” (“VFD”) of goods being imported to Canada. “Value for duty” is the base on which one calculates and pays duties and taxes. Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) typically audits in this area with a view to increasing the VFD of the imported goods, increasing revenues.

In a recent Canadian International Trade Tribunal (the “CITT”) case, CBSA was forced to allow non-resident importer to use its ‘factory prices’ as the proper base for duties – which has potentially far-reaching implications for importers!

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Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) resets it “audit priority areas” twice a year. This sees CBSA designate certain tariff classification codes as CBSA’s priority areas for custom verifications (i.e., “audits”), which is based on program areas that the CBSA believes pose significant risks for non-compliance. The non-compliance risk is generally in tariff classification, valuation and origin of goods imported.

Right on schedule, CBSA has now released its July 2021 Trade Compliance Verifications, which update where CBSA started in January of this year.

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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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On July 7, 2021 the Canada Border Services Agency (the "CBSA") issued a Notice of Initiation of Investigation under the Special Import Measures Act ("SIMA") of alleged dumping of Oil Country Tubular Goods ("OCTG") imported from Austria. This investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by Canadian manufacturers of OCTG in Ontario and Alberta.

The goods under investigation are currently defined as

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The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) has broad audit powers, allowing it to request any documents, records, and information from taxpayers and third parties under audit. The 2021 Federal Budget proposed an expansion (!) to these powers – allowing CRA to compel interview and answers from an owner-manager and any other employees of the business. The changes are aimed at making it easier for the CRA to get information and issue assessments, but those in the know predict real problems for unrepresented taxpayers and their employees! The worry is that CRA will have a single mindset heading into these interviews and will use them to simply gain ammunition for an Assessment.

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On June 30, 2021 the Canada Border Services Agency (the "CBSA") issued a Notice of Initiation of Investigation under the Special Import Measures Act ("SIMA") of alleged dumping of Oil Country Tubular Goods ("OCTG") imported from Mexico. This investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by Canadian manufacturers of the products in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

The goods under investigation are currently defined as

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Effective May 5, 2021, as a result of an anti-dumping investigation that began in December 2020, imports of items of Upholstered Domestic Seating originating in, or exported from, China or Vietnam will be subject to provisional anti-dumping duties of 206.36% for China, and 89.77% for Vietnam for imports where the exporter has not been issued a specific rate. Provisional countervailing duties of 89.54% for imports from China and 11.73% for imports from Vietnam are also applicable.

Keep reading for more about what anti-dumping duties are, and what will happen next with Upholstered Domestic Seating

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In Budget 2021 the government of Canada proposed changes to the ITC Information Requirements which will generally make it easier for businesses to claim ITCs in two ways:

  1. increasing the dollar thresholds of the ITC Information Requirements; and
  2. expanding the definition of "intermediary" to include billing agents, such that a recipient can obtain the name and/or GST registration number of a billing agent rather than the underlying vendor in order to support an ITC claim.

Some details of these proposals, which are effective starting April 21, 2021, are set out below.

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Canadians and travellers into Canada may be pleased to learn that Canadian border officials do not have unlimited powers to search the contents of their electronic devices when entering the country.

The Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) reached this conclusion last year in the case of R v Canfield (2020 ABCA 383), finding that the relevant search powers in the Customs Act were unconstitutional to the extent that they allowed for unlimited searches of personal electronic devices.  Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) dismissed the application for leave to appeal Canfield, meaning that the ABCA’s decision stands.

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Per our previous blog, the Government of Canada’s Fall Economic Update has announced new rules which will change the GST/HST registration and collection regime for short-term rental accommodation platforms (like AirBnb) and the underlying persons offering the accommodations to ensure GST/HST is properly collected on these supplies.  This article gives a high-level overview of the proposed changes—which will be especially important to anyone who rents out their property on these platforms!

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Per our previous blog, the Government of Canada’s Fall Economic Update has announced new rules which will change the registration and collection regime for fulfillment warehouses (like Amazon) to ensure that vendors collect GST/HST on the final price paid for their goods when they are sold in Canada.  This article gives a high-level overview of these specific changes.

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Quebec has special rules regarding the mandatory disclosure of “nominee agreements” (which are essentially the Quebec civil law equivalent of undisclosed agency agreements) where the agreement is made as part of a transaction or series of transactions that have “tax consequences”.

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