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The recent Federal Court case Saad v CBSA (2016 FC 1382) is a cautionary tale in two respects.

 

In the first place, it is a reminder that travellers who are found not to have properly declared imported goods, risk having their vehicle seized by the Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”), which has a broad range of powers under the Customs Act.

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In order to be successful in tax appeals, the rules of evidence can sometimes play a key role.

In Boroumand, the Appellant appealed assessments for unreported income under the Income Tax Act to the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) (2015 TCC 239).  The Appellant’s position was that the funds came from non-taxable sources, including primarily an inheritance from family in Iran. The Appellant sought to introduce documents from money exchange enterprises purporting to show that he received nearly $2 million from Iran. The Minister objected to admitting the documents as they were hearsay and under normal circumstances were inadmissible. 

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In Mazo v The Queen (2016 TCC 232), the Tax Court of Canada considered the tax consequences applicable to income earned through an illegal pyramid scheme.  

 

Facts - Roberta Mazo participated in a pyramid scheme run by the company Business In Motion International Corporation (“BIMIC”). She profited from the scheme and was subsequently reassessed by the Minister of National Revenue as having unreported income for the 2007, 2008, and 2009 tax years.

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In Kashefi v Canada Border Services Agency (2016 FC 1204), the Federal Court suggested that travellers going to the United States with their prescription drugs should verify whether their medication is a controlled drug.  In the event that a traveller’s medication is a controlled drug, the traveller should be sure to keep the medication in its original pharmacy or hospital packaging, travel with less than a 30 day supply, and if entering Canada declare the medication to a customs officer.

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Section 165 of the ETA imposes GST in respect of supplies “made in Canada”.  The so-called “place of supply rules” in section 142 of the ETA serve to deem particular supplies to be made either inside or outside of Canada.  As a result of a legislative inconsistency these rules can conceivably deem a particular supply to be made both inside and outside of Canada.  This inconsistency was analyzed by the TCC in the recent decision of Club Intrawest (2016 TCC 149).  In doing so, the TCC arguably expanded the place of supply rules such that GST now applies to more supplies than even CRA had previously contemplated.

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The TCC concluded in Rojas (2016 TCC 177) that the taxpayer’s mortgage-related services were exempt from HST as financial services under ETA subsection 123(1) and not taxable as administrative services provided to a brokerage firm.

The taxpayer was a real estate agent and also assisted clients in obtaining mortgages on the properties they wished to purchase. Because she provided mortgage services, Ontario required her to be licensed as a mortgage broker and also to obtain registration under a mortgage brokerage firm’s umbrella.

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For years, the CRA has consistently assessed taxpayers for GST/HST and interest in circumstances where although there was technical non-compliance with the rules, there was no true financial impact to the government. Examples of such situations (e.g. so called “wash transactions”) would include the wrong person collecting and remitting the GST/HST in a closely related group, or GST/HST not being collected in circumstances where the recipient would have been entitled to a full Input Tax Credit (“ITC”) in any event.

 

The practice of demanding interest for monies that the CRA already had in its possession, albeit received from another person, is viewed as patently unfair by many of the taxpayers so assessed. In the recent GST/HST case Gordon v AGC (2016 FC 643), the Federal Court put into issue the fairness of the CRA’s approach, and found that the CRA must consider waiving interest in these circumstances on a case by case basis.

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If your business ever provides a good or service in exchange for advertising, you should be aware of a recent CRA ruling (RITS 2015-158946), dated November 4, 2015), which sets out how GST/HST applies to barter transactions and includes an example of a person who exchanges advertising services for goods or services. Case law such as 9022-8891 Québec Inc. (2006 TCC 60)confirmed that a barter of goods or services for advertising may constitute two taxable transactions for GST/HST purposes. RITS 2015-158946, however, provides more details on the tax consequences of a barter exchange - consideration, place of supply, input tax credits, and zero-rating - and represents a blueprint for the GST/HST analysis of barter transactions.

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Gail Baker v The Queen (2016 TCC 120), illustrates the extent to which s. 160 of the Income Tax Act can apply. The decision shows that a taxpayer’s debts may be imposed on his or her inheritors to the extent of any unpaid tax debts at the time of the transferor’s death, even though tax avoidance was not a motivating factor for a transfer of property and the inheritors were unaware of the potential tax liability involved.

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Living Friends Case - In Living Friends Tree Farm (2016 TCC 116), the central issue was whether the taxpayer’s expenses in respect to preparation for a Christmas tree farm were incurred in relation to commercial activity.  The TCC held for the Minister, noting that it was impossible to determine how much of the alleged commercial venture was genuinely commercial and how much reflected the registrant’s personal lifestyle desires.

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Whether or not a supply is a financial service is a significant issue for suppliers because suppliers of financial services are unable to claim ITCs for the GST/HST they pay on their inputs. Accordingly, financial service providers scrutinize their own suppliers carefully to ensure they are only paying GST/HST where appropriate.

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An out-of-court statement is generally inadmissible as evidence in court to prove the truth of the statement’s contents – this is the general rule against hearsay.  There are a number of exceptions to this rule including an admission – where a party wishes to use a statement made by the opposing party against that opposing party.  An admission is admissible as evidence of the contents of that admission.  Where that opposing party’s agent makes such a statement, it is also admissible as evidence of the truth of its contents.  The recent decision in Spears et al. (2016 NSPC 20) stands for the proposition that a taxpayer’s accountant’s statement to CRA can be admitted as evidence for the truth of its contents.  This is an important case for business-owners who rely on their accountants to deal with the CRA on behalf of the business.

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There has been significant jurisprudence on the extent to which recipients are entitled to ITCs in respect of GST paid to so called “rogue suppliers” – suppliers who collect but fail to remit GST to the fisc.  The CRA has often taken the position that where the recipient fails to make efforts to confirm the identity of its supplliers or where the recipient is wilfully blind to the bona fides of its suppliers, the recipient will not be entitled to ITCs. The recent decision of SNF LP (2016 TCC 12) adds another layer to this analysis.  Although the TCC makes a number of distinct findings, the most interesting aspect might be with respect to a briefly explained conclusion regarding a claim for a rebate of tax paid in error.

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 The principle of solicitor-client privilege holds that communications between a client and his or her lawyer cannot be compelled to be disclosed without permission of the client.  Although this principle started as an evidentiary rule, it has developed into a principle of fundamental justice. 

Canadian tax legislation endows the CRA with various powers to compel individuals and businesses to disclose information and documentation in support of administering or enforcing that tax legislation.  Failure to comply with CRA’s requirements undert these rules can result in fines or imprisonment.  Solicitor-client privilege and these disclosure rules collide where CRA attempts to compel client-related information and documentation from lawyers.  The Supreme Court of Canada has recently dealt with this issue in Chambre des notaires du Québec (2016 SCC 20) and its companion case Thompson (2016 SCC 21).  The decisions make clear that solicitor-client privilege will be upheld in the face of these disclosure provisions.

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CRA has recently been issuing assessments to taxicab fleet management companies for failing to charge GST/HST on pass-through insurance premium expenses. 

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Disgruntled taxpayers have often attempted to seek remedies against tax authorities through civil actions – albeit with very limited success.  A 2014 BC Supreme Court’s decision in Leroux v. CRA (2014 BCSC 720) did confirm that CRA owes a duty of care to the taxpayer, and has likely lead to an increase in these types of proceedings.

A recent motions decision in the BCSC case in Samaroo v. CRA et al. (2016 BCSC 531), deals with the extent to which a taxpayer in one of these types of suits against the Crown is able to rely on information produced by the Crown in that action during the Tax Court of Canada appeal – and the news was good for the taxpayer!  But the case remains an interesting example of the “implied undertaking rule” – perhaps a little known rule to anyone other than a litigator – and the balance of this article explains the in’s and the out’s of that rule, with reference to the Samaroo decision.

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When faced with Notices of Assessment from CRA that run contrary to a particular tax practice, taxpayers often defend their practice on the basis that CRA had not previously taken issue with it.  For tax litigators it is common to hear from clients: “CRA did not take issue with our tax compliance procedures in the past, so they should not be able to now!” 

Unfortunately, this argument will not be successful in the Tax Court of Canada, as was the case in the recent case of Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (2014 TCC 171) – which reinforces that there is really no substitute for proper professional advice when determining GST/HST compliance.

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Posted by on in Tax Law

New Brunswick is increasing its HST by 2%, effective July 1, 2016, resulting in an HST rate of 15%.

Businesses will need to consider which tax rate – the existing HST rate of 13% or the new HST rate of 15%, will apply to transactions that straddle July 1, 2016.

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Section 254 of the ETA allows the purchaser of a new residential unit to claim a partial GST/HST Rebate (often called a New Housing Rebate – “NHR”).  The NHR was intended to off-set GST/HST payable on new housing, back to the point where the GST/HST actually paid on the purchase of new housing equates, more-or-less, with the expected former federal sales tax (“FST”) component of comparable housing.  The NHR was designed to ensure that the GST did not pose a barrier to affordable housing. 

The NHR is only available where the builder makes a supply by sale to a person, which makes that person a “particular individual” for purposes of the NHR rules (s. 254(2)(a)). The particular individual (or their relation) generally must be first to occupy the new home as their primary residence (s. 254(2)(d)(i)).  Each buyers of a new home (i.e. each particular individual) must meet each NHR requirement (s. 262(3)).  Where new home ownership structures are slightly complicated, meeting these requirements can become tricky. 

This was the issue in Crooks v. The Queen (2016 TCC 52). 

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The concept of claiming input tax credits (“ITC”) for private businesses that provide both taxable and exempt services has recently been explored by the TCC (see for example: Sun Life (2015 TCC 37) and BC Ferry Services (2014 TCC 305)).  For real property, those businesses must determine the extent to which its property is used in making taxable or exempt supplies, and claim ITCs in line with that amount.  Although the same general principles apply with respect to public service bodies (“PSB”), PSBs can generally only claim ITCs in respect of real property where 50% or more of its property is used in making taxable supplies.  However, PSBs can make an election to have the same general proportional allocation rules apply.  In the recent decision of University of Calgary (2015 TCC 321) (with an identical decision reached in University of Alberta (2015 TCC 336)), the TCC considered PSBs that made such an election.  

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