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If the CRA believes that taxpayers have knowingly failed to report income or remit GST and other taxes owing they will often bring concurrent criminal tax evasion charges in addition to simply re-assessing a taxpayer. In this scenario, the protections afforded to taxpayers in the criminal tax evasion matter – the burden of proof being on the Crown to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt – are not present in the tax appeals.  Similarly, unlike in the criminal context, the burden of proof in tax appeals is on the taxpayer, who must demolish the CRA’s assessment and any relevant assumptions of fact. 

Given the differing standards in criminal versus civil proceedings, criminal acquittals typically have little, if any, impact on a subsequent civil proceeding. The CRA is therefore often successful in tax appeals before the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) even after a taxpayer has been acquitted in a criminal prosecution based on the same fact pattern.

Samaroo v. The Queen, 2016 TCC 290 (“Samaroo”) is an exception to the general rule.

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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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