Given the tight tax timelines under the Income Tax Act (“ITA”)and the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”), it is not uncommon for tax appeal deadlines to be inadvertently missed. While it is possible to obtain an extension under certain circumstances, there are strict deadlines that must be adhered to in order to do so.
In the recent decision in Canada (National Revenue) v. ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corp., 2017 FCA 243 (“ConocoPhillips”), the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”) confirmed that the Minister of National Revenue (the “Minister”) has no authority to grant an extension to the deadline for filing a Notice of Objection if an extension is not sought within one year of the expiration of the general deadline for doing so.
Given the tight timelines under the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) it is not uncommon for tax appeal deadlines to seemingly come and go. Fortunately, sometimes even when it appears that a deadline has been missed an extension may be granted or it may not have actually expired due to procedural missteps by the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”).
In Fairmont Hotels Inc. (2016 SCC 56) and Jean Coutu Group (2016 SCC 55) the Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) clarified the law of rectification.The result might be disappointing for taxpayers and tax practitioners alike, yet the decisions bring Ontario back in line with the rest of Canada by establishing that an application for rectification refer to a detailed intention.
Litigating parties must consider cost implications at every stage in litigation, which generally requires a cost-benefit analysis of starting litigation in the first place, proceeding with litigation at any given stage, and negotiating towards settlement. In tax litigation, the cost-benefit analysis is often the same, and can be a comparatively simple exercise, requiring an analysis of anticipated costs of litigation, chance of success at trial or on appeal, consideration of the assessed amount in dispute, and the effect of a judicial decision on the taxpayer’s position going forward. Court costs have generally not factored into this analysis, since they have historically been negligible.
CRA assessments can have devastating financial consequences that commonly push taxpayers into bankruptcy. In considering bankruptcy, the taxpayer should take into account the extent to which the bankruptcy will impose limitations on the taxpayer’s ability to contest the assessment itself. Section 71 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) specifies that a bankrupt ceases to have any capacity to deal with its “property”, which is a broadly defined term and has the effect of virtually eliminating the bankrupt’s ability to maintain legal actions. The extent to which the BIA has a limiting effect on a bankrupt taxpayer’s ability to contest an assessment in the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) was at issue in the decision in Schnier (2015 TCC 160).
Instead of filing a notice of objection, a taxpayer may enter into negotiations with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with the purpose of resolving tax issues in dispute. When a settlement is reached, the CRA may request the taxpayer to sign a waiver, agreeing to the proposed changes to the assessment and confirming that the taxpayer will not appeal the assessment (made on the agreed terms) to the Tax Court of Canada (TCC). Such waiver of right is expressly provided for in sections 301(1.6) and 306.1(2) of the Excise Tax Act (ETA) and sections 165(1.2) and 169(2.2) of the Income Tax Act (ITA).
Like any contractual agreements, undue pressure, lack of proper legal advice, or unconscionable bargains may void a settlement agreement.The Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) recently confirmed in Taylor v. The Queen (2012 FCA 148) that a waiver of right to object or appeal an assessment signed by a taxpayer pursuant to a settlement is valid and binding on the taxpayer.
Both the “Large Corporation rules” in the Income Tax Act (the “ITA”) and the “Specified Person rules” under the Excise Tax Act (the “ETA”) are probably unfamiliar to most people other than experience tax practitioners. However, they can impact the ability of large corporations to properly appeal income tax and GST issues, since if they are not complied with - to the letter - the government will take steps towards barring the taxapyer from further appealing the matter beyond the Canada Revenue Agency's Appeals Process.
Generally, the overall effect of these provisions is to attempt to prevent a Specified Person (or a Large Corporation) from appealing to the Tax Court of Canada where the Notice of Objection does not contain certain required pieces of information.