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A great new year’s resolution for Directors of a Canadian private corporations is to brush up on GST/HST and income tax compliance!  The reason is that where a corporation incurs a tax debt for GST, HST or income tax source withholdings, the directors of those corporations can be held personally liable.  For GST/HST purposes, this potential liability encompasses virtually all the net tax obligations of the corporation!  

A recent case demonstrates the high standard directors need to uphold, even when imposed with incredibly difficult situations in which the government has played a hand.

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As a boutique Canadian law firm practising in a niche area (we focus on Indirect Tax, Customs and International Trade matters) we often get inquiries from small businesses and even travellers seeking to appeal various tax assessments, customs infractions, seizures and the like.

The most basic question we are asked is “how can I appeal this?”.

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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.

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Registrants are required to keep adequate books and records that provide the information necessary to ensure taxes payable under the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) can be determined. What may happen if a taxpayer has failed to file tax returns, filed patently deficient ones and/or a taxpayer’s books and records are not reliable or do not exist?  Subsection 299(1) of the ETA states that the Minister is not bound by the contents of the return, but may assess by alternative means including the use of estimates or net worth approach. (Parallel provisions can be found under subsection 152(7) of the Income Tax Act.)

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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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With the New Year approaching, GST/HST registrants should be aware of a number of GST/HST compliance requirements for 2015, the more notable of which include as follows.

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For years it was an open question as to whether or not a Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") auditor owed a duty of care to a taxpayer under audit.  In the recent case of Leroux (2014 BCSC 720) the Supreme Court of British Columbia (BCSC) concluded that, on the facts, the CRA auditors owed a duty of care to the taxpayer.  But what is the appropriate standard of care a CRA auditor must meet to avoid a finding of negligence? 

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In a recently released GST/HST ruling, CRA seems to place a high bar on the exempt treatment of administrative services acquired by an Insurance Company in operating its insurance business.  In RITS 154220 (Application of GST/HST to Insurance-related Administrative Services), the CRA effectively takes the view that virtually all administrative services acquired by an insurer are viewed by CRA as excluded from the financial services exemption, and therefore taxable for GST/HST purposes.

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