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Posted by on in Tax Law

The CRA has a mandate to improve compliance of GST/HST registrants and to encourage GST/HST registrants to meet their filing requirements.  As part of its commitment to this mandate, the CRA will be implementing changes to its current processes.

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The recent FCA decision, Canada v Chriss (2016 FCA 236), underscores the resignation obligations of directors.  If directors do not execute their resignations properly and completely, they will remain liable for the actions of the corporation, including director’s liability assessments issued by taxing authorities like the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”).

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In Re Pallen Trust (2015 BCCA 22), the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld an order for rescission, which effectively nullified a CRA reassessment.

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In The Great-West Life Assurance Company v The Queen (2016 FCA 316) [“Great-West Life”], the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the TCC’s decision that services related to processing claims for drug benefits were not financial services, and so not exempt from GST/HST.

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Section 141.1(3) of the of Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) broadens the scope of what is considered to be in the course of commercial activities to activity done “in connection with” extraordinary transactions such as starting and winding-up commercial activities.  The Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”), in Onenergy Inc. v. The Queen (2016 TCC 230), discussed how the section should be interpreted.

 

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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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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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 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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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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Input Tax Credits (“ITCs”) are typically not available for “holding companies” that exist solely to hold shares or indebtedness of another company due to the fact that taxpayers are only entitled to ITCs in respect of tax paid on property or services acquired in the course of commercial activities. However, section 186(1) of the Excise Tax Act contains a special rule allowing a company to claim ITCs in respect of expenses “that can reasonably be regarded as having been so acquired for consumption or use in relation to shares of the capital stock, or indebtedness, of another corporation that is at that time related to” the company, in certain instances. 

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GST/HST rules provide that a notice of objection has to be filed with the Minister within 90 days of the mailing of an assessment (section 301(1.1) of the Excise Tax Act (the “ETA”); the parallel provision in the ITA is section 165(1)).  However, as established in Le sage au piano v. The Queen (2014 TCC 319), the clock may not start ticking on the 90 day period if the CRA has left out important details of the taxpayer’s address on the notice of assessment—extending the previous doctrine from income tax cases that it is insufficient for the CRA to mail a notice of assessment to an incorrect address (The Queen v. 236130 British Columbia Ltd., 2006 FCA 352). The fact that litigation continues in this area also highlights the fact that there is no electronic means of determining whether a notice of assessment has been issued.

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Section 156 of the Excise Tax Act (the "ETA") provides GST/HST relief in the context of certain supplies between closely related corporations and partnerships, and is amongst the most important provisions in the GST/HST legislation. Recently enacted changes have created quite the buzz around this election, as among other things, it now needs to be filed with the CRA, and that filing needs to be done in early 2015 for it to be effective for 2015 supplies. Here are some helpful details.

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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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Posted by on in Tax Law

An undisclosed agency exists if an agent enters into a contract with a third party on behalf of a principal, but does not reveal to the third party either the identity of the principal or the fact that the agent is acting on behalf of any principal.

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When all else fails, taxpayers will often take the path of last resort to recover taxes, interest or penalties, called "Remission Applications", which are made under the Financial Administration Act (FAA).  Specifically, section 23 of the FAA confers discretion on the Governor in Council, exercisable on the recommendation of the Minister, to remit any tax or penalty when it considers that the collection of the tax would be “unreasonable or unjust” or that it is “otherwise in the public interest to remit the tax or penalty” – a hugely powerful discretion.

Yet the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tends to administer these provisions with an alarmingly tight fist, essentially allowing such applications only in instances of (their words):  extreme hardship, incorrect action or advice by the CRA, financial setback combined with extenuating factors, or the unintended result of legislation.

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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.

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