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In a recent blog titled “Can I go to jail for tax evasion”, we discussed how the CRA has been increasingly seeking jail time for people engaged in tax fraud or tax evasion. In fact, relatively recently a Toronto man was sentenced to five years in jail for filing false GST/HST returns.

The recent decision in (British Columbia (Director of Civil Forfeiture) v. Sanghera, shows that not only can those who commit tax evasion face jail time, but they can also have their assets seized by the government under civil forfeiture statutes.

To date, civil forfeiture statutes have been enacted in the following eight Canadian provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.

These civil forfeiture statutes allow the government to seize and transfer ownership of property without compensation when the property is suspected of having been acquired through an illegal act or suspected of being used to commit an illegal 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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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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