Direct sellers in the United States could soon faceupdated rules which would ban businesses from relying on non-competition clauses in worker contracts. This parallels recent moves in certain Canadian provinces to further restrict same and is a perfect opportunity for direct sellers in Canada to review their own non-competition clauses in anticipation of potential changes.
Tax & Trade Blog
Direct sellers in the US have a “safe harbour” which does not exist in Canada. Specifically, section 3508 of the US Internal Revenue Code expressly excludes the salesforce from the definition of “employee” for federal tax purposes! By contrast, direct sellers operating in Canada need to be proactive about making sure that the salesforce stays on the right side of the employee – independent contractor divide, which is a “common law” test in Canada.
The recent Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) case of Mazraani provides a good refresher – and some positive comments for Canadian direct sellers – on the difference between employees and independent contractors.
Canada is often viewed as a natural extension of the American direct selling ecosystem: it has a common dominant language, similar culture, convenient land border, and a market of over 38 million people!
While there are many similarities, there are still unique legal and regulatory features that direct selling businesses operating in Canada must be aware of and adapt to — all of which can be easily avoided with the right planning, structuring or advice. This includes the appropriate “Canadianization” of plan documents and overall business strategies.
In the fifth of a 5-part series, we review one of the major risk areas facing the Canadian direct selling industry:
The Employee or Independent Contractor Issue
The distinction between employees and independent contractors has always been an important one in Ontario because while employees are covered by the protections of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (e.g. sick pay, maternity leave, etc.), independent contractors are not.
While there is no simple formula to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the Ontario government has outlined some factors to consider when trying to make this determination.