In Budget 2019 the federal government has continued to bolster its tools and resources to detect and prosecute tax evasion. As such, several measures have been proposed, including a C$150.8 million investment over the next five years to fund new initiatives. More so than ever, tax professionals should be well acquainted with various definitions to ensure that their client services and advice cannot be construed as the commission or facilitation of a criminal offence.
The minister of finance recently tabled the 2019 Budget. As a pre-election budget, the government appears to have shied away from tax measures that could receive negative backlash from the business community. Among other things, the government is proposing to expand the foreign affiliate dumping rules to apply to Canada-resident corporations that are controlled by non-resident individuals or trusts.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently reported that the Canada Revenue Agency has transferred more than 1.6 million Canadian banking records to the US Internal Revenue Service since the intergovernmental agreement for the enhanced exchange of tax information under the Canada-US Tax Convention was entered into in 2014. The agreement provides lengthy and detailed rules with respect to the information that the Canadian government must transfer to the United States.
Earnings within tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) and other tax-deferred plans are, in principle, supposed to grow tax free. However, some taxes still apply, including the advantage tax which applies at the rate of 100% of any 'advantage' (as defined in the Income Tax Act). This tax has become one of the Canada Revenue Agency's favourite tools to effectively expropriate what it views as improperly boosted returns within a TFSA.
The Federal Court has made a strong statement against an interpretation of the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA's) powers that would allow almost unlimited invasions of taxpayer privacy. The force with which the court rejected the self-serving interpretation advanced by the CRA should be encouraging for taxpayers. The case serves as an important reminder that the CRA cannot act outside the bounds of law and that it is the courts, and not the CRA, that interpret the law.
In these heady days of cryptocurrency investment, the market can seem like a gold rush – offering promise, but at the expense of predictability. Cryptocurrency taxation is no different. Increasing scrutiny from all types of regulator, including the tax authorities, seems inevitable for the sector. While this may diminish potential profits when compared to the early days of cryptocurrencies, it will likely add structure, transparency and legitimacy in the long term.
The Tax Court of Canada has released a landmark decision on the goods and services tax/harmonised sales tax status of certain commonplace transaction processing services – namely, Visa's payment platform offered to financial institutions. The court held that the supply of services made by Visa to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce fell outside the definition of a 'financial service' under the Excise Tax Act and therefore did not qualify as an exempt supply.
Quebec recently announced that it intends to expand its requirements for non-resident vendors to collect and remit Quebec sales tax on sales to Quebec consumers, effective as early as January 1 2019. It will be interesting to see whether the Quebec government has the authority to impose requirements on non-resident businesses that do not carry on business in the province. Another issue will be whether an assessment for failure to collect the tax can be enforced against a non-Quebec seller.
The 2018 federal budget signifies another chapter in the Department of Finance's saga to overhaul the taxation of private corporations and their shareholders. Budget 2018 sets out two changes to the taxation of private corporations: a reduction of the small business deduction based on the amount of passive investment income earned at a corporate level and a restriction on obtaining refunds of corporate tax on dividends paid from income taxed at the reduced small business rate.
The British Columbia Property Transfer Tax Act applies only to registered transfers of real property. However, significant real property-related tax changes are rumoured to be proposed in the upcoming provincial budget. Any amendment to the act that would tax transfers of beneficial ownership should not be made haphazardly. Such an amendment must be joined by, among other things, a mechanism to relieve the tax where the beneficial ownership is transferred to an affiliate.
At a basic level, cryptocurrencies constitute property under the Income Tax Act. As such, dispositions of cryptocurrencies ordinarily lead to income tax consequences. Although cryptocurrencies are an exciting development, along with the rewards come a variety of risks, not least of which is tax. Failure to comply with all applicable tax obligations can result in severe penalties and hefty arrears interest.
The latest chapter in the story of the 'half-loaf' plan was recently penned by the Federal Court of Appeal. The case concerned a plan by which the taxpayer intended to split the capital gains on a share sale to an arm's-length purchaser between him and his wife and thus benefit from both of their lifetime capital gains exemptions. On appeal, the taxpayer argued that none of the conditions of the general anti-avoidance rule had been met; however, the Federal Court of Appeal disagreed.
The Federal Court of Appeal has held that the minister of national revenue has no discretion to admit a taxpayer into the objections regime under Section 220(2.1) of the Income Tax Act. Applying the implied exception rule of statutory interpretation, the court chose an interpretation that gave effect to more specific provisions (the objections regime), and held that taxpayers must comply with the strict time limits set out in the act.
The Tax Court recently decided a new case under the general anti-avoidance rule in Section 245 of the Income Tax Act, holding that the rule applies to restrict losses in an attempted non-acquisition of control transaction. However, the court offered up no analysis to support the allegation that Clause 256(7)(b)(iii)(B) had been abused in this case. Instead, it relied on late-stage financing through the use of shares.
The Federal Court of Appeal recently overturned a Tax Court decision which had found that a number of transactions undertaken by the Univar corporate group constituted abusive tax avoidance under the General Anti-avoidance Rule (GAAR). The judgment contains several important points concerning the analysis and application of the GAAR and will undoubtedly be relied on by taxpayers in future.
The minister of national revenue recently sought to compel 25 people to attend oral examinations as part of a transfer pricing audit. The minister applied to the Federal Court for a compliance order, arguing that the Income Tax Act provides the authority to compel such examinations. However, the court disagreed. Its analysis highlights the problematic nature of the minister's position.
The Tax Court recently rejected the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administrative concession that orthodontists can claim input tax credits (ITCs) on a periodic basis, concluding that orthodontic treatment consists of only a single supply, which is exempt and results in no tax charged to the patient and no entitlement to claim ITCs. The decision serves as a cautionary example to taxpayers that CRA administrative concessions which are not supported by the law may be ignored.
Taking questions under advisement is common practice in examinations for discovery in tax disputes; it indicates that counsel has not decided whether the question will be answered or refused and will advise at a later date. In a recent judgment, the Tax Court denounced the practice of taking questions under advisement during examinations for discovery and warned that there may be cost consequences to doing so.
The Department of Finance recently released its consultation policy paper on the taxation of private corporations first announced in Budget 2017, along with proposed legislation on some of the topics addressed. The most dramatic proposals seek to equate the tax treatment of self-employed incorporated business owners with that of individual salaried employees without acknowledgement of their fundamental non-tax differences, including the inherent risk in starting and operating a small business.
Rectification has been a popular topic in tax law since last year's Supreme Court decisions limiting its availability for tax planning errors. In a brief judgment, the Federal Court of Appeal disagreed with the Tax Court and held that foreign rectification orders are not necessarily dispositive or binding on a tax assessment, but must be taken as facts at trial even in the absence of domestic recognition through homologation.