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Baytex: ABQB Grants Rectification

In Baytex Energy Ltd. et  al. v. The Queen (2015 ABQB 278), the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench considered whether rectification and/or rescission were available to address mistakes that could result in the taxpayer being taxed on additional resource income of $135 million for 2003-2006 and $528 million for 2007-2010.

The Court determined that the requirements for rectification had been satisfied and thus granted the rectification of certain documents to accord with the parties’ original intention.

Facts

Baytex Energy Trust (the “Trust”) was a publicly-traded mutual fund trust (the Trust later converted to Baytex Energy Corp. (“BEC”), a publicly-traded dividend-paying corporation). The Trust wholly-owned Baytex Energy Ltd. (“BEL”), which owned and operated oil and gas properties prior to transferring the properties to Baytex Energy Partnership on January 1, 2010.

The Baytex companies were subject to the pre-2007 oil and gas royalty regime in the Income Tax Act, which required certain additional resource income for an oil and gas producer (referred to in the judgment as “Phantom Income”) and denied certain deductions for provincial Crown royalties and taxes. A 25% resource allowance was available to the producer. The Phantom Income could be transferred by the producer to another party, and a non-deductible and off-setting reimbursement would be made back to the producer. In this case, BEL and the Trust agreed that BEL would transfer 99% of its income and cash flow to the Trust.

In the Budget of February 18, 2003, the federal government announced the phase-out of the oil and gas royalty regime and the elimination of the regime as of January 1, 2007.

Parties’ Agreements

BEL and the Trust executed a Net Profits Interest Agreement (the “Original Agreement”) in September 2003 for the transfer of income and the off-setting reimbursement. However, the written terms of the Original Agreement failed to address the transfer of Phantom Income. A subsequent agreement (the “Collateral Agreement”) – not all of the terms of which were reduced to writing – addressed the transfer of Phantom Income.

The parties intended that the transfer and reimbursement would cease effective January 1, 2007 because of the elimination of the oil and gas royalty regime in the Income Tax Act.

However, from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2010, the parties continued the practice of transferring and reimbursing the Phantom Income. When this error was initially discovered in 2008, the Baytex companies’ tax professionals advised that the Original Agreement should be amended to provide for the reimbursement beyond 2006 to be consistent with the practice of the parties. The Baytex companies were told this amendment would have no adverse tax consequences. Based on this advice, the parties entered into an Amended Agreement.

The CRA reviewed the Baytex companies’ arrangements and concluded that an additional $135 million was taxable income to BEL for 2003-2006, and that the Trust earned an additional $528 million of taxable income for 2007-2010.

Rectification/Rescission

The Baytex companies sought rectification of the agreements. The CRA did not oppose the rectification of the agreements for the pre-2007 period, but did oppose the rectification for the post-2006 period on the basis that the Baytex companies had intentionally amended the Original Agreement, based on professional advice, to reflect the practice of transfer and reimbursement, and thus the parties mistaken assumption about the tax consequences would not meet the test for rectification. The taxpayers argued that the evidence (which consisted of two affidavits of BEC’s Chief Financial Officer) established that the parties always intended to transfer and reimburse the Phantom Income and that no transfers would occur after January 1, 2007.

The Court considered the authorities on rectification and concluded that the test for granting rectification had been met. The uncontroverted evidence was that the parties’ common intention was to transfer BEL’s income to the Trust, and that this practice would cease as of January 1, 2007. The Original Agreement and the Amended Agreement were inconsistent with this common intention. The precise form of the corrected agreement was not in dispute. And there were no other considerations that would limit/prevent the availability of rectification. Accordingly, the Court granted the rectification.

While this determination was sufficient to dispose of the application, the Court did go on to consider whether, if the Court was wrong on rectification, rescission was available to the parties. The Court held that the Amended Agreement triggered an unintended tax consequence that constituted a fundamental mistake that went to the root of the contract. The Court concluded that rescission was available to rescind the Amended Agreement, which would restore the parties to their Original Agreement, which the Crown had agreed should be rectified.

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Baytex: ABQB Grants Rectification

Ironside: TCC Orders Hearing of Question on Rule 58 Motion

In Ironside v. The Queen (2015 TCC 116), the Tax Court allowed the Crown’s Rule 58 motion for a determination of a question of law before the hearing, namely whether the taxpayer was estopped from litigating an issue that had been adjudicated in an earlier Tax Court decision.

In the prior case (Ironside v. The Queen (2013 TCC 339)), the taxpayer had incurred legal and professional fees to defend himself against allegations of committing improper disclosures after being charged in June 2001 by the Alberta Securities Commission. The taxpayer sought to deduct such fees in the 2003 and 2004 tax years.

The Tax Court concluded that the taxpayer’s legal and professional fees had not been incurred to gain or produce income from his chartered accounting business, rather such expenses were personal in nature and were incurred to protect his reputation in the oil and gas industry. The Tax Court dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal.

Subsequently, the taxpayer sought to make the same deductions in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax years. The CRA reassessed to deny the deductions, and the taxpayer again appealed to the Tax Court.

In its Reply, the Crown raised the issue of whether “the appeal or a portion of it is barred by application of the doctrine of issue estoppel or is otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court”. The Crown then brought a motion for an order pursuant to Rule 58 of the Tax Court of Canada Rules (General Procedure) for a determination of a question prior to the appeal:

Whether the Appellant is barred from litigating within proceeding 2014-1619(IT)G whether the legal and professional fees paid to defend himself in Alberta Securities Commission proceedings and the subsequent appeal are deductible as amounts incurred to gain or produce income from a business or property, on the basis that the characterization of such fees has been previously adjudicated upon and therefore the doctrines of issue estoppel and or abuse of process operate to bar re-litigation of the issue.

The Tax Court noted that Rule 58 contains a two-step process. At the first stage, the Tax Court must determine whether the question posed by the moving party is an appropriate one that should be heard in a subsequent hearing (the second stage).

At the first stage, three elements must exist:

  1. The question proposed must be a question of law, fact, or mixed fact and law;
  2. The question must be raised in the pleadings; and
  3. The determination of the question may dispose of all or part of the appeal, may substantially shorten the hearing, or may result in substantial cost saving.

If all of these elements are present, the Court may set a hearing of the proposed question before a motions judge prior to the hearing of the appeal.

In the present case, the Tax Court held that all three requirements were satisfied. The Court stated,

[12] Clearly, there is the potential that a determination of this question may, according to the materials I have before me and the submissions I heard, dispose of part of the appeal and I need only be satisfied that it “may” so dispose of some of the appeal. I do not have to be absolutely convinced that it will do so in order to refer the question to a Stage Two determination prior to the hearing. If part of the appeal is disposed of, it follows that the proceeding will be substantially shortened. This is precisely the type of question that Rule 58 is meant to target.

The Tax Court ordered that the Crown’s question be set down for a hearing for determination by a motions judge and that certain evidence be presented at the determination (i.e., the pleadings from both appeals, and the Tax Court’s decision in Ironside v. The Queen (2013 TCC 339)).

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Ironside: TCC Orders Hearing of Question on Rule 58 Motion

Crowdfunding: Update From the CRA

In a short technical interpretation (CRA Document 2015-0579031I7 “Crowdfunding” (April 1, 2015)), the CRA has restated its views on the tax treatment of amounts raised via crowdfunding arrangements (see our previous post here).

The CRA stated that amounts received by a taxpayer under a crowdfunding arrangement could represent a loan, capital contribution, gift, income or a combination thereof. The CRA will evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis.

The CRA stated that, in its view, where funds are received by a taxpayer for the development of a new product and the taxpayer carries on a business or profession, the funds will be taxable income unless the taxpayer can establish that such funds are a loan, capital contribution or other form of equity. The CRA noted that any reasonable costs related to the crowdfunding arrangements would likely be deductible in computing that income.

The CRA noted that, in Canada, crowdfunding activities typically do not involve the issuance of securities, but that some securities regulators may be considering changes to existing regulatory rules. The CRA will evaluate the income tax consequences if such regulatory changes take place.

Finally, the CRA noted that the subject of crowdfunding is briefly addressed in Folio S3-F9-C1 “Lottery Winnings, Miscellaneous Receipts, and Income (and Losses) from Crime” (April 3, 2015) in respect of whether such amounts may be a gift by a donor. The CRA provided an example from the Folio:

Example 2

Assume a business uses crowdfunding as a method of raising funds for the development of a new product and the contributors do not receive any form of equity. The amounts received by the business would be included in its income pursuant to subsection 9(1). 

Taxpayers who seek and obtain crowdfunding (for business and non-business purposes) should be aware of the potential tax implications, particularly in light of fact-specific results and the CRA’s evolving views on the subject.

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Crowdfunding: Update From the CRA

SCC Clarifies Law on Admissibility of Expert Evidence

The Supreme Court has released its decision in White Burgess Langille Inman v. Abbott and Haliburton (2015 SCC 23) in which it considered whether the standards for admissibility of expert evidence should take into account the proposed expert’s (alleged) lack of independence or bias.

The Supreme Court’s decision brings some much-needed clarity to the issue of whether a trial judge can disqualify an expert based on impartiality and lack of independence at the qualification stage (i.e., Mohan).  Until now, there has been conflicting case law on this issue, with the majority of the cases supporting the conclusion that, at a certain point, expert evidence should be ruled inadmissible due to the expert’s lack of impartiality and/or independence.

The important questions that remained unanswered, and that trial courts struggled with, were (1) should the elements of an expert’s duty (i.e., independence and impartiality) go to admissibility of the evidence rather than simply to its weight? (2) If so, is there a threshold admissibility requirement in relation to independence and impartiality?

The Supreme Court unanimously answered both questions with “yes.”

(1)   The Expert’s Duty

The Supreme Court stated that expert witnesses have a duty to the court to give fair, objective and non-partisan opinion evidence.  They must be aware of this duty and be able and willing to carry it out.  Underlying the various formulations of the duty of an expert are three related concepts:

(i)        Impartiality: The expert’s opinion must be impartial in the sense that it reflects an objective assessment of the questions at hand.

(ii)        Independent: It must be independent it in the sense that it is the product of the expert’s independent judgment, uninfluenced by who has retained him or her or the outcome of the litigation.

(iii)        Absence of Bias: It must be unbiased in the sense that it does not unfairly favour one party’s position over another.  The “acid test” is whether the expert’s opinion would not change regardless of which party retained him or her.

However, the Supreme Court recognized that these concepts must be applied to the realities of adversary litigation.  Experts are generally retained, instructed and paid by one of the adversaries. According to the Court, “these facts alone do not undermine the expert’s independence, impartiality and freedom of bias.”

(2)   The Framework

The Court concluded that concerns related to the expert’s duty to the court and his or her willingness and capacity to comply with it are best addressed at the “qualification of expert” element of the Mohan framework (which is part 4 of that test).  A proposed expert witness who is unable and unwilling to fulfill his or her duty to the court is not properly qualified to perform the role of an expert.  If the expert witness does not meet this threshold admissibility requirement, his or her evidence should not be admitted.  Once this threshold is met, however, remaining concerns about an expert witness’s compliance with his or her duty should be considered as part of the overall cost-benefit analysis which the judge conducts to carry out his or her gatekeeping function.

The Supreme Court essentially adopted the 2-part test set out by the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Abbey (2009 ONCA 624) and added its own gloss with respect part 4 of that test:

Step 1

The proponent of the expert evidence must establish the threshold requirements of admissibility.  These are the four Mohan factors (relevance, necessity, absence of an exclusionary rule, and properly qualified expert).

In addition, in the case of an opinion based on novel or contested science or science used for a novel purpose, the reliability of the underlying science for that purpose (see R. v. J.-L.J. (2000 SCC 51) per Binnie J.).

After reviewing Canadian, British, Australian, and U.S. authorities, the Supreme Court concluded that an expert’s lack of independence and impartiality goes to the admissibility of the evidence in addition to being considered in relation to the weight to be given to the evidence if admitted.  In reaching this conclusion, it relied upon Justice Binnie’s oft cited quote in R. v. J-L.J.: “The admissibility of the expert evidence should be scrutinized at the time it is proffered, and not allowed too easy an entry on the basis that all of the frailties could go at the end of the day to weight rather than admissibility”.

The Court concluded that concerns related to the expert’s duty to the court and his or her willingness and capacity to comply with it are best addressed initially in the “properly qualified expert” element of the Mohan framework.  In another recent decision, the Supreme Court held that for expert testimony to be inadmissible, more than a simple appearance of bias is necessary.  The question is not whether a reasonable person would consider that the expert is not independent.  Rather, what must be determined is whether the expert’s lack of independence renders him or her incapable of giving an impartial opinion in the specific circumstances of the case (Mouvement Laïque Québécois v. Saguenay (City) (2015 SCC 160) at para. 106).

Evidence that does not meet these threshold requirements should be excluded.

Step 2

Finding that expert evidence meets the basic threshold does not end the inquiry. At the second discretionary gatekeeping step, the judge balances the potential risks and benefits of admitting the evidence in order to decide whether the potential benefits justify the risks (put another way, whether otherwise admissible expert evidence should be excluded because its probative value was overborne by its prejudicial effect).  This is a residual discretion to exclude evidence based on a cost-benefit analysis. The Court adopted Doherty J.A.’s summary of this balancing exercise in Abbey – that the “trial judge must decide whether expert evidence that meets the preconditions to admissibility is sufficiently beneficial to the trial process to warrant its admission despite the potential harm to the trial process that may flow from the admission of the expert evidence.”

(3)   The Threshold

The Court also discussed the appropriate threshold for admissibility.  If a witness is unable or unwilling to fulfill his or her duty, they do not qualify to perform the role of an expert and should be excluded.  The expert witness must, therefore, be aware of this primary duty to the court and be able and willing to carry it out.  While the Court wouldn’t go so far as to hold that the expert’s independence and impartiality should be presumed absent challenge, the Court did state that absent such challenge, the expert’s attestation or testimony recognizing and accepting the duty will generally be sufficient to establish that this threshold is met.

Once the expert testifies on oath to this effect, the burden is on the party opposing the admission of the evidence to show that there is a realistic concern that the expert’s evidence should not be received because the expert is unable and/or unwilling to comply with that duty. If the opponent does so, the burden to establish on a balance of probabilities this aspect of the admissibility threshold remains on the party proposing to call the evidence.  If this is not done, the evidence, or those parts of it that are tainted by a lack of independence or by impartiality, should be excluded.

The Court held that this threshold requirement is not particularly onerous and it will likely be quite rare that a proposed expert’s evidence would be ruled in admissible for failing to meet it. The trial judge must determine, having regard to both the particular circumstances of the proposed expert and the substance of the proposed evidence, whether the expert is able and willing to carry out his or her primary duty to the court.  It is the nature and extent of the interest or connection with the litigation or a party thereto which matters, not the mere fact of the interest or connection.  The Court further stated that the existence of some interest or a relationship does not automatically render the evidence of the proposed expert inadmissible.  For example, a mere employment relationship with the party calling the evidence will be insufficient to do so.

The Court went on to provide some examples of types of interests/relationships that may warrant exclusion of the expert’s evidence:

  • A direct financial interest in the outcome of the litigation will be of some concern;
  • A very close familial relationship with one of the parties;
  • Situations in which the proposed expert will probably incur professional liability if his or her opinion is not accepted by the court; or
  • An expert who, in his or her proposed evidence or otherwise, assumes the role of an advocate for a party.

The decision as to whether an expert should be permitted to give evidence despite having an interest or connection with the litigation is a matter of fact and degree.  The concept of apparent bias is not relevant to the question of whether or not an expert witness will be unable or unwilling to fulfill its primary duty to the court.  When looking at an expert’s interest or relationship with a party, the question is whether the relationship or interest results in the expert being unable or unwilling to carry out his or her primary duty to the court to provide fair, non-partisan and objective assistance.

The Court emphasized that exclusion at the threshold stage of the analysis should occur only in very clear cases in which the proposed expert is unable or unwilling to provide the court with fair, objective and non-partisan evidence.  Anything less than clear unwillingness or inability to do so should not lead to exclusion, but be taken into account in the overall weighing of costs and benefits of receiving the evidence.

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SCC Clarifies Law on Admissibility of Expert Evidence

TCC: Unpaid Dividend Refund Is Not a Refund

A pair of recent Tax Court of Canada judgments highlight the unsustainable position taken by the CRA that a statute-barred dividend refund that cannot be recovered by the taxpayer nonetheless reduces taxpayer’s “refundable dividend tax on hand” (“RDTOH”) balance.

We have written in this space before about the Tax Court’s strict interpretation of the three-year time limitation to receive a dividend refund under subsection 129(1) of the Income Tax Act. A consequence of this limitation is that where a taxpayer has missed the three-year filing deadline to obtain a dividend refund there can be “trapped” RDTOH which will require that the corporation pay a taxable dividend at some point in the future in order receive a dividend refund. The CRA, though, continues to take the position that the original taxable dividend reduces the RDTOH balance even where the dividend refund cannot be paid due to the three-year window being missed.

This issue was recently considered in two cases:  Presidential MSH Corporation v. The Queen (2015 TCC 61) and Nanica Holdings Limited v. The Queen (2015 TCC 85). In both cases, the issue was the same – whether the definition of “dividend refund” in subsection 129(3) refers to an amount that was paid or credited to the corporation or is merely a notional account that is automatically reduced notwithstanding that the corporation did not receive a refund. This latter position had been explicitly rejected by the Tax Court in Tawa Developments Inc. v. The Queen (2011 TCC 440). In Presidential and Nanica, the Tax Court held that an unpaid dividend refund is not a refund at all.

Yet the CRA apparently continues to enforce the Act as though the dividend refund is notional – no amount is required to be paid in order for the corporation to obtain a “dividend refund” and therefore the RDTOH balance is reduced without payment.

Fortunately, the Tax Court takes a more sensible interpretation in the recent decisions.

In Presidential, the Court undertook a textual, contextual and purposive analysis of the dividend refund concept, concluding that a payment was required before the RDTOH balance could be reduced. In rendering his judgement, however, Justice David Graham noted that the relevant provisions lack clarity and urged Parliament to take corrective measures to clear up the language in this area.

In Nanica, which was released after the decision in Presidential, Justice Valerie Miller reached the same conclusion, ultimately agreeing with the earlier decisions that “the phrase ‘dividend refund’ in section 129 is the refund of an amount”. There is no reduction of the RDTOH balance where the corporation does not receive a refund.

In light of these decisions, we hope the CRA will align its assessing position with the clear interpretation of the Tax Court.

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TCC: Unpaid Dividend Refund Is Not a Refund

FCA: TCC Erred in Awarding Costs on Basis of Pre-Appeal Conduct

The Tax Court has in recent years demonstrated a willingness to use cost awards to control the parties’ conduct. This includes awarding lump-sum amounts, which may depart markedly from the “tariff” amounts described in Tariff B of Schedule II of the Tax Court’s General Procedure Rules. Further, the Court has wrestled with the weight – if any – that the parties’ conduct prior to an appeal should carry in respect of a cost award.

In Martin v. The Queen (2013 TCC 38), the taxpayer successfully challenged a section 160 assessment in respect of certain amounts paid to her by her spouse. There was evidence the auditor had deliberately misled the taxpayer during an audit, and the taxpayer had spent considerable time and money enduring the audit and objection process before her ultimate success in the Tax Court.

On the issue of costs, the taxpayer asked for (i) solicitor-client costs, or (ii) a fixed amount under Rule 147, or (iii) the tariff costs. The Crown argued that only tariff costs should be awarded. Describing the case as “very unusual, difficult, and hopefully exceptional, case”, the Tax Court considered the pre-appeal conduct of the CRA (among other factors) and awarded the taxpayer a lump sum amount of $10,635 (2014 TCC 50).

The Tax Court repeated its view that costs may be awarded against the Crown where it pursues a meritless case in the Tax Court:

[21] … There are perhaps some arguments and some cases that the Canada Revenue Agency just should not pursue. The Crown is not a private party. By reassessing a taxpayer and failing to resolve its objection, the Crown is forcing its citizen/taxpayers to take it to Court. If the Crown’s position does not have a reasonable degree of sustainability, and is in fact entirely rejected, it is entirely appropriate that the Crown should be aware it is proceeding subject to the risk of a possibly increased award of costs against it if it is unsuccessful.

The Crown appealed and the taxpayer cross-appealed.

The Federal Court of Appeal noted that a discretionary cost award should only be set aside if the judge made an error in principle or if the award is plainly wrong (see Hamilton v. Open Window Bakery (2004 SCC 9) and Sun Indalex Finance LLC v. United Steelworkers (2013 SCC 6)).

In the Court of Appeal, the Crown alleged that the Tax Court judge had made an error of fact  (i.e., the finding that the CRA auditor had been deceitful in providing incorrect information), and an error of law (i.e., relying on the auditor’s deceitful conduct as a basis for awarding increased costs).

On the first issue, the Court held there was no error of law because the Crown admitted the auditor had engaged in deceitful behavior. On the second issue, the Court noted that conduct that occurs prior to a proceeding may be taken into account if such conduct unduly and unnecessarily prolongs the proceeding (see Merchant v. Canada (2001 FCA 19) and Canada v. Landry (2010 FCA 135)). However, the Court stated that the audit and objection stages are not a “proceeding”, which is defined in section 2 of the Rules as an appeal or reference. Accordingly, the Court stated, “the Judge erred in principle in allowing an amount incurred in respect of costs unrelated to the appeal which were incurred at the objection stage. Those expenses, by definition, were not incurred as part of the appeal ‘proceeding’”.

In respect of the cross-appeal, the Court of Appeal considered whether the lower court had erred in declining to award solicitor-client costs. The Court held there was no error because such costs could not include pre-appeal costs, and even if such costs could be awarded, solicitor-client costs are awarded only where there has been reprehensible, scandalous or outrageous misconduct connected with the litigation (see also Scavuzzo v. The Queen (2006 TCC 90)).

The Court allowed the appeal, dismissed the cross-appeal, set aside the lower court’s cost award and substituted a cost award of $4,800 plus disbursements and taxes (2015 FCA 95).

The Court of Appeal decision in Martin may have failed to address all relevant provisions of Rule 147, which arguably provide for very broad discretion for awarding costs. For example, paragraph 147(3)(j) of the Tax Court Rules states the Court may consider “any other matter relevant to the question of costs”.

The Court of Appeal’s decision also raises an issue regarding the circumstances in which deceitful pre-appeal conduct may unduly or unnecessarily prolong a proceeding – wouldn’t such a hindrance follow in every case of deceitful conduct by a party?

Further, the Court of Appeal appeared particularly concerned that the taxpayer’s pre-appeal expenses could not be addressed in the cost award, but it seems clear that the Tax Court had exercised its discretion to award a lump sum based not only on the quantum of the pre-appeal costs but on the existence of the auditor’s deceitful behavior and the Crown’s obstinate approach and refusal to resolve – at any stage – an uncomplicated tax dispute.

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FCA: TCC Erred in Awarding Costs on Basis of Pre-Appeal Conduct

Loss Determinations: No Time Like the Present

Under subsection 152(1.1) of the Income Tax Act, a taxpayer may apply for a determination of losses for a tax year.

A taxpayer typically requests a loss determination after the CRA has issued a nil assessment. This is because no objection may be filed against a nil assessment, and thus one of the ways to challenge the adjustments underlying the nil assessment (i.e., the adjustments to losses or other tax balances) is to force the issuance of a Notice of Determination/Redetermination of Losses, which then triggers the right to file a Notice of Objection. If the taxpayer does not request a loss determination, the taxpayer may challenge the quantum of the losses in a subsequent year in which the losses are applied.

However, the timing of the loss determination request is an important issue – if the losses cannot be applied until several years after the tax year at issue, this could create uncertainty and additional (and perhaps burdensome) record-keeping requirements for the taxpayer.

This issue was considered in CRA Document No. 2014-0550351C6 (November 18, 2014), in which the CRA was asked whether it would issue a determination of loss to a taxpayer who requests one upon filing of its return (i.e., rather than at the later time when a nil assessment is issued).

Under subsection 152(1.1), where the CRA ascertains the amount of a taxpayer’s non-capital loss or net capital loss (or certain other losses), and the taxpayer has not reported that amount on the taxpayer’s return, the taxpayer may request that the CRA determine the amount of the loss and the CRA must make that determination and send a notice of determination to the taxpayer.

In the present case, the CRA stated that subsection 152(1.1) provides that two requirements must be satisfied before a loss determination may be made: First, the CRA must ascertain the amount of the taxpayer’s loss to be an amount that differs from the amount reported by the taxpayer in its return, and (ii) the taxpayer requests the loss determination.

In Inco Limited v. The Queen (2004 TCC 373), the Tax Court stated,

[13] … subsection 152(1.1) of the Act clearly contemplates and establishes a procedure involving sequential steps or events that must take place in order for there to be a valid loss determination. These steps are: (a) the Minister ascertains the amount of a taxpayer’s non-capital loss for a taxation year in an amount that differs from the one reported in the taxpayer’s income tax return; (b) the taxpayer requests that the Minister determine the amount of the loss; (c) the Minister thereupon determines the amount of the loss and issues a notice of loss determination to the taxpayer.

We also note that, in a previous technical interpretation (CRA Document No. 2011-0401241I7 “Adjustments outside the normal assessment period” (September 7, 2011)), the CRA stated,

Paragraph 4 of Interpretation Bulletin IT-512 “Determination and redetermination of losses” also clarifies the CRA’s position on the requirements for a loss determination to be issued:

4. Where at the initial assessing stage or as a consequence of a reassessment arising from an audit or other investigative action by the Department the Minister ascertains a loss in an amount other than that reported by the taxpayer, a notice of assessment or reassessment (including a notice of “nil” assessment or reassessment) will be issued with an explanation of the changes. As well, the notice will inform the taxpayer that upon request the Minister will make a determination of the loss so ascertained and issue a notice of determination/redetermination. In this context, the Minister will not be considered to have ascertained that the amount of a loss differs from an amount reported by the taxpayer where the difference fully reflects a change requested by the taxpayer as a result of amended or new information.

Therefore, where the difference in the amount of a loss for the year reflects an amendment by the taxpayer, this is not considered to be “ascertained” by the Minister, and therefore, on its own, does not meet the requirements for subsection 152(1.1) loss determination. Therefore, in this case, because the taxpayer is requesting the changes and the Minister would not be “ascertaining” the amount of the loss, the taxpayer cannot request a loss determination.

In CRA Document No. 2014-0550351C6, the CRA restated that, if it accepts the amount of the loss reported in the taxpayer’s return, the CRA has not ascertained the loss to be an amount that differs from the amount reported in the return. Accordingly, the first condition of subsection 152(1.1) would not be met, and the CRA could not issue a loss determination at the time the return was filed.

In the CRA’s view, the Act would need to be amended to allow for the issuance of a loss determination at the time the taxpayer files its return.

In other words, the present is no time to request a loss determination. Unless the Act is amended to alter the timing requirements, such a request must wait until the time at which the CRA determines the taxpayer’s loss to be an amount different from the amount reported in the return.

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Loss Determinations: No Time Like the Present

CRA Charities Directorate Publishes 2015 Program Update

The CRA Charities Directorate has published its 2015 Program Update (previous updates are available here).

The CRA Charities Directorate has in recent years been actively updating and promoting the dissemination of its charity information, seeking the views of charities and other entities, and using technology to connect with charities and donors. However, the highest profile news stories in recent memory have focused on the Charities Directorate’s review/audit of charities that may be engaged in political activities and the allegation that these audits may be politically motivated (see our previous post here).

Selected highlights from the 2015 update include:

  • The Charities Directorate will, pursuant to subsection 241(3.2) of the Income Tax Act, disclose public information about every charity, including governing documents, registration applications, directors/trustees lists, financial statements and CRA communications;
  • The Charities Directorate has produced 22 videos and webinars for donors and charities, including videos addressing political activities and the first-time donors super-credit;
  • In 2014, the Charities Directorate sent over 70,000 reminders to charities to file their annual returns, over 8,000 reminders to file their financial statements, and over 5,000 notices to charities that they had not properly completed parts of their returns;
  • The Charities Directorate audits approx 1% of charities each year. In 2013-14, 845 audits were completed and which resulted in a variety of outcomes;
  • The Charities Directorate revokes the registered status of approximately 1,870 charities each year, of which 54% were voluntary, 43% were for failure to file an annual return, 2% were for cause following an audit, and 1% for loss of corporate status;
  • Of the 86,000 charities in Canada, 22% are organized and operated for the relief of poverty, 16% for the advancement of education, 38% for the advancement of religion, and 23% for other purposes beneficial to the community;
  • The Charities Directorate is in the third year of a four-year review of political activities of registered charities. The screening process for selecting charities for audit is based on the content of a charity’s T3010 form, complaints and concerns from the public, internal referrals, related files discovered during audit, media reports and other publicly-available information, and self-identification. The Charities Directorate has identified 60 charities for political activity audits, including 2 for relief of poverty, 12 for advancement of education, 7 for advancement of religion, and 37 for other purposes beneficial to the community (i.e., animal welfare, upholding human rights, protecting the environment, international development, promoting health, and community development);
  • Of these 60 audits, 21 have been completed, 28 remain on-going, and 11 will be started before the end of the project. The completed audits have resulted in six education letters, eight compliance agreements, five notices of intention to revoke, one voluntary revocation, and one annulment.

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CRA Charities Directorate Publishes 2015 Program Update

CRA Appoints New Ombudsman

The CRA has appointed a new Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, the second since the position was created in 2008.

From the CRA news release:

April 10, 2015 – Ottawa – Canada Revenue Agency

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, today announced the appointment of the new Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, Ms. Sherra Profit. Minister Findlay underscored the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) commitment to maintain its strong relationship with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman in order to provide Canadians with fair, equitable and respectful service.

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman was established in 2008 and operates independently from the CRA. Its mandate is to uphold the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and provide an impartial review of unresolved taxpayer service complaints. This Government created the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, as well as the Office of the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman, and is committed to offering the highest level of service to Canadians.

Ms. Profit has more than 15 years of experience practicing law in a wide range of areas. Ms. Profit holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from St. Francis Xavier University. She was called to the bar on April 14, 2000, in Prince Edward Island.

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CRA Appoints New Ombudsman

Westerhoff and McCallum: More from the OCA on Expert Evidence

The Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision last week in Westerhof v. Gee Estate and McCallum v. Baker (2015 ONCA 206), which are the companion cases to Moore v. Getahun.  All three appeals were heard together.

The legal issue before the Court in Westerhof  and McCallum was whether participant experts and non-party experts could give opinion evidence without having to comply with Rule 53.03, which describes the deadlines and content requirements for expert reports.

The Court of Appeal held that the Divisional Court erred in concluding that the type of evidence – whether fact or opinion – is the key factor in determining to whom Rule 53.03 applies.

Rather, the Court of Appeal was unanimous in that participant experts and non-party experts may give opinion evidence without complying with Rule 53.03.  As a result, Rule 53.03 does not apply to the opinion evidence of a non-party expert or participant expert where he or she has formed a relevant opinion based on personal observations or examinations relating to the subject matter of the litigation for a purpose other than the litigation.

Background

At the trial of Mr. Westerhof, the plaintiff proposed to call evidence from nine medical witnesses.  From the outset, the trial judge ruled that the medical witnesses who treated or assessed the plaintiff but did not comply with Rule 53.03 would not be entitled to give opinion evidence concerning their diagnosis or prognosis, even though they had not been retained for the purpose of the litigation. Those witnesses were also prevented from giving evidence of the history they had taken from Westerhof. The Divisional Court upheld the trial judge’s conclusion.  The Court of Appeal did not agree and reversed the decision, ordering a new trial.

At the trial of Mr. McCallum, the defendant appealed that decision on the basis, inter alia, that the trial judge erred by allowing treating medical practitioners who had not complied with Rule 53.03 to give “an avalanche” of opinion evidence.  The Court of Appeal dismissed this appeal.

Principles set out by the Court of Appeal

Simmons J.A., writing on behalf of the Court of Appeal, concluded that a witness with special skill, knowledge, training or experience who has not been engaged by or on behalf of a party to the litigation may give opinion evidence for the truth of its contents without complying with Rule 53.03 where:

  • The opinion to be given is based on the witness’s observation of or participation in the events at issue; and
  • The witness formed the opinion to be given as part of the ordinary exercise of his or her skill, knowledge, training and experience while observing or participating in such events.

The Court also tried to clear the confusion that often arises from referring to these witnesses as “fact witnesses” because their evidence is derived from their observations of or involvement in the underlying facts.  Simmons J.A. preferred to refer to these witnesses as “participant experts,” which takes into account that in addition to providing evidence relating to their observations of the underlying facts, they may also give opinion evidence admissible for its truth.  As with all evidence, and especially opinion evidence, the Court reiterated that it retains its gatekeeper function in relation to opinion evidence from participant experts and non-party experts.

Six factors were cited by the Court as reasons why the Divisional Court erred:

  1. The Divisional Court failed to refer to a single case under the pre-2010 jurisprudence, which support the conclusion that Rule 53.03 does not apply to opinion evidence given by participant experts. The Court reiterated its view in Moore that “the 2010 amendments to rule 53.03 did not create new duties but rather codified and reinforced … basic common law principles.”  The Court found no basis for the Divisional Court to conclude that the pre-2010 jurisprudence did not continue to apply following the 2010 amendments to the Rules relating to expert witnesses.
  2. Apart from Westerhof, no cases were brought to the Court’s attention that support the view that participant experts are obliged to comply with Rule 53.03 when giving evidence concerning treatment opinions.
  3. There was nothing in Justice Osborne’s Report on the Civil Justice Reform Project that indicated an intention to address participant experts or non-party experts; rather, the focus was litigation experts – expert witnesses engaged by or on behalf of a party to provide opinion evidence in relation to a proceeding.
  4. The use of the words “expert engaged by or on behalf of a party to provide [opinion] evidence in relation to a proceeding” in Rule 4.1.01 and Form 53 makes it clear that an expert must be “engaged by or on behalf of a party to provide [opinion] evidence in relation to the proceeding before the rule applies.  The Court concluded that witnesses, albeit ones with expertise, testifying to opinions formed during their involved in a matter, do not come within this description.  They are not engaged by a party to form their opinions, and they do not form their opinions for the purpose of the litigation.
  5. The Court was not persuaded that disclosure problems exist in relation to the opinions of participant experts and non-party experts requiring that they comply with Rule 53.03.  Quite often, these experts will have prepared documents summarizing their opinions about the matter contemporaneously with their involved, which can be obtained as part of the discovery process.  In addition, it is open to a party to seek disclosure of any opinions, notes or records of participant experts and non-party experts the opposing party intends to rely on at trial.
  6. Requiring participant witnesses and non-party experts to comply with Rule 53.03 can only add to the cost of the litigation, create the possibility of delay because of potential difficulties in obtaining Rule 53.03 compliant reports, and add unnecessarily to the workload of persons not expected to have to write Rule 53.03 compliant reports.

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Westerhoff and McCallum: More from the OCA on Expert Evidence