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Devon: TCC considers large corporation rules

In Devon Canada Corporation v. The Queen the issue is whether the taxpayer (“Devon”) may deduct $20,884,041 paid to cancel issued stock options. After the close of pleadings, the Crown brought a procedural motion relating to the large corporations rules. The Tax Court allowed the motion in part, and struck certain portions of Devon’s Notices of Appeal (2014 TCC 255) (the main tax issue has not yet been heard by the Tax Court).

The content of objections and appeals for large corporations is subject to specific rules in the Income Tax Act (Canada). Under subsection 165(1.11), a large corporation’s Notice of Objection must describe each issue, the specific the relief sought for each issue, and facts and reasons in support of its position. Further, under subsection 169(2.1), the large corporation may appeal to the Tax Court only with respect to the issues and relief sought in the Notice of Objection. The Federal Court of Appeal recently considered these rules in Bakorp Management Ltd. v. The Queen (2014 FCA 104) (see our post on Bakorp here).

In the present case, the Tax Court highlighted some of the themes that have emerged from the case law on this issue:

  1. a taxpayer is not required to describe each issue exactly but is required to describe it reasonably (Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. v. The Queen, 2003 FCA 471);
  2. the determination of what degree of specificity is required for an issue to have been described reasonably is to be made on a case by case basis (Potash);
  3. a taxpayer may add new facts or reasons on appeal but not new issues (British Columbia Transit v. The Queen, 2006 TCC 437);
  4. if the proposed additional argument would result in the large corporation seeking greater relief than was previously sought, the courts are more likely to consider the argument to be a new issue rather than a reason (Potash; Telus Communications (Edmonton) Inc. v. The Queen, 2005 FCA 159);
  5. if the proposed additional argument would result in the large corporation seeking the same relief that was previously sought, the courts are more likely to consider the argument to be the same issue (British Columbia Transit; Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce v. The Queen, 2013 TCC 170); and
  6. if the proposed additional argument would result in the large corporation seeking completely different relief than was previously sought, the courts are more likely to consider the argument to be a new issue rather than a reason (Bakorp Management Ltd. v. The Queen, 2014 FCA 104).

Devon raised three arguments in its Notices of Appeal for the deductibility of the payments to cancel stock options. These were summarized by the Tax Court as follows:

(a) Devon’s primary argument is that the payments are deductible as current expenses under subsection 9(1);

(b) In the alternative, Devon argues that the payments are eligible capital expenditures that, once added to cumulative eligible capital, would result in deductions pursuant to paragraph 20(1)(b). It further argues that, due to the fact that there were acquisitions of control of both of the predecessor companies during the taxation periods in which the payments were made, subsection 111(5.2) applies to cause significant additional deductions of cumulative eligible capital; and

(c) In the further alternative, Devon claims that the payments are financing expenses deductible under paragraph 20(1)(e).

The Crown argued that Devon, a large corporation in the years at issue, only referred to section 9 in its Notice of Objection. The other provisions – namely paragraph 20(1)(b) and subsection 111(5.2) and paragraph 20(1)(e) – were mentioned in a supplementary memorandum filed by Devon during the objection process. As such, references to provisions other than section 9 should be struck from Devon’s Notice of Appeal.

The Tax Court held that no mechanism in the Act would permit the supplemental memorandum filed by Devon to amend the original Notice of Objection. However, the Tax Court struck out references to paragraph 20(1)(b) and subsection 111(5.2) but not paragraph 20(1)(e).

The Tax Court held that paragraph 20(1)(e) did not raise a new issue and was merely an alternative reason argued by the taxpayer in favor of deducting the payments to cancel the issued stock options. However, paragraph 20(1)(b) and subsection 111(5.2) raised new issues that were not otherwise raised in the Notice of Objection and would have entitled Devon to a deduction for amounts in its cumulative eligible capital that were unrelated to the payments to cancel the stock options.

Although the taxpayer did not describe the relief sought with respect to paragraph 20(1)(e) in the Notice of Objection and only specified allowing the deduction in full, the Tax Court agreed that if a full deduction is pleaded under subsection 169(2.1) then a partial deduction of the same nature should not necessarily have to be separately pleaded under the large corporation rules.

Both the taxpayer and the Crown have appealed this procedural decision to the Federal Court of Appeal (Court File No. A-389-14).

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Devon: TCC considers large corporation rules

Gariepy: When is a director’s resignation effective?

In Gariepy v. the Queen (2014 TCC 254), the Tax Court considered (i) whether two directors had effectively resigned from their positions, and (ii) if not, whether the directors were duly diligent in seeking to prevent the failure of the company to remit source deductions.

In Gariepy, the two directors argued that they were not liable under subsection 227.1(1) of the Income Tax Act (Canada) (the “Act”) for $500,000 in unremitted source deductions of 1056922 Ontario Limited (the “Corporation”) on the basis that they had resigned as directors more than two years prior to the assessment. In the alternative, the two directors put forth a due diligence defence.

The two appellants were the only directors of the Corporation, but it was in fact managed and operated by their husbands. After approximately two years, the husbands decided it was time for their wives to cease to be directors and have themselves appointed. One of the husbands – Mr. Chriss – contacted the Corporation’s law firm to advise of the change of directors.

There was conflicting or confused testimony presented in the 10-day hearing of the appeals, but the Tax Court held that there was sufficient evidence that the two directors had resigned in 2001 and the limitation period in subsection 227.1(4) of the Act had passed – even though written resignations prepared by a corporate law firm had not been signed by either of the directors.

The Tax Court examined e-mails between the parties and their lawyers, corporate records, and minute books and determined that there was sufficient documentary and oral evidence to demonstrate the resignations were “meaningfully communicated” to the Corporation in 2001. The resignations were valid and effective as of the date the resignations were prepared by the corporate law firm. Although the Court noted serious credibility issues by both directors with respect to the resignations, it was held that these credibility issues were not relevant to decide the merits of the case but would be relevant to determining any cost awards.

The Tax Court noted that this conclusion was consistent with the Court’s earlier decisions in Perricelli v. The Queen (2002 GSTC 71)Walsh v. The Queen (2009 TCC 557)Corkum v. The Queen (2005 TCC 755)Irvine v. M.N.R. (91 DTC 91), and Cybulski v. M.N.R. (88 DTC 1531).

Although the above finding was sufficient to dispose of the appeals, the Court went on to discuss the directors’ alternative argument – whether it was nonetheless reasonable for the directors to think they had resigned and, if so, whether their complete failure to act or concern themselves with the company’s affairs during the non-remittance periods could support a due diligence defence.

On this alternative argument, the Tax Court came to different results for the directors. The Tax Court held that one of the directors – Mrs. Chriss – reasonably relied on her husband and the corporate law firm that her resignation was valid. Conversely, the Tax Court held that for the other director – Mrs. Gariepy – it was not reasonable for her to think that she had ceased to be a director. For Mrs. Gariepy, the evidence did not support a finding that she asked for, was advised of, or was otherwise aware that Mr. Chriss had been asked to or did contact a law firm to advise of the resignations.

Gariepy provides a reminder of the importance of meticulous record-keeping for directors when they resign from their positions. A signed resignation letter would have obviated the need for a lengthy proceeding, and would have clarified at the outset the potential liability of the directors for the company’s unremitted source deductions.

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Gariepy: When is a director’s resignation effective?

McKesson: Trial Judge Recuses Self From Two Remaining Issues in Transfer Pricing Case

In McKesson v. The Queen (2014 TCC 266), Justice Patrick Boyle recused himself from the two remaining issues with which he was seized in the transfer pricing case – costs and the content of the court’s public file (i.e., the determination of whether certain information may be confidential).

This unusual decision arises as a result of the content of the Appellant’s factum filed in the Federal Court of Appeal in the appeal of Justice Boyle’s trial decision in McKesson (see our posts on the Tax Court case here and the Federal Court of Appeal proceeding here and here).

In his recusal reasons, Justice Boyle wrote:

[4]        As detailed below, I have, of my own motion, decided that I am compelled to consider whether I need to recuse myself from the two remaining issues before this Court. A consideration of this issue is required because I became aware that the Appellant and Appellant’s counsel, together with its co-counsel in the Federal Court of Appeal in respect of the appeal of the trial decision, had made certain public written statements about me in its factum in the Federal Court of Appeal (the “Factum”) which, upon reflection, appear to me to clearly include:

(i)         allegations that I was untruthful and deceitful in my Reasons;

(ii)         clear untruths about me, what I said and heard in the course of the trial, as well as the existence of evidentiary foundations supporting what I wrote in my Reasons; and

(iii)        allegations of impartiality on my part.

[5]        This requires me to consider whether:

(i)         I believe that a reasonable person reading the Factum, my Reasons, and the relevant portions of the transcript would believe that the trial judge so strongly complained of by McKesson Canada might not be able to remain impartial in his consideration of costs and confidential information;

(ii)         I believe I can impartially consider, weigh and decide the costs and confidential information issues before me; and

(iii)        whether the public challenge of my impartiality expressed by McKesson Canada and its co-counsel in the Factum is itself sufficient to warrant recusing myself at this stage.

 …

[133]     I view these as public allegations by a party to the costs and confidential information matters remaining before this Court that, regardless of the merits of their reasoning or their thoughts, I am unable to decide the remaining matters impartially. I believe that a reasonable person reading only these phrases from the Factum, without reviewing my Reasons or the trial Transcript, would believe that such strong complaints by McKesson Canada and its counsel may give rise to a serious doubt that I will be seen to be able to dispose of the two remaining issues and discharge my duties on an impartial basis.

[136]     For the Reasons identified above, I have decided I have to recuse myself from the remaining costs and confidential information issues in McKesson Canada’s proceeding in this Court.

[137]     It may be that some of the perceived untruths about the trial judge described above under heading II might individually not warrant recusal, and may be within an appellate advocate’s licence to overstate through the use of absolutes like ‘never’, ‘only’ and ‘any’.

[138]     However, I am satisfied that a reasonable fair-minded Canadian, informed and aware of all the issues addressed above, would entertain doubt that I could remain able to reach impartial decisions. I believe that such a reasonable fair-minded and informed person, viewing this realistically and practically would, after appropriate reflection, be left with a reasoned suspicion or apprehension of bias, actual or perceived. Canadians should rightly expect their trial judges to have broad shoulders and thick skins when a losing party appeals their decision, but I do not believe Canadians think that should extend to accusations of dishonesty by the judge, nor to untruths about the judge. Trial judges should not have to defend their honour and integrity from such inappropriate attacks. English is a very rich language; the Appellant and its counsel could have forcefully advanced their chosen grounds for appeal without the use of unqualified extreme statements which attack the personal or professional integrity of the trial judge.

[139]     For these reasons, I will be advising my Chief Justice that I am recusing myself from completing the McKesson Canada proceeding in the Tax Court. This extends to the consideration and disposition of the costs submissions of the parties in this case, as well as to the 2010 confidential information order of Justice Hogan in this case and its proper final implementation by the Tax Court and its Registry.

No date has been set for the hearing of the main matter by the Federal Court of Appeal.

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McKesson: Trial Judge Recuses Self From Two Remaining Issues in Transfer Pricing Case

McKesson: Respondent’s Factum Filed

Earlier this year, McKesson Canada Corporation appealed the decision of the Tax Court of Canada in McKesson Canada Corporation v. The Queen (2013 TCC 404) (see Federal Court of Appeal File Nos. A-48-14 and A-49-14).

At issue was the appropriate discount rate paid under a receivables sales agreement between McKesson Canada and its parent company, MIH, under section 247 of the Income Tax Act (Canada). A secondary issue was the assessment of withholding tax on a deemed dividend that arose as a result of the lower discount rate. For our earlier blog post on the Tax Court decision see here.

In the Federal Court of Appeal, the Appellant’s Memorandum of Fact and Law was filed on June 11, 2014. For our earlier post summarizing the appellant’s memorandum see here.

The Respondent’s Memorandum of Fact and Law was recently filed on August 11, 2014.

In its Memorandum, the Respondent states that the trial judge’s “carefully reasoned decision” and findings were “amply supported” by the evidence at trial and no palpable and overriding error can be found in the trial judge’s conclusions.

The Respondent summarizes its points at issue at paragraph 56 of its Memorandum:

  • The trial judge applied the correct test. His decision was based on what arm’s-length persons would agree to pay for the rights and benefits obtained and not on findings of tax avoidance, lack of need for funds, or group control.
  • Ample evidence supports the trial judge’s determination of the arm’s-length discount rate. Since no palpable and overriding error was committed, his decision should not be disturbed.
  • The trial judge did not commit an error of law in concluding that the five-year limitation period in Article 9(3) of the Canada-Luxembourg Tax Treaty does not apply to the Part XIII tax reassessment at issue.

No hearing date has yet been set for the hearing in the Federal Court of Appeal.

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McKesson: Respondent’s Factum Filed

Tax Reminders? Now There’s an App For That

We have previously blogged about litigation apps and the absence of Canadian litigation and tax litigation apps.

Yesterday, the Canada Revenue Agency introduced a new tool for tax compliance with the release of the first CRA app for businesses.

From the CRA’s mobile apps webpage:

The Business Tax Reminders mobile app is recommended for small and medium-sized businesses with annual revenue of $20 million or less and fewer than 500 employees. The app was created based on consultations with small and medium-sized businesses, and allows business users to:

  • create custom reminders for key CRA due dates related to instalment payments, returns, and remittances.
  • customize and tailor the reminder system for their personal business deadlines with either calendar or pop-up messages.

The Canada Revenue Agency is committed to improving services for small and medium-sized businesses by reducing red tape. We have listened to these businesses across the country and created our Business Tax Reminders mobile app to ensure the CRA’s online services meet the needs of businesses by helping them fulfil their tax obligations.

We applaud the CRA for its commitment to helping Canadian taxpayers comply with their tax obligations, and we look forward to seeing how this new app is used by Canadian businesses. For tax advisors, we expect that apps, downloads, and mobile reminders will likely become a new aspect of our tax dispute discussions with the CRA.

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Tax Reminders? Now There’s an App For That

Communications With Experts: Moore v. Getahun and the Advocates’ Society Report

An expert does not draft his/her report in a vacuum. Communication with counsel is required. Ultimately, an expert must provide independent and objective evidence at a hearing. So the question arises as to what amount of communication is appropriate between counsel and the expert during the drafting stage. This was an issue considered by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Moore v. Getahun (2014 ONSC 237).

In Moore, the plaintiff suffered a wrist injury in a motorcycle accident, and claimed medical negligence against the treating doctor. The defendants called an expert to testify on the medical treatment of the plaintiff following the accident. During the preparation of the expert’s report, the expert and defence counsel had a 90-minute conference call during which the draft report was discussed.

In 2010, sections 4.1 and 53.03 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to (among other things) codify the expert’s duty to the court and to require the execution and filing of an expert’s certificate acknowledging this duty.

These amendments are similar to the recent amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Rules (General Procedure): Section 145 (“Expert Witnesses”), Form 145(2) (“Certificate Concerning Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses”) and Schedule III (“Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses”).

In Moore, the court considered the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure amendments and concluded:

Whether it is appropriate for counsel to review experts’ draft reports

[519]      Defence counsel reviewed Dr. Taylor’s draft report during a one-and-a-half-hour telephone conference call.

[520]      The purpose of Rule 53.03 of the Rules of Civil Procedure is to ensure the independence and integrity of the expert witness. The expert’s primary duty is to the court. In light of this change in the role of the expert witness under the new rule, I conclude that counsel’s practice of reviewing draft reports should stop. There should be full disclosure in writing of any changes to an expert’s final report as a result of counsel’s corrections, suggestions, or clarifications, to ensure transparency in the process and to ensure that the expert witness is neutral.

(See also the court’s discussion of this issue at paragraphs 47-52 of the Moore decision.)

Not surprisingly, the Ontario court’s narrow interpretation of Rule 53.03 attracted the attention of litigators across the country.

In response, the Advocates’ Society has drafted a position paper (and a set of nine principles) regarding communications with expert witnesses. The Advocates’ Society has taken the position that the view expressed by the court in Moore (i.e., that the amendments constitute a change in the role of expert witnesses) is mistaken. The case law prior to Moore on the subject of experts’ testimony had established that experts must testify independently and objectively. Further, the amendments were likely responding to the specific problem of “hired guns” or “opinions for sale”, and thus codified the expert’s duty and imposed the certificate requirement so that testifying experts clearly understand their duty to the court.

The report also notes the problems and unintended consequences of the court’s ruling in Moore – namely, that the ruling fails to recognize the “important and entirely appropriate role” of advocates in ensuring that expert evidence is presented in a cogent, succinct and well-organized fashion that will assist the trier of fact; further, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to communications with experts is discordant with the realities of modern litigation.

Given the similar language in the Tax Court’s rules regarding expert evidence, Moore could have an impact on the manner in which expert reports are to be prepared for a Tax Court proceeding.

Moore has been appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

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Communications With Experts: Moore v. Getahun and the Advocates’ Society Report

CRA: Tax treatment of Ponzi scheme investments

We have previously written about court decisions on the tax results arising from taxpayers’ (failed) investments in Ponzi schemes (see our posts on Roszko v. The Queen (2014 TCC 59), Johnson v. The Queen (2011 TCC 54) and (2012 FCA 253), Hammill v. The Queen (2005 FCA 252) and Orman v. Marnat (2012 ONSC 549)).

These decisions raise questions as to how the CRA may assess all aspects of the income earned and losses suffered by the duped investors. For example, while the cases focused on whether the taxpayer was required to report some of the returned funds as income, the tax treatment of losses after the collapse of the fraudulent scheme has not been considered.

The CRA has now provided some guidance on how it will administer the Income Tax Act (Canada) in respect of the income and losses arising from Ponzi schemes. In CRA Document No. 2014-0531171M6 “Fraudulent Investment Schemes” (July 3, 2014), the CRA stated:

  • Income inclusion – Amounts paid to a taxpayer that are returns on their investment should be included in the taxpayer’s income. The fact that the funds were not invested on behalf of the taxpayer does not change the nature of the transaction for the taxpayer.
  • Bad debt – If the investment was a fraudulent scheme, the taxpayer may be able to claim a bad debt under paragraph 20(1)(p) of the Act in respect of the lost investment funds. The amount of the bad debt claim will be subject to certain adjustments. The bad debt should be claimed in the year the fraud is discovered (i.e., the year in which fraud charges are laid by the Crown against the perpetrator, or at such earlier time as the debt is established to have become bad).
  • Losses – The taxpayer may be able to claim a capital loss or business investment loss:
    • Capital loss – The taxpayer may be able to claim a capital loss under paragraph 39(1)(b) of the Act, which may be carried back three years or forward indefinitely. A net capital loss may only be applied against a taxable capital gain.
    • Business investment loss – Under paragraph 39(1)(c), a business investment loss is a capital loss from a disposition of a share of a small business corporation or a debt owing to the taxpayer by a Canadian-controlled private corporation that was a small business corporation. Under paragraph 38(c) of the Act, one-half of a business investment loss is an allowable business investment loss, which may be deducted against all sources of income.
  • Other deductions – The taxpayer may be able to claim interest expenses or other carrying charges not previously claimed by filing a T1 Adjustment Request form.
  • Recovered amounts – Where the taxpayer recovers funds from a scheme (i.e., through a legal settlement or otherwise), these recovered amounts may be taxable as recovery of a previously deducted bad debt, recovery of a previously deducted business loss, or recovery of a previously deducted capital loss.
  • Taxpayer relief – The CRA will consider requests for taxpayer relief on a case-by-case basis.

This guidance is helpful, but there are many technical requirements for the operation of these provisions, and further it is not clear how the CRA’s administrative views accord with the case law. For example, at least two cases (Roszko, Orman) have held that amounts paid out a fraudulent scheme are not income to the duped investor. A third case (Hammill) held that a fraudulent scheme cannot give rise to a source of income. In future cases, we expect the courts will continue to clarify the tax treatment of income and losses arising from failed Ponzi schemes.

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CRA: Tax treatment of Ponzi scheme investments

Health Quest: Appeal allowed where Crown failed to properly plead assumptions

What is the result of the Crown’s failure to properly plead its assumptions in the Reply? This issue was considered by the Tax Court in Health Quest Inc. v. The Queen (2014 TCC 211) in which the Crown’s Reply included “assumptions” that were statements of mixed fact and law rather than facts alone.

The taxpayer was a distributor of modified and “off-the-shelf” therapeutic footwear for relief of various disabling conditions of the feet. During the reporting periods at issue, section 24.1 in Part II of Schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act stated that zero-rated supplies included footwear designed for use by an individual who has a crippled or deformed foot or other similar disability when the footwear is supplied on the written order of a medical practitioner. (The provision was amended in 2012 to broaden the definition to include written orders by a “specified professional”.) The taxpayer considered that most or all of the footwear it sold was zero-rated under s. 24.1.

The CRA audited the taxpayer for the period of January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2009. Based on a sampling of the taxpayer’s sales (in the months of August and December 2009), the CRA assessed additional GST owing of $42,274.72 for the period.

In the Tax Court, the taxpayer argued that all of the shoes it sold were for a prescribed diagnosis and thus zero-rated. The Respondent argued that the “off-the-shelf” shoes sold by the taxpayer (i.e., sold “as-is” without modification) were not zero-rated and thus subject to GST.

Under section 6 of the Tax Court of Canada Rules of Procedure Respecting the Excise Tax Act (Informal Procedure), every Reply to a Notice of Appeal must contain (among other things) a statement of the findings or assumptions of fact made by the CRA when making the assessment and the reasons the Crown intends to rely on in support of the assessment. (The Tax Court’s other procedural rules contain substantially identical provisions – see, for example, section 49 of the Tax Court of Canada Rules (General Procedure)).

In Health Quest, the Crown’s Reply stated, “In so assessing the Appellant, the Minister relied on the following …

(a)        the facts stated and admitted above;

(b)        the Appellant was a GST/HST registrant;

(c)        the Appellant was required by the Excise Tax Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-15, as amended (the “Act”) to file its GST/HST returns on a quarterly basis;

(d)       the Appellant was a corporation involved in the supply of footwear which were specially modified by the Appellant or were specially designed by the manufacturer for persons with physical disabilities;

(e)        the products described in subparagraph 7(d) above are zero-rated for HST pursuant to Schedule VI of the Act;

(f)        the Appellant also supplied other products which were not zero-rated pursuant to Schedule VI of the Act; and

(g)        during the periods under appeal, the Appellant failed to collect tax of not less than $42,274.72 on its supply of products which were not zero-rated pursuant to Schedule VI of the Act.”

The Tax Court noted that paragraphs (f) and (g) were problematic in that they both contained statements of mixed fact and law, which the Federal Court of Appeal has stated have no place in the Minister’s assumptions (see Anchor Pointe Energy Ltd. v. the Queen (2003 FCA 294) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce v. The Queen (2013 FCA 122)). In Anchor Pointe, the Court of Appeal stated,

[23] The pleading of assumptions gives the Crown the powerful tool of shifting the onus to the taxpayer to demolish the Minister’s assumptions. The facts pleaded as assumptions must be precise and accurate so that the taxpayer knows exactly the case it has to meet.

In Health Quest, the Tax Court determined the Crown’s key “assumptions” were merely the Respondent’s view on the application of the law to the facts of the appeal.

The Court noted that where the Crown has not set out any proper assumptions of fact in the pleadings, the evidentiary onus reverts to the Crown to establish the correctness of the assessment (see Pollock v. Minister of National Revenue (94 DTC 6050 (Fed. C.A.) and Brewster v. the Queen (2012 TCC 187)). In other words, the normal requirement that a taxpayer must adduce evidence to “demolish” the Crown’s assumptions is reversed and the Crown must prove its case.

In Health Quest, the Respondent’s only evidence was the testimony of the appeals officer. The Tax Court held the testimony did not establish, on a balance of probabilities, that the footwear in question was not zero-rated. The Court noted that it would have been beneficial to have product literature, scientific studies, or the testimony of medical professionals, and this type of evidence would have been essential to engage in a meaningful textual, contextual and purposive analysis of the applicable legislation (there are no previous cases that have considered the interpretation of section 24.1).

The Tax Court allowed the appeal.

The Court’s decision in Health Quest is a helpful reminder of the importance of including only facts and not legal arguments in the assumptions in a Reply. Taxpayers and their counsel should closely scrutinize the assumptions and reasons described in a Reply to ensure the pleading conforms with the Tax Court’s rules.

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Health Quest: Appeal allowed where Crown failed to properly plead assumptions

Bolton Steel Tube: TCC Orders Crown to Reassessment in Accordance with Settlement‏

In Bolton Steel Tube Co. Ltd. v. The Queen (2014 TCC 94), the Tax Court of Canada allowed the taxpayer’s motion requesting an Order that would require the CRA to reassess the taxpayer in accordance with the terms of a settlement agreement. In doing so, the Tax Court discussed certain principles regarding settlement agreements and the resulting reassessments.

In Bolton Steel Tube, the CRA reassessed the taxpayer for its 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 taxation years on the basis that the taxpayer failed to report income in each of those taxation years (the “2007 Reassessment”).

In 1996, the taxpayer reported $1.2 million of income. The CRA added approximately $600,000 of unreported income for total income of $1.8 million. During examinations for discovery, the CRA’s representative admitted that approximately $200,000 of the $600,000 increase should not have been made. Accordingly, for the 1996 taxation year, the maximum amount of income the CRA could have added as unreported income was $400,000. The CRA further confirmed this admission in its Reply.

On June 15, 2012, the taxpayer delivered to the Crown an offer to settle which proposed to settle the appeals on the basis that (i) the CRA would vacate the reassessments for 1994, 1995 and 1997, and (ii) the CRA would reassess the 1996 taxation year to add $403,219 to the taxpayer’s income and impose a penalty under subsection 163(2) of the Income Tax Act (the “Act”). The Crown accepted this offer without further negotiation, and the parties entered Minutes of Settlement on these terms.

Following the settlement, the CRA issued a reassessment that calculated the taxpayer’s income for its 1996 taxation year to be $2,266,291, essentially adding $403,219 to the $1.8 million that had been previously assessed (the “2012 Reassessment”). The result was illogical: The agreed amount of unreported income – $403,219 – was added twice, and the $200,000, which the CRA had admitted was not to be added to the taxpayer’s income, was included as well.

In requesting the Order, the taxpayer argued that:

The 2012 Reassessment was not supported on the facts and the law;

The 2012 Reassessment violated the principle that the CRA cannot appeal its own assessment; and

The 2012 Reassessment was made without the taxpayer’s consent, which would be required pursuant to subsection 169(3) of the Act.

The Crown argued that if the 2012 Reassessment was varied or vacated then there had been no meeting of the minds, the settlement was not valid, and the 2007 Reassessment should remain under appeal.

The Tax Court agreed with the taxpayer on all three arguments.

With respect to the first argument, the Tax Court found the CRA’s interpretation of the Minutes of Settlement to be “divorced from the facts and law”. The Crown’s position was unsupportable since settlements must conform with the long-standing principal from Galway v M.N.R. (74 DTC 6355 (Fed. C.A.)) that settlements must be justified under, and in conformity with, the Act. In Bolton Steel Tube, the Tax Court went as far to say “even if both parties consented to settling in this manner, it could not be permitted” and “there is nothing to support the [Crown's] interpretation and nothing to support the [Crown's] further contention that the [taxpayer] offered this amount in exchange for other years to be vacated”.

With respect to the arguments surrounding subsection 169(3) of the Act, the Tax Court found that the taxpayer had not consented to having its income increased by the amount in the 2012 Reassessment.

The Crown argued that subsection 169(3) of the Act, which allows the CRA to reassess an otherwise statute-barred year upon settlement of an appeal, also allows the CRA to increase the amount of tax which the CRA could reassess despite subsection 152(5) of the Act. Subsection 152(5) of the Act is the operative provision that prevents the CRA from increasing an assessment of tax. Here, the Tax Court maintained the longstanding principle that a reassessment cannot be issued that results in an increase of tax beyond the amount in the assessment at issue. This is tantamount to the CRA appealing its own reassessment, which is not permitted, and thus renders the 2012 Reassessment void. We note that the Tax Court also considered the 2012 Reassessment to be void on the basis that it was an arbitrary assessment.

The Tax Court rejected the Crown’s argument that the settlement was ambiguous and therefore there was no meeting of minds as would be required for a valid contract. The Crown argued that the settlement was not valid and therefore the years under appeal should remain in dispute. The Tax Court turned to fundamental principles of contractual interpretation and found that the contract validly existed since it could reasonably be expected that the Crown would have known that the addition of $403,219 was to be added to the appellant’s income as originally reported (i.e., $1.2 million) and not to the income amount in the 2007 Reassessment (i.e., $1.8 million).

Accordingly, the Tax Court rejected the Crown’s argument, found that the settlement was valid and that the Minister should reassess on the basis that $403,219 should be added to the taxpayer’s income as originally reported. Since the 2012 reassessment was not valid, and therefore did not nullify the 2007 reassessment, and a notice of discontinuance had not yet been filed, the Tax Court continued to have jurisdiction over the appeal.

The result of this motion was a clear victory for the taxpayer and for common sense. It serves as a reminder that precision is essential when entering into settlement agreements.

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Bolton Steel Tube: TCC Orders Crown to Reassessment in Accordance with Settlement‏

McKesson: Appellant’s Factum Filed‏

On January 10, 2014, McKesson Canada Corporation appealed the decision of the Tax Court of Canada in McKesson Canada Corporation v. The Queen (2013 TCC 404) (see Federal Court of Appeal File Nos. A-48-14 and A-49-14).

In McKesson, the Tax Court upheld the CRA’s transfer price adjustments (made pursuant to section 247 of the Income Tax Act (Canada)) that had reduced the discount rate paid under a receivables sales agreement between McKesson Canada and its parent company, MIH, from 2.206% to 1.013%. The Tax Court also upheld the assessment of withholding tax on a deemed dividend that arose in a secondary adjustment resulting from the lower discount rate.

The Appellant’s Memorandum of fact and law was filed on June 11, 2014.

In its Memorandum, the Appellant states that the Trial Judge made a “fundamental error of law” and requests that the appeal be allowed with costs and the matter be remitted to the Tax Court for a new trial before a different judge. The Appellant describes the issues on the appeal as follows:

Did the Trial Judge err in law by stepping outside the pleadings and the case put forward and as developed by the parties over the course of the trial to find against McKesson Canada, thereby depriving McKesson Canada of its right to know the case it had to meet and its right to a fair opportunity to meet that case?

Did the Trial Judge err in law when he misconstrued the arm’s-length principle by holding that, in determining what terms and conditions arm’s length parties would have made or imposed, he was to assume that one party (purchaser) controls the other (seller)?

As a result of stepping outside of the pleadings and the case put forward and as developed by the parties over the course of the trial and committing an error of law, did the Trial Judge calculate the discount rate in a manner that ignored the assumption of risk by MIH, contrary to the terms of the Agreement and resulted in a discount rate that is commercially absurd?

Did the Trial Judge err in permitting the Minister to assess non-resident withholding tax after the expiry of the applicable limitation period and in contravention of Canada’s obligations under a bilateral tax treaty?

See our previous commentary on the Tax Court’s McKesson decision here.

 

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McKesson: Appellant’s Factum Filed‏