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CRA: Financial Tools for Canadian Startup Companies

On November 26, 2014, the Canadian Government partnered with Startup Canada to convene Startup Canada Day on the Hill.

Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay spoke at the event and highlighted the strategies the CRA has implemented to assist startup companies across the country.

Startups have bright, innovative founder teams, but many lack the financial expertise, time, and money required to maintain adequate financial records. This may seem insignificant in the short-term, but this will become increasingly important when attracting investors and in dealing with the CRA.

Minister Findlay stated that, with this reality in mind, the CRA has worked toward reducing the red tape associated with starting and running a business in Canada. In November 2012, 52 small business owners and 91 small business service representatives and bookkeepers participated in meetings across the country to identify issues stemming from federal rules and regulations.

How is the CRA helping Startups?

  1. Through the operation of a secure online self-service portal, available 24/7 through which many different kinds of transactions can be completed, including managing banking information and filing tax returns replacing the need to keep track of copious amounts of paper;
  2. Through the development of the Small Business Checklist which includes user-friendly and detailed information on starting, maintaining and winding up a business;
  3. Through the Business Tax Reminders App, created in consultation with small and medium-sized business owners, which allows businesses to create reminders for when their various financial payments are due; and
  4. Through the Liaison Officer Initiative which provides in – person support to businesses at key stages in their growth cycle in an effort to avoid common tax pitfalls, among other things, that would cost them in the future.

Minister Findlay stated that, in the CRA’s view, these tools provide a solid starting point for tax compliance so company founders can focus on what’s most important to them – making their business grow.

As part of the Government’s commitment to consult with businesses every two years, the CRA recently completed another red tape reduction consultation process in November. Results should be available in the Spring 2015.

A version of this post was originally published on Dentons’ Tech Startup Centre blog

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CRA: Financial Tools for Canadian Startup Companies

CRA Announces Collaboration with CPA Canada

As expected, the CRA has formally announced the details of its collaborative efforts with CPA Canada.

The CRA recently spoke about this collaboration at the Toronto Centre CRA-Tax Professionals breakfast seminar.

The CRA news release, which is titled “Harper Government solidifies partnership with Canada’s Professional Accountants”, states,

The new Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)-Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) Framework Agreement was formally signed by Andrew Treusch, Commissioner of Revenue and Chief Executive Officer of the CRA, and Kevin Dancey, President and CEO of the CPA, during the Financial Management Institute’s Professional Development Week, being held in Ottawa from November 25 to 28. The Framework Agreement recognizes the important relationship between the CRA and CPA Canada in the successful administration of Canada’s tax system, and promotes regular dialogue between the two organizations on tax-related matters of common interest. It will also ensure that input from Canada’s accounting professionals is considered as the CRA moves forward with its change agenda.

A central part of the Framework Agreement includes the creation of seven committees, each co-chaired by a senior representative from both the CRA and CPA Canada, to focus on seven priority areas:

  • Services;
  • Compliance;
  • Tax Administration;
  • Scientific Research and Experimental Development;
  • Commodity Tax;
  • Red Tape Reduction; and
  • Training

The agreement is a key element in the CRA’s efforts to build strong relationships with the Canadian accounting community and tax service providers so that Canada continues to have a well-functioning and world-class tax system that benefits all Canadians.

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CRA Announces Collaboration with CPA Canada

Brent Kern Family Trust: FCA Dismisses Appeal

In Brent Kern Family Trust v. The Queen (2014 FCA 230), the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal with reasons delivered from the bench. The taxpayer had argued that the decision of Canada v. Sommerer (2012 FCA 207) should not apply in this case and, in the alternative, that Sommerer was wrongly decided and ought not to be followed.

Brent Kern Family Trust was a case in which the taxpayer undertook a series of transactions whereby a taxpayer (Mr. K) completed an estate freeze for two corporations (the underlying facts are described in detail in the Tax Court decision (2013 TCC 327)).

Following the estate freeze, two family trusts were set up each with Mr. K and his family as beneficiaries as well as each trust having a separate corporate beneficiary. Next, each of the trusts subscribed for common shares in the corporate beneficiary of the other trust.

Once the structure was in place, a dividend was flowed through the structure and, as a final step, one of the trusts paid funds to Mr. K but relied on the application of subsection 75(2) of the Act to deem the dividend income received by the trust to be income in the hands of one of the corporate beneficiaries. Accordingly, if subsection 75(2) of the Act applied, the income would not be subject to tax as a result of section 112 of the Act and Mr. K could keep the gross amount of the funds.

In the decision rendered at trial, the Tax Court held that Sommerer case applied and subsection 75(2) of the Act did not apply on the basis that the trust purchased the property in question for valuable consideration and no “reversionary transfer” occurred.

In Brent Kern Family Trust, the Court of Appeal found that there was no reviewable error in the trial judge’s finding that Sommerer applied, that the Court of Appeal in Sommerer “spent considerable time analyzing the text, content and purpose of subsection 75(2)”, and no reviewable error had been brought to the Court’s attention in the present case.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal and upheld the Tax Court’s decision.

We note also that at least one taxpayer has brought an application in a provincial court to correct a transaction where the taxpayer never intended for Sommerer to apply. In Re Pallen Trust (2014 BCSC 405), the B.C. Supreme Court rescinded two dividends, the effect of which was to eliminate the tax liability in the trust. Re Pallen Trust is under appeal to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

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Brent Kern Family Trust: FCA Dismisses Appeal

Brogan Family Trust: CRA Not Entitled to Notice of Rectification Application

Is the CRA entitled to notice of a rectification application?

In Brogan Family Trust (2014 ONSC 6354), the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said “no”, and dismissed the Crown’s motion to set aside an earlier rectification order on the basis that the CRA had not been notified of the proceeding.

In Brogan, the taxpayer had restructured his business and settled a trust for family tax planning purposes in 2004. Subsequently, in 2010, the trustees became aware of an error in the trust agreement that prevented the distribution of trust property to intended minor beneficiaries. The trust made an application for rectification of the trust agreement so that the trust property could be distributed as intended. The trust’s tax litigation counsel advised that no notice to the CRA was required.

The rectification application proceeded in November 2010. Shortly before the rectification order was granted, the trust sold a business. In its 2010 tax return, the trust allocated the proceeds to the beneficiaries, who in turn reported the income in their returns.

The CRA commenced an audit of the sale of the business and the trust in June 2012, at which time it became aware of the 2010 rectification order that had corrected the trust agreement. In August 2012, the CRA was provided a copy of the rectification order. And then in May 2013, the CRA brought its motion for an order setting aside the 2010 rectification order.

The Court considered three issues:

  1. Did the CRA bring the motion “forthwith” after learning of the rectification order?
  2. Did the CRA have standing to bring the motion?
  3. Should the CRA have been notified of the rectification application?

The Crown argued that (i) the delay was not inordinate because there had been internal confusion at the CRA in respect of the rectification order, (ii) the CRA was a creditor and thus was affected by the rectification order, and (iii) the CRA’s own view and the custom among tax litigators is that the CRA should be given notice (see, for example, Income Tax Technical News No. 22, at pg. 6).

The taxpayer argued that (i) the CRA’s 10-month delay was unreasonable and not “forthwith”, (ii) the CRA was not affected by the rectification application, and (iii) in any event, there was no requirement the CRA be notified of the rectification application.

The Court agreed with the taxpayer and dismissed the Crown’s motion.

The Court stated that the CRA was not a creditor and thus was not affected by the rectification order. The Court contrasted the current case with Snow White Productions Inc. v. PMP Entertainment Inc. (2004 BCSC 604), in which the rectification proceeding had been launched in response to an adverse ruling by the CRA and it was thus appropriate for the CRA to receive notice and participate (see also Aim Funds Management Inc. v. Aim Trimark Corporate Class Inc. (2009 CanLII 29491 (ON SC)).

On the issue of delay, the Court stated that the CRA had not brought the motion forthwith. The 10-month delay was the fault of the CRA, and even after the rectification order was referred to counsel, it still took two months for the motion to be launched.

And finally, on the issue of whether notice should be provided to the CRA, the Court stated that it had been directed to no authority on the point that the CRA should be given notice, nor on the point that notice is required if the CRA is not a creditor. The Court was not persuaded that providing notice to the CRA was the practice of tax litigators, and nor was it the law.

Rather, in the Court’s view, the delivery of a Notice of Assessment creates rights for the CRA to participate in a rectification proceeding as a creditor (see, for example, Canada (A.G.) v. Juliar ((2000) 50 O.R. (3d) 728 (C.A.) (a case on which Dentons was counsel for the successful taxpayer)).

The Court concluded as follows:

[22] … the CCRA is only required to be given notice of a proposed rectification proceeding when the CCRA’s legal interests might be directly affected by the outcome of the rectification proceeding, such as where the CCRA is a creditor and the rectification would affect its rights. Otherwise, the CCRA might be made a party when so advised by counsel that notice should be given to the CCRA.

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Brogan Family Trust: CRA Not Entitled to Notice of Rectification Application

Highlights from the Toronto Centre CRA & Tax Professionals Groups Breakfast Seminar (November 6, 2014)

On November 6, 2014 at the Toronto Centre Canada Revenue Agency & Tax Professionals Breakfast Seminar, representatives from the CRA provided an update on the Income Tax Rulings Directorate (“Rulings”) and discussed current topics of interest.

Income Tax Rulings Directorate Update

Mickey Sarazin, Director General of the CRA’s Income Tax Rulings Directorate in Ottawa, presented on recent developments at Rulings.

Mr. Sarazin noted that 10 years ago Rulings received approximately 500 ruling requests whereas today Rulings receives approximately 120 requests each year. As a result, there is an increased effort to engage with not only taxpayers but also the Department of Finance, Department of Justice, internal CRA employees, various accounting and legal professional organizations.

The slides from Mr. Sarazin’s presentation are available here.

Folios - In March 2013, 11 folios were published, which took approximately two years to draft and finalize. Ruling has partnered with the Canadian Tax Foundation and CPA Canada to increase the number and timeliness of Folios. Currently, there are 38 additional folios at the draft stage.

National Capacity Building Forums – Rulings is providing taped video sessions or webinars for all CRA employees in order to educate and raise awareness of certain tax issues and subjects. Attendees also include individuals from the Department of Justice and Revenue Quebec.

Pre-Rulings Consultations – This initiative was announced on November 26, 2013 at the Roundtable session at the 65th Annual Tax Conference of the Canadian Tax Foundation held in Toronto, Ontario. The initiative allows taxpayers to meet with Rulings to discuss potential transactions before a formal ruling application is filed. Although only 6-7 requests were received in the first nine months of the program, in the past three months 21 requests were received. Of these 21 requests, 17 have been concluded. In nine of the 17 requests, the CRA responded that a favourable ruling would not be issued.

Technical Capacity/Satellite Offices – Rulings is continuing efforts to hire new staff and reallocate existing staff. Rulings is also establishing satellite offices to attract new employees. For example, Rulings has recently established a presence in the Toronto Centre TSO and the North York TSO. In future years, Rulings expects that it will grow its presence in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

Stakeholder Engagement -In conjunction with CPA Canada, Rulings has established a framework for consideration of current issues. Seven committees have been struck under the framework:

  • Service Committee (i.e., how to improve services provided to taxpayers);
  • Compliance Committee (i.e., how to address early conflicts between auditors and taxpayers before the appeals stage);
  • Tax Administration Committee (i.e., dealing with flaws in the legislation);
  • SR&ED Committee (i.e., all issues relating to the scientific research and experimental development tax incentives);
  • HST/GST/Excise Committee (i.e., all issues relating to these areas of the law)
  • Training Committee (i.e., hiring new talent and training auditors)
  • Red Tape Committee (i.e., focusing on increasing efficiencies at a national level)

Current Topics of Interest

Vitaliy Anissimov, Industry Sector Specialist, Income Tax Rulings Directorate, discussed several topics that had been addressed in the CRA Roundtable at the recent APFF conference in Montreal (we expect that the full questions/answers will be published by the CRA in the future).

The slides from Mr. Anissimov’s presentation are available here. A general summary of some of the issues discussed is as follows:

  • In response to the interest deductibility discussion in Swirsky v. The Queen (2013 TCC 73), the CRA noted that as long as there is a reasonable expectation that a corporation will pay dividends then interest can be deducted on loans to acquire common shares of that same corporation (see paragraph 31, of IT-533). Each case will, however, be decided on its own facts.
  • The CRA’s position on the use of average exchange rates has not changed for the purposes of gains or losses on account of income (see CRA Document No. 2014-0529961M4 ” Capital gains on property in foreign currency” (June 10, 2014)).
  • The CRA noted that interest paid by a trust on a note issued by it to a beneficiary in settlement of a capital interest of the beneficiary in the trust is not deductible by the trust for the purposes of calculating its income under 20(1)(c)(ii) of the Act because there is no income-earning purpose;
  • In response to D&D Livestock v. The Queen (2013 TCC 318), which allowed a taxpayer to take into account twice the amount of safe income in the context of subsection 55(2) of the Act, the CRA noted that it would consider using GAAR in this type of case where there is a duplication of tax attributes by the taxpayer.
  • Subsection 98(3) would not apply where a partnership ceases to exist as a result of an acquisition by a single partner of all partnership interest. The requirements of subsection 98(3) would not be met in this type of case.
  • The CRA will consider the reasonableness of maintaining surplus accounts in a particular currency on a case by case basis (see also Regulation 5907(6) and section 261 of the Income Tax Act).

 

Highlights from the Toronto Centre CRA & Tax Professionals Groups Breakfast Seminar (November 6, 2014)

Maddin: Failure to Inquire Leaves Director Liable

In Maddin v. The Queen (2014 TCC 277), the taxpayer was a director of a corporation in the marble and granite industry (the “Corporation”) which failed to remit nearly $300,000 of source deductions related to salaries, wages and other remuneration paid to employees. The sole issue before the Tax Court was whether the taxpayer could make out a due diligence defence under subsection 227.1(3) of the Income Tax Act (Canada).

For earlier blog posts on directors’ liability see our blog posts here and here.

The evidence established that the taxpayer intended to play a limited advisory role in the Corporation. Mr. Barker, another director, was in charge of managing the daily operations of the Corporation. However, the Tax Court also noted the following additional facts:

  • The taxpayer was in the office 2-3 days a week;
  • The taxpayer was familiar with the Corporation’s business structure, its banking operations and the accounting systems;
  • The taxpayer executed various letters on behalf of the Corporation;
  • The taxpayer had a close relationship with the initial bookkeeper and communicated with her generally throughout the period at issue;
  • When a new bookkeeper (the mother of another director) was hired, the taxpayer was aware that she did not necessarily understand the bookkeeping systems; and
  • The taxpayer knew of the Corporation’s financial difficulties.

Ultimately, the Tax Court held that these factual circumstances should have prompted Mr. Maddin to inquire into the financial health of the Corporation. Mr. Maddin did not exercise the appropriate standard of care, diligence and skill required of a director to avoid being held personally liable for the unremitted source deductions.

This case is another reminder that the Courts will, in general, hold directors to a relatively high standard of conduct. In order to successfully argue a due diligence defence, directors involved in the business must take active steps to inquire into the financial state of affairs and communicate regularly with staff to obtain reports that source deductions are being remitted in a timely manner.

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Maddin: Failure to Inquire Leaves Director Liable

Foreign Charities and the Changing Landscape of CRA Charity Audits

There has been a flurry of recent scrutiny and activity in the areas of foreign and domestic charities – few foreign charities remain on the list of qualified donees since the changes to the definition of “qualified donee” in the Income Tax Act, and the CRA’s Charities Directorate appears to have taken a keen interest in the political activities of certain domestic charities.

Donors and charities would be prudent to monitor these developments and obtain professional advice where necessary.

Foreign Charities

Before 2013, a “qualified donee” under the Income Tax Act automatically included those foreign charities to which the Canadian government had made a gift in previous years (within a certain timeframe). However, that changed when the definition of qualified donee was amended to include only those foreign organizations that have applied to the CRA for registration, which would be granted if the foreign charity received a gift from the Canadian government and the CRA was satisfied that the foreign charity is carrying on relief activities in response to a disaster, providing urgent humanitarian aid, or carrying on activities in the national interest of Canada.

The CRA website lists only one foreign charity that has been registered – The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The CRA website also lists those organizations that had received gifts from the Canadian government before the changes to the definition of qualified donee.

Political Activities and CRA Charity Audits

The foreign charity changes occurred around the same time the CRA Charities Directorate increased its “political activities compliance efforts”. In general, charities are restricted from engaging in or supporting political activities unless those activities are wholly subordinate to their other charitable purposes. The CRA’s administrative position is that a charity must devote less than 10% of its total resources in a year to political activities.

The CRA focus on charities and political activities sparked many media articles raising the issue of whether the CRA’s auditing practices were themselves inherently politically-motivated (see articles here, herehere and here).

Cathy Hawara, the Director General of the CRA’s Charities Directorate, has denied accusations that these charity audits were politically motivated (see Ms. Hawara’s speech to the CBA Charity Law Symposium on May 23, 3014). The CRA also publicly stated that recent audits of charities were intended to focus on all types of charities and not only those with certain political inclinations. Further, the CRA has recently published a Charities Program Update which (among other things) aims to increase the transparency of its audits in the charitable sector and provide guidance as to how audits for charities involved in political activities are conducted. However, at the same time, the CRA has publicly stated that it will not divulge the guidelines for political activity audits of charities.

The controversy surrounding the CRA’s audit selection process persists. On September 15, 2014 a letter signed by 400 academics was released, demanding that the CRA halt its audit of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (“CCPA”). This letter was sent in response to the release of a CRA document obtained by the CCPA pursuant to an access to information request wherein the CRA states the reason for audit as follows: “A review of the Organization’s website… suggests that the Organization may be carrying out prohibited partisan political activities, and that much of its research/educational materials may be biased/one-sided.”

In their letter, the academics counter that “critical policy analysis does not equate with political activism, nor is it ‘biased’ or ‘one-sided’.” They argue that there is legitimate concern that charities are now self-censoring to avoid aggravating auditors and this audit activity will stifle sound, effective, and legitimate research.

On October 20, 2014, the Broadbent Institute released a report that adds further momentum to the speculative argument that the CRA is less interested in compliance and more interested in politically-motivated retribution against government critics (see also here).

The report highlights 10 “right-leaning” charities that have apparently escaped CRA audit, despite making public statements that may indicate that such charities are carrying out political activities without reporting them. The report concludes by suggesting that an impartial inquiry into the CRA’s audits of charitable organizations is the only way to come to a clear conclusion on this controversial matter.

The message is clear. The CRA is increasing scrutiny on political activities in the charitable sector. Charities should take active steps to ensure that they are compliant with applicable legislation.

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Foreign Charities and the Changing Landscape of CRA Charity Audits

B.C. Supreme Court Rescinds Land Transfers

In Re 0741508 BC Ltd and 0768723 BC Ltd  (2014 BCSC 1791), the British Columbia Supreme Court (“BCSC”) considered whether rescission should be granted in respect of two real estate transactions in which the applicant corporations had transferred several parcels of land to a partnership.

The transactions were undertaken as part of a proposed commercial development of the land. The parties intended – in accordance with industry practice – that there would be no net GST/HST payable on the land transfers (i.e., the GST/HST payable would be offset by an input tax credit).

However, the partnership was not registered for GST/HST purposes under the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) and accordingly the input tax credit was not available. The CRA audited members of the corporate group and reassessed nearly $6 million in GST/HST and penalties.

The parties brought an application to the BCSC for rescission of the transfers (i.e., to effectively put the property back in the hands of the selling corporations).

The application was opposed only by the CRA, which argued that rescission should not be available as the mistake in question was not related to the purpose of the transaction but only its consequences. In Gibbon v Mitchell ([1990] 1 W.L.R. 1304 (Ch.), a U.K. court held that rescission would be granted for a mistake where “the mistake is as to the effect of the transaction itself and not merely as to its consequences or the advantages to be gained by entering into it”. Similar reasoning was followed by the Ontario court in 771225 Ontario Inc. v Bramco Holdings Co Ltd. ([1994] 17 O.R. (3d) 571 (Gen. Div.)), which held that an assessed land transfer tax “was a consequence of the transaction, rather than its purpose, and therefore the case did not fall within the strict confines of the rule for granting relief.”

In considering whether to exercise its discretion to order equitable rescission, the BCSC cited McMaster University v Wilchar Construction Ltd. ([1971] 3 O.R. 801 (H.C.)):

In equity, to admit of correction, mistake need not relate to the essential substance of the contract, and provided that there is mistake as to the promise or as to some material term of the contract, if the Court finds that there has been honest, even though inadvertent, mistake, it will afford relief in any case where it considers that it would be unfair, unjust or unconscionable not to correct it.

In the present case, the BCSC noted that, in Re: Pallen Trust (2014 BCSC 305) the court had rejected Gibbon and instead relied on the test adopted in the U.K. Supreme Court decision in Pitt v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs ([2013] UKSC 26) to determine whether to rescind a voluntary transaction.

Equitable rescission, under Pallen, would be available where there was a “causative mistake of sufficient gravity” as to the “legal character or nature of the transaction, or as to some matter of fact or law which is basic to the transaction” such that it would be unconscionable, unjust or unfair not to correct the mistake.

The BCSC noted that, in the transactions at hand, the intention of the parties had always been that the partnership would be registered under the ETA so that no net GST/HST would be payable. This was distinguishable from Bramco, where there had never been a specific intention to minimize the applicable tax.

The BCSC reiterated the principle set out in McMaster and Pallen that “if there has been an honest, even though inadvertent mistake, equity will afford relief in any case that the court considers that it would be unfair, unjust, or unconscionable not to correct it” and held that it would be unfair and unjust for either Canada and/or the Province to gain over $6 million plus accruing interest solely because of a mistake in not registering under the ETA.

The BCSC granted the rescission and held that there was “no adequate legal remedy available, the petitioners are not seeking to carry out retroactive tax planning, and there is no prejudice to third parties.”

The Court did not explicitly consider whether the mistake met the threshold of being of sufficient gravity as to the legal character, nature of the transaction, or as to some matter of fact or law which is basic to the transaction.  Presumably, the punitive and negative results of the transaction were sufficiently grave – that is, the mistake about the fact as to whether ETA registration had been completed was sufficiently grave – that the Court found rescission should be granted.

Pallen has been appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeal.  It will be interesting to see if the present case is appealed as well.  Either way, the equitable doctrine of rescission continues to develop in the context of unintended tax consequences.

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B.C. Supreme Court Rescinds Land Transfers

Beware of Tax Phishing Scams

We have recently become aware (again) of fake emails purporting to emanate from the CRA and informing the recipient that he/she has received an Interac email money transfer (i.e., a surprise refund).

Generally, the text of these emails is as follows:

Dear TaxPayer,

Canada Revenue Agency has sent you an INTERAC e-Transfer
 (previously INTERAC Email Money Transfer).

Amount: $827.71 (CAD)
Sender’s Message: A message was not provided
Expiry Date: 10 October 2014

Action Required:
To deposit your money, click here: [fake URL here]

2014 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Online Support

These are scam emails and the recipients should never open any attachments or links that may accompany or be embedded in the emails.

The CRA has previously warned about these types of phishing scams:

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) warns all taxpayers to beware of telephone calls or emails that claim to be from the CRA but are not. These are phishing and other fraudulent scams that could result in identity and financial theft.

People should be especially aware of phishing scams asking for information such as credit card, bank account, and passport numbers. The CRA would never ask for this type information. Some of these scams ask for this personal information directly, and others refer the taxpayer to a Web site resembling the CRA’s, where the person is asked to verify their identity by entering personal information. Taxpayers should not click on links included in these emails. Email scams may also contain embedded malicious software that can harm your computer and put your personal information at risk.

Examples of recent telephone scams involve threatening or coercive language to scare individuals into pre-paying fictitious debt to the CRA. These calls should be ignored and reported to the RCMP (see contact information below).

Examples of recent email scams include notifications to taxpayers that they are entitled to a refund of a specific amount, or informing taxpayers that their tax assessment has been verified and they are eligible to receive a tax refund. These emails often have CRA logos or internet links that appear official. Some contain obvious grammar or spelling mistakes.

These types of communication are not from the CRA.

More information is available the CRA’s Security webpage.

Recipients of these scam emails should report the email to info@antifraudcentre.ca or contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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Beware of Tax Phishing Scams

Whose Mistake? Ontario Sup. Ct. Rectifies Trust Deed

Most tax rectification cases address situations in which a professional advisor has made a mistake in the planning and execution of a transaction with the result that an unintended tax consequence follows (i.e., payment of a capital dividend at a time when the company did not have a sufficient balance in its capital dividend account).

These are the relatively simple cases. However, in certain situations, the taxpayer and the CRA may take a different view on the interpretation and effect of a document, which could lead to an unintended tax result. Does the doctrine of rectification operate in these situations?

This was the situation considered by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Kaleidescape Canada Inc. et al. v. Computershare Trust Company of Canada et al. (2014 ONSC 4983), in which the Court was asked to determine whether the parties intended that a company remain a Canadian-controlled private company (“CCPC”) for the purposes of obtaining certain scientific research and development tax credits under the Income Tax Act (Canada) (the “Act”).

The Court granted the rectification, and Kaleidescape is a helpful case for those situations in which the “mistake” in a transaction arises as a result of competing interpretations of a parties’ document(s).

Facts

Kaleidescape Canada Inc. (“K-Can”) was a research and development company in Waterloo, Ontario. Under the Act, a CCPC is a Canadian corporation that is not controlled by a public company or a non-resident (or a combination of such persons). K-Can was structured as a “deadlock” corporation so that it would not be controlled by a non-resident and therefore would qualify as a CCPC.

From 2006 to 2008, K-Can’s shareholdings were restructured. In 2008, K-Can shares were owned by Kaleidescape Inc. (“K-US”), a Delaware company with head offices in California, and Kaleidescape Canada Employment Trust (the “Trust”). Computershare Trust Company of Canada (“Computershare”) became the sole corporate trustee. A Restated and Amended Trust Deed was entered into with K-Can as the settlor and Computershare as the sole trustee.

K-US and Computershare held equal voting rights. Additionally, a unanimous shareholders agreement relieved K-Can’s directors of their powers and conferred those powers on the shareholders. There was no provision to resolve a deadlock, and neither the shareholders nor directors had the right to make unilateral decisions.

K-Can received notices from the CRA advising that, in its view, K-Can was not a CCPC for the tax years ending December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2009. As a result, K-Can’s federal SR&ED and Ontario ITCs were denied. The CRA’s position was that the combined effect of the provisions of the Restated and Amended Trust Deed was to give a non-resident authority to direct Computershare how to vote its shares of K-Can, such that a non-resident controlled K-Can and the definition of CCPC was not met.

In response to the CRA’s reassessments, K-Can and Computershare entered into a “Deed of Rectification”, which revised the wording of Restated and Amended Trust Deed to protect K-Can’s CCPC status.

At the rectification application hearing, the Applicants argued that their common and continuing intention at all times was to structure and operate the company in a manner that would establish and preserve its CCPC status. The Respondent argued that the Applicants could not prove common intention, did not admit that a mistake had been made, and could not show the precise form of a corrected document that would express their prior intention.

Decision

In its analysis, the Court cited only two non-tax cases dealing with rectification (Performance Industries Ltd. v. Sylvan Lake Golf and Tennis Club Ltd. (2002 SCC 19) and Shafron v. KRG Insurance Brokers (Western) Inc. (2009 SCC 6)). (For tax rectification cases see Juliar v. Canada (A.G.) ([2000] O.J. No 3706), 771225 Ontario Inc. et al. v. Bramco Holdings Co. Ltd. et al. ([1995] O.J. No 157), McPeake v. Canada (A.G.) (2012 BCSC 132)Graymar Equipment (2008) Inc. v. Canada (A.G.) (2014 ABQB 15), and Re: Pallen Trust (2014 BSCS 305)).

Turning the facts of the current case, in several short paragraphs the Court stated that, on the entire record and history of the Applicants, the intention throughout was to ensure that K-Can – as an R&D body, with no other functions than research and development – qualified for CCPC status and the relevant research tax credits.

The Court held that wording chosen in the Restated and Amended Trust Deed was chosen by mistake and did not give K-US de jure control over K-Can. In respect of the proposed correction, the Deed of Rectification corrected the mistake in the original wording. The Court stated that Deed made it clear that the decision-making body was the board of directors and that the trustee was only to accept a direction in written form.

The Court granted the rectification sought by the Applicants.

 

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Whose Mistake? Ontario Sup. Ct. Rectifies Trust Deed