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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

CRA Considers Tax Treatment of Crowdfunding

Hot on the heels of the CRA’s recent publication of a “fact sheet” on its views on the tax treatment of Bitcoin currency (which has been in the news recently – see articles here and here), the CRA has published two technical interpretations on the tax treatment of “crowdfunding“.

In CRA Document No. 2013-0508971E5 (October 25, 2013) and CRA Document No. 2013-0509101E5 “Crowdfunding” (October 29, 2013) the CRA was asked about the tax treatment of amounts received by taxpayers through a crowdfunding arrangement.

The CRA stated that it understood crowdfunding to be a way of raising funds for a broad range of purposes, using the internet, where conventional forms of fundraising funds might not be possible (and which may or may not involve the issuance of securities).

The CRA stated that, depending on the specific circumstances, crowdfunding amounts received by the taxpayer could represent a loan, capital contribution, gift, income or a combination thereof. The CRA noted its position described in Interpretation Bulletin IT-334R2 “Miscellaneous Receipts” (February 21, 1992) that voluntary payments received by virtue of a taxpayer’s profession or carrying on of a business are considered taxable receipts. The CRA also noted that, on the other hand, a non-taxable windfall may exist where the taxpayer made no organized effort to receive the payment and neither sought nor solicited the payment. The CRA’s view is that a business has commenced where the taxpayer has started some significant activity that is a regular part of the business or that is necessary to get the business going (see Interpretation Bulletin IT-364 “Commencement of Business Operations” (March 14, 1977)). Conversely, a gift may exist where the donor transfers property with no right, privilege, material benefit or advantage conferred in return.

These two recent technical interpretations follow an earlier publication (CRA Document No. 2013-0484941E5 “Crowdfunding” (August 13, 2013)), in which the CRA stated that amounts received by a taxpayer from crowdfunding activities would generally be included in the taxpayer’s income pursuant to subsection 9(1) of the Income Tax Act as income from carrying on a business (and that certain expenses may be deductible).

These views from the CRA are helpful guidance for those who have undertaken or are considering crowdfunding. We agree that a taxpayer’s specific circumstances will be determinative of the tax treatment of the crowdfunded amounts (i.e., on a case-by-case basis). However, because of the various activities for which crowdfunding may be sought, and the ease with which crowdfunding may be accessed, it is less clear when a taxpayer’s activities (including seeking crowdfunding and any other associated activities) will result in the conclusion that a taxpayer has commenced carrying on business.

Accordingly, 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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CRA Considers Tax Treatment of Crowdfunding