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Auditor General Provides Recommendations for Improving CRA Review of Objections

Under the federal Income Tax Act, the Canada Revenue Agency must consider a taxpayer’s objection and must vacate, confirm or vary the underlying tax assessment. This review must be completed “with all due dispatch”.

Unfortunately, no specific timeline is required for the CRA’s review of an objection (unlike the many specific deadlines imposed on taxpayers pursuant to the Income Tax Act or otherwise). Generally, a taxpayer’s only recourse in a case of excessive delay is to request interest relief or make a service complaint to the Office of the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman. The CRA has stated that it is aware of these potential delays, and has implemented service standards in respect of the various types of objections it receives each year

On November 29, 2016, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada released its report on the CRA’s review of income tax objections and included the following summary of its conclusions:

We concluded that the Canada Revenue Agency did not process income tax objections in a timely manner.

Although the Agency had developed and reported performance indicators for the objection process, the indicators were incomplete and inaccurate. Specifically, there was no indicator or target for the time that taxpayers should wait for decisions on their objections.

In addition, the Agency did not adequately analyze or review decisions on income tax objections and appeals, and there was insufficient sharing of the results of these objection and court decisions within the Agency.

This issue is very well-known to many Canadians (and their professional tax advisors) who have filed and pursued objections, and it is not surprising when you consider the CRA currently has an inventory of more than 171,000 objections in respect of personal and corporate income taxes totaling more than $18 billion.

Interestingly, the report notes that the amount of federal income tax dollars in dispute more than tripled from $6.2 billion in 2005-06 to $18.8 billion in 2013-14, and the amount in dispute has remained around $18 billion in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The report recommends the following:

  • The CRA should provide timelines for resolving objections
  • The CRA should develop and implement an action plan with defined timelines and targets for reducing the inventory of objections
  • The CRA should review the objection process to identify and implement modifications to improve the timely resolutions of objections
  • The CRA should modify its performance indicators so that it may accurately measure and report on its performance
  • The CRA should review and share the results where objections are decided in favour of taxpayers in such a way that may improve the quality of audit results

Minister of National Revenue Hon. Diane Lebouthillier released a statement in response to the Auditor General’s report, and stated (in part): “An action plan is already underway to reduce processing times and it will be ready at the beginning of 2017.”

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Auditor General Provides Recommendations for Improving CRA Review of Objections

Highlights from the Toronto Centre CRA & Professionals Group Breakfast Seminar – February 19, 2015

On February 19, 2015, at the Toronto Centre CRA & Professionals Group Breakfast Seminar CRA representatives provided an update on two topics: 1) online CRA e-services, and 2) Regulation 102 and Regulation 105 waivers for non-residents.

An Overview of E-Services for Tax Professionals and Businesses

Maxime Leger and Marc Boisseau, Senior Programs Officers at the Assessment and Benefit Services Branch, provided updates regarding CRA e-services under the My Account, My Business Account and Represent a Client portals. In general, these online portals allow taxpayers, or designated representatives, to submit documents, view and manage various tax accounts online.

My Account

  • Two levels are now required to login and access My Account. In level 1, the taxpayer is required provide personal information (social insurance number, date of birth, postal code, amounts entered on income tax and benefit return) to create a user ID and password. In level 2, the taxpayer receives the CRA security code.
  • After obtaining online access to My Account, Taxpayers can view Notice of Assessment and the status of tax returns. If the taxpayer registers to manage online mail, the CRA will no longer send paper copies. The taxpayer will receive email notifications to check My Account.
  • Taxpayers can register for online mail through NETFILE or EFILE software, by filing a T1 return, online using My Account service or by speaking with an agent.
  • Canadian resident individuals, corporations, and certain partnerships and trusts that, at any time during the year, own certain foreign property costing more than $100,000 are required to file Form T1135 Foreign Income Verification Statement. As of February 9, 2015, individual taxpayers are able to file this form electronically for the 2014 tax year. In the future, electronic filing will be extended to corporations and partnerships.

My Business Account

  • My Business Account has been expanded to allow taxpayers to file returns, Notices of Objection and refunds in regards to excise duties, excise taxes, air travelers security charges and softwood lumber products export charges.
  • This account also permits additional GST/HST elections i.e. GST20-1 Notice of Revocation of an Election for GST/HST Reporting Period by a Listed Financial Institution and RC7220 Election for GST/HST and QST Reporting Period for a Selected Listed Financial Institution
  • Updated options such as payment searches for payments made but not credited to the account and requests to transfer misallocated credits have been added to the Payroll Accounts.
  • Taxpayers can now authorize the CRA to withdraw pre-authorized debits from bank accounts. Taxpayers and designated representatives may manage direct deposits directly through My Business Account.

Represent a Client

  • The CRA noted that business authorization requests can be submitted online and will be reviewed and processed within five business days.
  • A non-resident representative living in the U.S. who wants to access the Represent a Client portal can obtain a non-resident representative number (NRRN) by completing the RC391 Application for a CRA NRRN.
  • Additional changes are expected in April 2015 to permit representatives to register new businesses and add program accounts on behalf of taxpayers.
  • The Tax Data Delivery Service allows authorized representatives to electronically receive information to help client income tax and benefit returns. It delivers tax information including T4 slips (i.e., T4A, T4E, T4A(OAS), T4A(P)), Home Buyers’ Plan, tuition carryover amounts.
  • To use this service, representatives must be a registered electronic filer, registered in Represent a Client, use an EFILE certified product and have a valid Form T1030 Authorizing or Cancelling a Representative.

Mobile Apps

  • In addition to the updated services provided in the online portals, the CRA also introduced new mobile apps.
  • In August 2014, the CRA Business Tax Reminder was released for small and medium sized enterprises with annual revenues of $20 million or less and less than 500 employees. This app allows taxpayers to create reminders and alerts for key dates related to instalment payments, returns, and remittances. See our post here.
  • More recently, on February 9, 2015, the CRA released MyCRA. This new app allows individual taxpayers to view Notices of Assessment, tax return status, and RRSP and TFSA contribution room. In the future it will permit taxpayers to update contact information and enroll for direct deposit.

Non-Resident Taxation in Canada – Regulation 102/105

Claudio DiRienzo, Policy and Technical Advisor at the Specialty Audit Division Compliance Programs Branch, provided an update on issues pertaining to Regulations 102 and 105. In general, these regulations require payors of non-residents rendering services in Canada to withhold and remit tax on the payments subject to treaty-based waivers.

Reduce Red Tape

  • The CRA acknowledged current frustrations among taxpayers and representatives with the cumbersome Regulation 105 and 102 processes and noted that the CRA continues to consult with stakeholders and tax professionals to reduce red tape. However, the CRA emphasized that certain processes were required to comply with existing legislation. The CRA suggested that amendments be made to the current legislation to help streamline the waiver process.
  • Centres of Expertise have been established for the waivers to ensure consistency among waiver requests. To shorten processing times, the CRA advised that comprehensive information be provided and a Business Number (BN) or Individual Tax Number (ITN) be applied for in advance.
  • CRA Document No. IC 75-6R2 states that approximately 30 days are required to review waiver applications. However, the CRA noted in reality the wait time varies on inventory and workload.

R102J and R102R Waivers

  • The CRA commented on the difference between R102J and R102R waivers. Both are treaty-based waivers used by non-residents to reduce the amount of withholding. The R102J is a joint employer and employee waiver and applies only to amounts less than $5,000 if the other country has a tax treaty with Canada or amounts less than $10,000 if the other country is the US. The waiver is effective for a year. To accommodate employers, the waiver is retroactive for 60 days prior to the date granted and an ITN or SIN can be provided at the end of the year.
  • In contrast, the R102R does not have the 60-day retroactive concession and requires a SIN or ITN at the time the waiver is granted.

Short Waivers Granted

  • The CRA acknowledged concerns that Regulation 102R waivers were being issued for short time periods (i.e., six months). As a result, taxpayers were required to reapply for waivers for the remainder of the taxation year. The CRA explained that this arose out of concerns that the employee would constitute a permanent establishment of the employer under Article XV, the Dependent Personal Services provision of the Canada-U.S. Tax Treaty.
  • The CRA representatives responsible for processing waivers do not make determinations in regards to a permanent establishment at the time of the waiver. This determination is made at the time of filing.
  • The CRA noted that it has now revised its position. If the applicant provides the approximate number of days he or she will be in Canada and approximate remuneration amounts, the waiver applies for a full calendar year.

Secondments

  • The CRA also commented on the use of secondment arrangements to manage Regulation 102 and 105 issues. A secondment is the temporary assignment of loan of an employee between two entities. The CRA noted that whether withholding is required under a secondment arrangement is a question of fact. In order to waive withholding a genuine employer-employee relationship must exist.
  • No Regulation 105 withholding is required for reasonable reimbursements under a secondment. CRA Document No. IC 75-6R2, which provides guidelines on secondment arrangements, states that administrative overhead of $250 per month per employee constitutes a reasonable reimbursement.

Updates in Case Law and Administrative Policy

  • The CRA noted that it accepts the Weyerhaeuser Company Limited v. The Queen (2007 TCC 65) decision, which generally held that not all payments to non-residents are subject to withholding tax. However, the CRA noted that they would only apply Regulation 105 consistently with this decision if the taxpayer’s information is documented at the time the payment is made.
  • The CRA is currently in the process of developing a set of guidelines and policy directions for Regulation 102 and Regulation 105 and updating CRA Document No. IC 75-6R2. An online portal for waivers is expected to be launched in 2016.

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Highlights from the Toronto Centre CRA & Professionals Group Breakfast Seminar – February 19, 2015

ConocoPhillips: FCA Confirms Tax Court’s Jurisdiction to Determine Questions of Timing and the Validity of a Notice of Objection

In ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corp. v. The Queen (2014 FCA 297), the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a Federal Court decision (2013 FC 1192) and dismissed an application for judicial review by the taxpayer finding that the Federal Court lacked jurisdiction in this case.

ConocoPhillips had commenced an application for judicial review as a result of a dispute between the CRA about whether a Notice of Reassessment had been validly sent to the taxpayer.  The CRA alleged that it mailed a Notice of Reassessment on November 7, 2008. ConocoPhillips alleged that it never received the Notice of Reassessment and that it first learned of the reassessment on April 14, 2010.

Accordingly, when ConocoPhillips filed a Notice of Objection on June 7, 2010, the CRA advised that it would not consider the objection on the grounds that it was not filed within 90 days of the alleged mailing date (i.e., November 7, 2008) and that no request for an extension of time was made within the year following the alleged mailing date of the reassessment.

The Federal Court considered the question of jurisdiction and found that it had jurisdiction because the Court was not being asked to consider the validity of the reassessment (which can only be determined by the Tax Court of Canada) but rather, was only being asked to review the CRA’s decision not to consider the objection.

Based on the standard of reasonableness, the Federal Court found in favour of ConocoPhillips on the basis that the CRA had not sufficiently engaged the evidence to appropriately render an opinion whether or not the reassessment was mailed on the alleged date. The Court set aside that decision.

The Crown appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal on the basis that the Federal Court lacked jurisdiction on this issue.  The Federal Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.

Section 18.5 of the Federal Courts Act provides that judicial review in the Federal Court is not available where, inter alia, an appeal is permitted on the issue before the Tax Court of Canada.  In the present case, the Federal Court of Appeal stated that, pursuant to subsection 169(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act (Canada), ConocoPhillips could have appealed to the Tax Court after 90 days had elapsed following the date its objection was initially filed and the Tax Court would have been the correct forum to determine if, or when, the Notice of Reassessment was mailed and when the time for filing a Notice of Objection expired.

The Federal Court of Appeal clarified that the Minister’s obligation to consider a Notice of Objection is triggered regardless of whether a Notice of Objection may have been filed within the required time-frame. Further, the Minister’s decision on this issue is not an impediment to filing an appeal to the Tax Court pursuant to paragraph 169(1)(b) of the Income Tax Act (Canada). Accordingly, judicial review of this issue was not available in the Federal Court.

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ConocoPhillips: FCA Confirms Tax Court’s Jurisdiction to Determine Questions of Timing and the Validity of a Notice of Objection