Cotisation par mouvement de trésorerie : « On n’utilise pas un canon pour tuer une mouche »

 

Dans une décision récente de la Cour du Québec (Dion c. l’Agence du revenu du Québec, 2018 QCCQ 10280), division des petites créances, l’honorable Juge Dortélus réitère à l’Agence du revenu Québec (« Revenu Québec ») l’importance d’appliquer les méthodes estimatives avec rigueur, sans excès ni exagération.

Dans cette affaire, Revenu Québec a utilisé la méthode estimative mouvement de trésorerie afin d’ajouter des revenus présumés non déclarés à Mme Dion pour les années d’imposition 2006, 2007 et 2008.

Initialement, le dossier de Mme Dion avait été sélectionné pour vérification dans le cadre du projet organisationnel de lutte contre l’évasion fiscale selon les « Indices de richesse ». Dans le cas particulier de Mme Dion, les indices de richesse qui avaient attiré l’attention de Revenu Québec étaient qu’elle était propriétaire d’un immeuble ayant une valeur de 352 400$ et propriétaire d’un véhicule ayant une valeur de 30 366$, ce qui, selon les propos du juge, est « une hypothèse très mince d’indices de richesse ».

Le Juge Dortélus réitère à Revenu Québec l’importance de prendre en considération la réalité du contribuable, mais aussi d’analyser sérieusement les motifs de contestation de celui-ci lorsqu’il y a utilisation par les autorités fiscales d’une méthode estimative :

[39] Lorsque cette méthode indirecte de cotisation est appliquée, on doit tenir compte de la situation réelle du contribuable qui connaît et possède des renseignements dont le l’ARQ ne dispose pas. On ne doit pas écarter sans motif valable ces renseignements, ce qui semble avoir été le cas dans la situation ou Mme Dion.

Dans le cadre de l’audience, Mme Dion soulève que les revenus ajoutés suivant la vérification ne sont pas des revenus, en démontrant, entre autres, qu’un montant traité comme une augmentation de placement par Revenu Québec était en fait des sommes provenant de ses comptes bancaires.

De plus, Mme Dion conteste le calcul du coût de vie effectuée par Revenu Québec selon les données de Statistiques Canada, puisque celui-ci ne reflète pas sa situation réelle. Mme Dion a démontré lors de l’audience que son coût de vie réel était jusqu’à trois fois moindre que celui calculé par Revenu Québec.

Finalement, le Juge Dortélus rappelle qu’un contribuable continue de bénéficier de la présomption de bonne foi prévue à l’article 2805 du Code civil du Québec, et ce, même s’il fait l’objet d’une vérification selon une méthode estimative. À cet effet, il précise que cette présomption légale n’est pas renversée par la seule présence d’indices de richesse qui pourraient mener les autorités fiscales à soupçonner qu’un contribuable n’aurait pas déclaré l’ensemble de ses revenus.

Dans le cadre de l’audience, Mme Dion a été en mesure de démontrer la non-fiabilité de la méthode utilisée par Revenu Québec et que le calcul du coût de vie ne tenait pas compte de sa réalité. Son appel a donc été accueilli et les avis de cotisation ont été annulés.

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Cryptocurrency Audits Have Begun

Forbes reports that the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) has initiated audits in the cryptocurrency space, sending select taxpayers a lengthy and exacting questionnaire requiring information regarding the taxpayer’s investments, cryptocurrency purchases and sales, mining history, assets, wallets, and Initial Coin Offering (“ICO”) participation.

The initiative is part of the CRA’s underground economy strategy, which describes its general purpose as protecting the integrity of Canada’s tax system and limiting the reduction in tax revenues that results from, amount other things, the digital economy.

In a public statement, the CRA commented that in 2017 it developed a dedicated crypotocurrency unit. Unsurprisingly, in this statement, the CRA refused to provide any information on the specific information or criteria they use to select files for audit, though it has confirmed that it currently has over 60 active audit files in the cryptocurrency space.

The questionnaire asks about the history of the taxpayer’s involvement in the cryptocurrency space, investments, transactions with specific exchanges such as shapeshift exchange and changelly, use of cryptocurrency mixing services and tumblers, and the reasons for using such services. The questionnaire also inquires into cryptocurrency storage, requiring information about both hot and cold wallets, and requires detailed information on trading activity, the source of funds used in cryptocurrency activities, investments in ICOs, commercial transactions using cryptocurrency and mining activities.

The questionnaire describes itself as an ‘initial interview’ and alerts taxpayers that there may be follow up questions.

The CRA’s cryptocurrency audits follow the example of the Internal Revenue Service, who has been actively auditing the cryptocurrency space for several years and which won a partial victory in late 2017 when the United States District Court Northern District of California ruled that the San Francisco coin exchange Coinbase must supply the IRS with identifying information on all users who had more than $20,000 in any one transaction type (buy, sell, send, or receive) in any one year during the 2013 to 2015 period.

Despite the underground, ‘off the grid’ character of cryptocurrency, Canadians who have invested in cryptocurrency, or engaged in the space in any capacity, may have significant tax liabilities.

The CRA takes the position that cryptocurrency is not a form of money, but a type of property. Generally speaking, what this means is that cryptocurrency will be taxed like a commodity such as gold, and taxpayers are required to report all associated gains and losses.

If you have invested in cryptocurrency, if you have engaged in the space as a miner or trader,  if you have been paid in cryptocurrency or if you have participated in an ICO, regardless of whether you have gains or losses, we advise contacting a tax professional to discuss your exposure.

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British Columbia introduces an Employer Health Tax in 2019


BC’s, employers should become familiar with the new EHT rules so as to determine whether registration is required, and if so, whether early registration is required before May 15, 2019.

British Columbia has decided to implement an Employer Health Tax (“EHT”), effective January 1, 2019. The EHT is a payroll tax, calculated on gross employment income, that employers in British Columbia will need to self–assess and remit. For all employers that will be required to pay instalments during 2019, the deadline for registration for this new tax is May 15, 2019. For all other employers that will be subject to the tax, registration will not be required until the end of December 2019. Determining whether instalments will need to be paid requires an exercise in determining how much EHT would have been due in 2018 if the EHT had already been implemented. For any employer who would have owed more than $2,925 in EHT, instalment payments for 2019 will be required.


At its core, the EHT – similar to the one imposed in Ontario – can be a fairly simple tax to deal with in many circumstances, particularly for companies with employees that report for daily work at a location in British Columbia. However, for companies with employees that report for work in multiple provinces, or that get paid from offices outside of British Columbia, or for non–Canadian companies that send employees into British Columbia (among many other potential scenarios), the rules can be much more challenging to apply, and can potentially lead to circumstances of double taxation or assessments for failure to properly report and pay the EHT.


The general rules indicate that employers with total annual payroll in British Columbia of $500,000 or greater will be liable to report and pay EHT, with an increased threshold for charities and non-profits, for whom EHT is not payable until their total annual British Columbia payroll reaches $1,500,000 (with certain other special rules for potential exemptions). However, determining whether you have any payroll amounts in British Columbia, and if so, whether you have crossed these monetary thresholds, can often be a more complicated matter, particularly for entities with related parties that may carry on some business in British Columbia or those that send employees into British Columbia for parts of the year.


At this time, we would advise all businesses that have employees working in British Columbia, whether full–time, part–time or even temporarily, to become familiar with the new EHT rules so as to determine whether registration is required, and if so, whether early registration is required before May 15, 2019. We would be pleased to assist with any questions that arise in trying to determine whether compliance will be required.

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Be Careful with Sensitive Tax Information!

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The Federal Court’s recent decision in Atlas Tube Canada ULC v MNR[1] showcases an important advantage that lawyers bring to multi-disciplinary teams working on corporate transactions, namely solicitor-client privilege.  The case instructs that, wherever appropriate, arrangements should be made to protect communications and other documents as legal advice.   We recommend consulting with a tax lawyer to determine where and how this can be achieved.

The case concerned a due diligence report (the “Report”) prepared by an accounting firm for Altas Tube Canada ULC (“Altas”) in respect of a  transaction that occurred in 2012.

In the course of auditing Altas for its 2012 taxation year, the Minister of National Revenue (the “Minister”) relied on subsection 231.1(1) of the Income Tax Act (the “Act”) to request a copy of the Report. Atlas refused and the Minister applied to the Federal Court for a compliance order under subsection 231.7(1) of the Act.

At the time the Report was commissioned, Atlas’s U.S. parent corporation was in the process of acquiring two corporations. The purpose of the Report was to describe and explain the tax attributes of the target corporations.

The Federal Court observed that paragraph 231.7(1)(b) of the Act requires that before issuing a compliance order for a document, a court must be satisfied that the document is not protected from disclosure by solicitor-client privilege. Holding that, among other things, the Report was not protect by solicitor-client privilege, the Federal Court decided in favor of the Minister.

The Federal Court relied on the test for solicitor-client privilege set out in Solosky v Canada[2], which established that a communication will be subject to solicitor-client privilege if it is a communication (i) between solicitor and client; (ii) seeking or giving legal advice; and (iii) intended to be confidential by the parties.

Reviewing the evidence, the Federal Court found that while the Report was commissioned for two purposes – the business purpose of assessing whether to proceed with the acquisition and the legal purpose of determining how to structure the transaction – ultimately the business purpose was dominant. The Federal Court concluded that the legal purpose was merely ancillary.

In addition, the Federal Court noted that Redhead established that solicitor-client privilege can extend to communication with a third party where the communication is “in furtherance of a function essential to the solicitor-client relationship or the continuum of legal advice provided by the solicitor”[3], but cannot be extended to communications in which a third party such as an accountant provides an opinion.  The Federal Court found that the Report included an explanation of material tax exposures, an assessment of the probability that filing positions would be challenged, and an evaluation of whether appropriate reserves had been taken.  In other words, the Report provided accounting opinions and as result could not draw upon Redhead’s extension of solicitor-client privilege.

Finding that the legal advice provided in the Report was ancillary to the Report’s business purpose and finding that the Report provided an accounting opinion, the Federal Court concluded that the Report was not protected by solicitor-client privilege.  Accordingly, the Federal Court was able to issue a compliance order requiring Atlas to provide the Report to the Minister.

This case serves as a reminder that, wherever appropriate, arrangements should be made to protect communications and other documents as legal advice.  Taxpayers involved in corporate transactions including sensitive tax information should consult with their tax lawyer to determine what can be protected and how to do so.

[1] 2018 FC 1086.

[2] [1980] 1 SCR 821.

[3] Redhead Equipment Ltd v Canada, 2016 SKCA 115, at para 45.facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Canada Introduces New Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance Incentives

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On November 21, 2018, the Department of Finance Canada (“Finance”) released the 2018 Fall Economic Statement (the “Statement”). In a clear response to the lowering of the corporate tax rate (and other corporate tax measures) in the United States, Finance introduced new measures that will lower the corporate tax otherwise payable by some corporations in Canada. However, Finance did not lower corporate taxes by lowering the actual tax rates. Rather, the proposed changes will allow corporations to accelerate the tax depreciation of certain capital investments, thus lowering the effective corporate tax rate (at least in the earlier years).

Finance proposed changes that will allow businesses to: (i) immediately write off the cost of machinery and equipment used for the manufacturing or processing of goods; (ii) immediately write off the full cost of specified clean energy equipment; and (iii) rely upon an accelerated investment incentive (the “AII”), which will allow all businesses, making capital investments, to claim an accelerated capital cost allowance (i.e. a business will be permitted to deduct larger amounts of depreciation expenses sooner rather than later).

According to Finance, the AII effectively triples the current first-year capital cost allowance rate for all tangible capital assets (and some intangible capital assets, including patents and other intellectual property). The AII applies to capital property, except property in class 53 (manufacturing and processing equipment), and classes 43.1 and 43.2 (clean energy equipment).[1] Instead, the new full expensing measures will apply to these classes (as discussed below). The AII will have two key implications.

First, the AII will “suspend” the half-year rule in respect of AII property. In the first year that a taxpayer uses an asset, the half-year rule generally provides that a taxpayer may only add half of the asset’s capital cost to the undepreciated capital cost of the asset’s class (the other half of the asset’s capital cost is added to the class in the following year). Instead, the AII provides that, in the first year of using an asset (i.e. an AII property), a taxpayer may add the full amount of the asset’s undepreciated capital cost to the asset’s class.

Second, the AII provides an enhanced allowance with respect to net additions to a class in a given year. In order to calculate the enhanced capital cost allowance, a taxpayer would apply a prescribed rate (for a given class) to an amount equal to one-and-a-half times the net addition to the class in the year (with the full cost of all new assets being added to the class – see suspension of half-year rule above). The taxpayer would then be able to deduct the enhanced capital cost allowance from the taxpayer’s income for the year.

While the AII permits a taxpayer to deduct a larger allowance in the earlier years of an asset’s lifecycle, the AII does not actually permit a taxpayer to claim a larger total capital cost allowance with respect to an asset. If a taxpayer deducts a larger capital cost allowance in the first year of an asset’s lifecycle, the undepreciated capital cost of the asset’s class will be reduced by the amount of the enhanced capital cost allowance (deducted in the first year). A taxpayer will, therefore, have to deduct lesser amounts of capital cost allowance in subsequent years.

If a taxpayer has a short taxation year, the AII will apply on a prorated basis – similar to the application of the current CCA rules to short taxation years. The current CCA regime also includes various rules that may restrict otherwise available deductions. The Statement emphasizes that, in addition to these restrictions (which remain in place), new restrictions will be placed on property eligible for the AII (these restrictions also apply to the first-year enhanced allowances provided under the full expensing measures – see below). In particular, the proposed rules will provide that property that has been used, or acquired for use, for any purpose before it is acquired by the taxpayer will be eligible for the AII only if both of the following conditions are met:

  • neither the taxpayer nor a non-arm’s length person previously owned the property; and
  • the property had not been acquired by the taxpayer on a tax-deferred “rollover” basis.

In addition to the AII, the proposed rules include full expensing measures for manufacturing and processing equipment (class 53) and clean energy equipment (classes 43.1 and 43.2). A taxpayer will be able to claim a first-year enhanced capital cost allowance with respect to assets under classes 43.1, 43.2, and 50, acquired after November 20, 2018 (and which become available for use before 2028). The first-year enhanced allowance will initially equal 100% of an asset’s cost, with such percentage being reduced throughout a phase-out period (which begins in 2024).

The Statement provides that the above changes will apply to qualifying assets acquired after November 20, 2018. However, the changes will be gradually phased out starting in 2024. The changes will no longer have effect after 2027.

Finance’s view is that the above changes will encourage businesses to invest greater amounts of after-tax profits in new capital assets (the Statement further provides that Canadian corporations’ after-tax profits are near record highs). For example, according to the Statement, the above changes will, respectively, promote: (i) the competitiveness of Canada’s manufacturing and processing sector, including competitiveness vis-à-vis the same sector in the United States; (ii) Canada’s clean technology sector and the shift to a “cleaner economy”; and (iii) businesses’ ability to quickly recover the initial costs of investments in capital assets which will, in turn, encourage greater amounts of investment, by businesses, in capital assets. The Statement further emphasizes that the above changes will lead to a reduction in Canada’s marginal effective tax rate from 17% to 13.8% – a rate that would be the lowest among G7 countries.

Canadian businesses that were considering making new investments, or shifting current investments, to the United States or other countries should take a closer look at the proposed accelerated CCA rules. Although temporary, these incentives should make capital investments in Canada more attractive, especially in the manufacturing, technology, telecommunications and clean energy industries.

[1] Other property that either already have additional allowances or are at the 100% rate are also excluded from the AII rules.facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail