The Canada Revenue Agency’s (the ‘’CRA’’) voluntary disclosures program allows taxpayers who meet certain conditions to correct inaccurate or incomplete information previously submitted to the CRA, or to disclose information not previously reported on their tax form. Under the current voluntary disclosures program, those who make a valid disclosure will be responsible for paying the taxes and reduced interest owing as a result of their disclosure, the whole without penalties or fear of prosecution. However, access to the voluntary disclosures program will be limited in the near future and radical changes will be introduced.
Access to the voluntary disclosures program limited for some and radical changes for others
However, on May 29, 2017, the CRA announced by the way of its Report on Progress that a revised voluntary disclosures program policy would be introduced shortly. The changes sought will tighten the access to the voluntary disclosures program and the relief provided. This announce by the CRA is made after the recommendation from the Standing Committee on Finance to conduct a review of the voluntary disclosures program as part of the strategy to combat offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax planning.
In completing its review of the program, CRA sought input from the Offshore Compliance Advisory Committee (the ‘’OCAC’’). In December 2016, the OCAC released the ‘’Report on the Voluntary Disclosures Program’’ which sets out different recommendations to ‘’improve’’ the program. The main contemplated alterations are to, in certain circumstances :
- increase the period for which full interest must be paid;
- reduce penalties relief in certain circumstances so that the taxpayers pay more than they would pay if they had been fully compliant; and
- even deny relief from civil penalties.
Such circumstances could include, for example :
- Situations where large dollar amounts of tax were avoided;
- Active efforts to avoid detection and the use of complex offshore structures;
- Multiple years of non-compliance;
- Disclosures motivated by CRA statements regarding its intended focus of compliance, by broad-based tax compliance programs or by the reception of leaked confidential information by the CRA such as the Panama Papers data leak; and
- Other circumstances in which the CRA considers that the high degree of the taxpayer’s culpability contributed to the failure to comply.
Less certain and more expensive results
If implemented by the CRA, the recommendations of the OCAC would significantly change the current voluntary disclosures program and the result of a disclosure would be more discretionary and expensive. Therefore, taxpayers entertaining the possibility of making a voluntary disclosure may want to act soon as the CRA intends to tighten the criteria for acceptance into the voluntary disclosures program and to be less generous in its application.
For more information about filing a voluntary disclosure download “The Voluntary Disclosures Programs in Canada (And in Québec)“.
In the 2015 Canadian Federal Budget, the Minister of Finance announced a program aimed at easing the administrative burden associated with Canadian withholding on remuneration paid to non-resident employees who performed duties in Canada.
Section 102 of the Income Tax Regulations (“Reg. 102″) requires every employer (whether a resident or non-resident of Canada) that pays remuneration to a non-resident employee, with respect to employment duties performed in Canada, to withhold Canadian taxes and other payroll remittances on that remuneration.
Before these Budget 2015 changes, there was no de-minimus exception and, while a tax treaty may ultimately provide an exemption from tax and payroll remittances, it does not exempt the employer from the initial withholding requirement. In fact, the only way an employer could be exempted from their withholding obligations was to apply, in advance, for a Reg. 102 waiver for each individual non-resident employee that was to perform duties in Canada. In order to obtain this Reg. 102 waiver an application had to be sent to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) at least 30 days before the start of the employment services or the first payment. Since employee travel is often arranged on short notice, this requirement created an issue for multinational companies doing business in Canada.
In a summary judgment released on September 16, 2015, the Federal Court of Canada examined and disposed of the non-constitutional arguments in the Hillis and Deegan case generally finding that the automatic data collection and disclosure of taxpayer information to the United States by Canada pursuant to the Canada-U.S. Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) is not inconsistent with the Canada – U.S. Tax Treaty (Tax Treaty) and does not otherwise violate the taxpayer confidentiality provisions in section 241 of the Income Tax Act (Canada) (ITA).
The plaintiffs had originally filed a claim seeking a declaration that the relevant provisions under the Canada – U.S. Tax Information Exchange Agreement Implementation Act (IGA Implementation Act) which implements the IGA are ultra vires or inoperative because the impugned provisions are unconstitutional or otherwise unjustifiably infringe Charter rights. An amended statement of claim was subsequently filed adding the non-constitutional arguments. The plaintiffs sought a permanent prohibitive injunction preventing the collection and automatic disclosure of taxpayer information to the United States by the CRA. A special sitting of the Court was scheduled so that the issues could be disposed of before taxpayer information was to be automatically sent pursuant to the IGA.
The Canadian government’s position was that the collection of taxpayer information is authorized by the IGA and that disclosure to the United States is not inconsistent with the Tax Treaty or in violation of section 241 of the ITA.
In its decision, the Federal Court endorsed the general reasoning and the legal arguments submitted by the government.
For many years, both the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have treated limited liability companies (LLC) formed under Delaware law as hybrid entities, in that a LLC has been “opaque” for the purposes of domestic tax law despite being generally disregarded or treated as a partnership for United States tax purposes.
Hybrid entities, including LLCs, are due to be somewhat of a hot topic next month because, as part of its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, the OECD is due to present its recommendations to the G20 Finance Minister in relation to “Action 2: Neutralizing the effects of hybrid mismatch arrangements”. However, over the summer the United Kingdom Supreme Court has stepped into the fray in its decision in Anson v. Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs ( UKSC 44).
This decision emphasizes that entity classification for international tax purposes is highly dependent on the facts and the governing law applicable to the entity, despite guidance from tax authorities that prefers to apply a “one size fits all” approach. As discussed below, the Anson decision may create renewed interest and support for taking a tax position that diverges from the traditional opaque characterisation of a US LLC.