Author: Jenny P. Mboutsiadis

Seven areas the Canada Revenue Agency is scrutinizing

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The 2021 Federal Budget devoted an additional $304.1 million to the CRA to help it combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.  The federal government expects to recover $810 million in revenues over five years.

Based on public documents and information gathered from the CRA and DOJ, we have generated the below list of CRA audit activities already underway and expected to increase over the next couple of years.  Even if a taxpayer has done nothing wrong, they may still have to convince eager auditors that they have complied with the law.

  1. CEWS Applications
  • As of March 25, 2021, the CRA has processed and approved more than 2.7 million Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”) applications for businesses, charities, and organizations in the not-for-profit sector, delivering over $71 billion in payments to support over 5 million workers.
  • The CRA started post-payment CEWS audits in August 2020 and is looking for deliberate non-compliance.  Should CEWS funds have been misused, the penalties can include repayment of the wage subsidy, an additional 25% penalty, and potentially imprisonment in cases of fraud.
  • As this is new audit subject matter, CRA auditors may be inexperienced and skeptical.  Even if a taxpayer did not intend non-compliance, they will need help convincing the CRA that any mistakes were honest. 

2. Gains or Income from Cryptocurrency Transactions 

  • The CRA is pursuing persons who have transacted with cryptocurrency to ensure that the proper taxes have been paid.  The Federal Court recently granted the Minister of National Revenue’s application to require a major cryptocurrency trading platform to produce to the CRA a list of customer accounts along with details of transactions involving cryptocurrency.   
  • Cryptocurrency (e.g., Bitcoin) is not legal tender.  Instead, it is a digital representation of value – a digital asset.  For purposes of the Income Tax Act, the CRA generally treats cryptocurrency like a commodity and will tax income from cryptocurrency transactions as business income or as a capital gain, depending on the circumstances.  

3. Transfer Pricing Transactions

  • The federal government wants to ensure that the appropriate amount of profit is reported in Canada and plans to strengthen transfer pricing legislation.  The CRA is ramping up transfer pricing audits and scrutinizing Canadian taxpayers who buy or sell goods or services with another entity within the same multinational group to determine if these transactions are priced properly.  These types of transactions are required to occur under arm’s length terms and conditions and Canadian taxpayers are required to keep all relevant records.  Taxpayers engaged in non-arm’s length cross-border transactions should be vigilant in determining appropriate pricing and maintaining supporting documentation.   

4. Transactions Involving Treaties

  • Over the last decade the media has spotlighted the use and misuse of international treaties to reduce or avoid taxes.  The international tax community has been working to close loopholes and tighten up treaty language to reduce aggressive tax avoidance and evasion.  The CRA is increasing its scrutinization of cross-border transactions involving the application of treaties that result in distorted and questionable tax positions. 

5. GST/HST Avoidance and Evasion 

  • The CRA is looking for unwarranted and fraudulent GST/HST refund and rebate claims.  It is increasing its audits of large businesses identified as having a high risk of non-compliance and others operating in industries considered high risk, such as the real estate development industry.  The CRA has consistently been actively auditing with respect to the GST/HST New Housing Rebate.

6. Tax Evasion Involving Trusts

  • The CRA is enhancing its abilities to identify tax evasion involving trusts, particularly in non-arm’s length transactions, cross-border activities, and transactions involving low/nil tax countries.

7. Shareholder Benefits

  • Recently, there has been an uptick in the CRA auditing the use by officers and employees of corporate assets, such as private jets and yachts.  If business is being conducted on these assets, the taxpayer needs to gather contemporaneous documents and maintain accurate log books to support their filing positions.

Sept secteurs sous la loupe de L’agence du revenu du Canada

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Le budget fédéral pour l’année 2021 a alloué un montant additionnel de 304.1 millions de dollars à l’ARC afin de l’aider dans sa lutte contre l’évasion fiscale et l’évitement fiscal agressif. Ce faisant, le gouvernement fédéral prévoit récupérer 810 millions de dollars au cours des cinq prochaines années.

À partir de la documentation et des informations publiques provenant de l’ARC et du Ministère de la Justice du Canada, nous avons mis en place la liste ci-dessous présentant les activités de vérification actuelles de l’ARC et qui sont sujettes à s’intensifier aux cours des prochaines années. Même si un contribuable n’a rien à se reprocher, il risque d’être tenu de convaincre les vérificateurs soucieux qu’il s’est véritablement conformé à la loi.

1. Demandes de subvention salariale d’urgence du Canada

  • En date du 25 mars 2021, l’ARC a traité et approuvé plus de 2.7 millions de demandes de Subvention Salariale d’Urgence du Canada (« SSUC ») provenant d’entreprises, de fondations, et d’organisations sans but lucratif et à payer plus de 71 milliards de dollars en guise de support à plus de 5 millions de travailleurs.
  • L’ARC a débuté ses vérifications à la suite de l’émission des paiements de SSUC en août 2020 dans l’optique d’intercepter des cas délibérés de non-conformité. En cas d’utilisation des sommes reçues à titre de SSUC à d’autres fins, des pénalités telles que le remboursement de la subvention salariale, une pénalité additionnelle de 25% ainsi qu’un emprisonnement possible en cas de fraude pourront être applicables.
  • Compte tenu du caractère nouveau et récent des activités de vérification à cet égard, les vérificateurs de l’ARC peuvent encore s’avérer inexpérimentés et sceptiques. Dans l’éventualité où un contribuable n’avait pas l’intention d’être en situation de non-conformité, il aura besoin de soutien afin de convaincre l’ARC que toute erreur de sa part qui aurait pu créer la situation de non-conformité était honnête et involontaire.

2. Gains ou revenu provenant des transactions de cryptomonnaie

  • L’ARC s’intéresse aux contribuables qui ont effectué des transactions avec de la cryptomonnaie afin de s’assurer que le traitement fiscal y afférent a été respecté. Récemment, la Cour fédérale a approuvé la demande de la Ministre du Revenu pour instaurer une vaste plateforme de négociation de cryptomonnaie dans le but de permettre à l’ARC d’obtenir une liste des comptes clients et davantage de détails concernant les transactions impliquant la cryptomonnaie.
  • La cryptomonnaie (e.g. Bitcoin) n’est pas une monnaie légale. Elle est plutôt la représentation numérique d’une valeur (un actif numérique). Aux fins de la Loi de l’impôt sur le revenu, l’ARC traite généralement les cryptomonnaies comme de la marchandise et qualifiera le revenu provenant des transactions de cryptomonnaie à titre de gain en capital ou de revenu d’entreprise, et ce, en fonction des circonstances propres à la situation du contribuable.

3. Opérations de prix de transfert

  • Le gouvernement fédéral souhaite s’assurer que le montant véritable des profits soit déclaré au Canada et planifie renforcer la législation sur les prix de transfert. L’ARC continue d’accroître ses vérifications sur les prix de transfert et de surveiller les contribuables canadiens qui achètent ou vendent des biens ou des services d’une autre entité au sein d’un même groupe multinational afin de déterminer si le prix de leurs opérations est correctement fixé. Ces types d’opérations sont tenus d’être réalisés aux mêmes termes et conditions que des personnes sans lien de dépendance et les contribuables canadiens ont le devoir de conserver tous les documents pertinents y afférent. Les contribuables ayant un lien de dépendance qui transigent de manière transfrontalière doivent également prêter une attention particulière à la détermination d’un prix approprié de transaction et à la conservation des documents justificatifs.

4. Examen et vérification des transactions impliquant des conventions fiscales

  • Au cours de la dernière décennie, les médias ont dévoilé l’utilisation à bon et à mauvais escient des conventions fiscales comme outils pour réduire ou éviter de payer de l’impôt. La communauté fiscale internationale continue de travailler à l’élimination des échappatoires fiscales et du resserrement des textes des conventions fiscales afin de réduire l’évitement fiscal agressif et l’évasion fiscale. L’ARC veille à accroître sa surveillance des transactions transfrontalières impliquant l’application des conventions fiscales qui aboutirait à des positions fiscales déformées et discutables.

5. Vérification de la TPS/TVH contre l’évitement et l’évasion

  • L’ARC lutte présentement contre les réclamations illicites et frauduleuses concernant les remboursements relatifs à la TPS/TVH. Elle continue de renforcer ses vérifications à l’endroit des grandes entreprises qui sont identifiées comme comportant un haut risque de non-conformité et d’autres industries, également perçues comme comportant un haut risque de non-conformité, telles que l’industrie du développement immobilier. L’ARC demeure active dans sa vérification des remboursements de la TPS/TVH pour les habitations neuves.

6. Enquête sur l’évasion fiscale impliquant des fiducies

  • L’ARC continue de renforcer ses capacités à identifier les tactiques d’évasion fiscale impliquant des fiducies, tout particulièrement au sein des transactions conclues entre les personnes ayant un lien de dépendance, les activités transfrontalières et les opérations impliquant des pays avec des taux d’imposition bas ou inexistant.

7. Vérification des avantages aux actionnaires

  • Récemment, il y a eu une augmentation des activités de vérification de la part de l’ARC à l’encontre de l’utilisation par les dirigeants et employés des sociétés des actifs corporatifs tels que les jets privés et les yachts. Dans l’éventualité où ces actifs sont utilisés dans le cadre de l’entreprise, le contribuable est requis de conserver toute la documentation pertinente y afférent et de tenir ses registres à jour au soutien de sa position fiscale telle que contenue dans sa déclaration d’impôts.

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Cameco Corporation Wins Monumental Sham / Transfer Pricing Tax Case

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The Tax Court of Canada has ruled in favour of Cameco in its massive tax dispute with the Minister of National Revenue.  The Court held that the Minister was wrong to include $483.4 million earned by Cameco’s Swiss subsidiary in the mining giant’s income for its 2003, 2005, and 2006 taxation years and ordered the amounts be reversed out.  Also, approximately $98 million and $183.9 million were added back in computing Cameco’s resource profits for its 2005 and 2006 taxation years, respectively.

Had the Court upheld the reassessments, Cameco would have been liable for $11 million in taxes, plus interest and penalties, for those years.  Further, subsequent taxation years with the same issues would have resulted in Cameco being liable for a staggering $2 billion in taxes, plus interest and penalties.

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Search warrant’s validity does not need to be confirmed for CRA to examine items seized as part of criminal investigation

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Originally published on Fasken’s White Collar Post blog, under the title “CRA Can Examine Items Seized During Criminal Investigation Before Validity of Search Warrant Confirmed“.

By Jenny P. Mboutsiadis and Anastasia Reklitis

The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) can examine and make copies of items seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) pursuant to search warrants issued during a criminal investigation without having to wait for a determination of whether the warrants were valid.  This was confirmed by the British Columbia Supreme Court in Canada Revenue Agency v. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2016 BCSC 2275.  The CRA has not appealed the decision.

In this case, the CRA applied to the court under subsection 490(15) of the Criminal Code, RSC, 1985, c. C-46, for access to items obtained by search warrants.  The search warrants had been issued based on the belief that those named in the warrants (“Named Persons”) had committed criminal offences, such as laundering proceeds of crime, possession of property obtained by crime, and importing and trafficking in a controlled substance.  The items seized included large amounts of cash, numerous documents and computers, and other electronic devices and media containing business, accounting, and tax records.

The CRA argued that it was permitted access because it is a person “who has an interest in what is detained”, thereby satisfying the applicable Criminal Code provision.  The Named Persons opposed the CRA’s application on numerous grounds.  The RCMP took no position.

The Named Persons’ first argument was that a determination that the seizure is lawful is a pre-condition to the CRA’s entitlement to access any materials.  The Named Persons had already commenced the process in the Provincial Court that could possibly lead to the quashing of some or all of the search warrants and argued that, therefore, the CRA’s application should be adjourned until the validity of the warrants is determined from that process.  The court rejected this argument and explained that the warrants were presumptively valid and the Named Persons have the burden to establish otherwise.  A mere challenge with vague possibilities was not enough to satisfy the court that the warrants were invalid.

The Named Persons’ second argument was that the CRA’s application should fail because it did not have an interest in the seized items.  The court found to the contrary:  the CRA did have an interest because the items could be relevant to various tax investigations in which it was involved, which were independent of the RCMP investigations.  In particular, the items were relevant to determining potential tax offences involving some or all of the Named Persons, including tax evasion and the filing of false tax returns.

The Named Persons’ third argument was that any order allowing the CRA access should contain specific restrictions relating to privacy, privileged material, and relevance.  The court refused to place any restrictions as it did not find it appropriate to limit the examination of the evidence.

The CRA’s application was allowed and access to the seized items was granted.  In doing so, the court stated that there is nothing inherently wrong with law enforcement officials cooperating and sharing legally-obtained information.  Preventing the CRA from accessing the RCMP gathered information would delay the CRA’s investigation, thereby prejudicing its effectiveness and the likelihood of charges arising from it.  The court’s view was that it is in the public interest that the RCMP and CRA investigations proceed concurrently as they concern offences arising from the same search warrants.

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Panama Papers: Canada Revenue Agency moves into full gear

panama-1675062_1920This posts was originally published on White Collar Post under “Panama Papers: CRA getting tougher on tax evasion” – a Fasken Martineau blog.

We are beginning to see the legal enforcement fallout from the now infamous Panama Papers.  Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) concerted efforts to find undeclared offshore money and assets is moving into full gear. In addition to pursuing typical civil audits, the CRA is now executing search warrants and launching criminal investigations for tax evasion.

The CRA is actively gathering information from domestic and international sources to identify and charge offenders criminally. Since 2015, the Canadian government has required domestic financial institutions to report to the CRA all international electronic fund transfers of $10,000 or more.  In addition, as of March 2016 the CRA has analyzed over 41,000 transactions worth over $12 billion dollars, involving four jurisdictions and particular financial institutions of concern, and has initiated risk assessments on 1,300 individuals named in the Panama Papers. This has resulted in approximately 122 CRA audits to date and counting. However, it is not just taxpayers who are subject to the CRA’s scrutiny and who may be criminally charged. The CRA is also investigating the enablers and advisors, including the lawyers and accountants, who facilitated the hiding of taxpayer money and assets offshore.

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Tax Court: arrears interest after GAAR assessment accrue from the taxpayer’s balance-due day

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Tax Court confirms that arrears interest on taxes resulting from GAAR assessment accrue from the taxpayer’s balance-due day

In Quinco Financial Inc. v. R. (2016 TCC 190), the Minister of National Revenue had assessed Quinco under section 245 (the “GAAR”) of the Income Tax Act (Canada) (“ITA”) to deny certain claimed capital losses.  Arrears interest on the resulting tax due was also assessed, which the Minister computed from Quinco’s “balance-due day”.  The “balance-due day” is the deadline by which a taxpayer is required to pay to the Receiver General certain amounts payable under the ITA for a particular taxation year.  For a corporate taxpayer, it is either two or three months after the end of the particular taxation year, depending on the circumstances.

Quinco took the position that it should not be liable for arrears interest on the assessed tax debt for the period prior to the assessment date.  It proffered numerous arguments to support its position. The most interesting argument was that, although a GAAR assessment requires a determination of the tax consequences reasonably necessary to deny the tax benefit, it does not permit or extend to the recharacterization of the transaction for any other tax purposes; therefore, a taxpayer’s liability for interest does not arise until the date of the reassessment.

Justice Bocock rejected this argument and explained that an assessment under the GAAR,

“whether alone or in conjunction with another technical omission or non-compliant act, is not an assessment divorced from the other provisions of the Act.”

Here, the assessment was raised utilizing the GAAR, but the assessment “insinuated itself into Part I of the Act to reassess the taxpayer otherwise in the normal course.”  Justice Bocock held that subsection 161(1) arrears interest accrues on any tax payable determined under the GAAR from the balance-due day until the GAAR assessment issuance date (and onwards until payment of the tax payable).

 

 

 

 

 

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