Category Archives: British Columbia

As Vaping Replaces Tobacco BC Proposes New Legislation

This month, the British Columbia Health Minister announced plans to introduce legislation that will increase the BC’s provincial tax on vaping products from 7% to 20%. In doing so, BC will become the first province to tax e-cigarettes and vaping.

In all other provinces, vaping demonstrates an interesting inconsistency in some provincial legislation: under some provincial public health legislation vaping is regulated like other tobacco use yet under provincial tax legislation vaping is not treated like tobacco and is only subject to either the provincial HST component or provincial sales tax. Thus, vaping actually provides a much more tax-effective way for a user to get a nicotine fix. Put otherwise, vaping is essentially subsidized nicotine consumption.

Vaping involves the use of a handheld electronic device that heats an “e-liquid”—sometimes called e-substance, e-oil, or e-juice—to a point where it becomes an inhalable vapour.

The e-liquid is typically composed of nicotine, a carrier substance such as glycerine, and flavouring. E-cigarettes and e-liquid are tobacco-free. Most Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan are exceptions) have public health legislation that regulates the use of e-cigarettes in a manner that parallels the regulation of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

For example, Ontario’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 regulates the sale, advertisement, packaging, and consumption of e-cigarettes, in some ways reproducing restrictions on tobacco use.

In Canada, both federal and provincial governments exercise jurisdiction over health. This dual jurisdiction explains why there are two layers of tobacco legislation: the provincial laws noted above and the federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (SC 1997, c. 13), which governs public health aspects of tobacco and vape consumption in Canada.

Although provincial public health legislation regulates e-cigarettes as it does tobacco cigarettes, provincial tax legislation does not. In all 10 provinces, tobacco sales are taxed under special tobacco tax legislation, and in most provinces tobacco sales are also subject to GST/HST. For example, in Ontario a pack of 20 cigarettes is subject to a tobacco tax of $3.30 and an additional 13 percent HST. However, vaping liquid, or e-liquid, does not come within the scope of tobacco tax legislation, which is limited to tobacco products.  As a result without new legislation, vape products escape the additional taxed levied on tobacco products.

As explained above, e-cigarettes and e-liquid are tobacco-free, and while the nicotine in e-liquid may give smokers a sensation similar to that of a traditional cigarette, the nicotine is not a tobacco product. As a result, while sales of e-cigarettes and e-liquid are subject to GST/HST, they are not subject to a special tobacco tax.

This means that now as more Canadians have shifted from traditional smoking to vaping, they are escaping the financial burden of tobacco taxation.  In turn, this means that provinces are losing their tobacco tax base. However, it is estimated that BC’s new legislation will generate roughly $10 million a year in new tax revenue.  We won’t be surprised to see other provinces follow BC’s lead.

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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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3 months to Doomsday: Offshore assets & Automatic exchange of information

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What is the “automatic exchange of financial information”

In order to increase tax transparency across the globe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) adopted the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) on July 15, 2014. The CRS initiative calls on each participating jurisdiction to obtain information from financial institutions within their country and automatically exchange that information with other jurisdictions on an annual basis. The objective is to increase tax compliance by providing key information to the participating jurisdictions allowing them to identify whether their citizens accurately report their foreign assets and income. However, since the CRS is not constraining, 90 jurisdictions have also signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) on automatic exchange of financial account information. The MCAA provides a mechanism to facilitate the exchange of information in accordance with the CRS. Such information to be disclosed includes the following :

  • The name, address, taxpayer identification number, date and place of birth of each account holder;
  • The account number;
  • The name and identifying number of the financial institution;
  • The account balance or value (including, in the case of a cash value insurance contract or annuity contract, the cash value or surrender value) as of the end of the relevant calendar year or the closure of the account;
  • The total gross amount of interest, dividends and other income generated with respect to the assets held in the account.

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Why now is the time to do a voluntary disclosure of foreign assets

money-515058_1920The 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 :

  1. increase the period for which full interest must be paid;
  2. reduce penalties relief in certain circumstances so that the taxpayers pay more than they would pay if they had been fully compliant; and
  3. 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)“.facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Panama Papers data leak will prompt more tax audits targeting wealthy Canadians

A huge data leak from a Panama-based law firm has exposed billions in secret, offshore transactions involving multiple political leaders around the world and approximately 350 Canadians with offshore tax haven investments.

Previous leaks of offshore activities have led the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to engage in multiple tax audits targeting wealthy Canadians, such as clients of the LGT Bank, the Swiss HSBC Bank, and recently clients of one international accounting firm, just to name a few. This time should be no different. CRA was already instructed to get the leaked data in Panama Papers.

Many OECD-participating countries have engaged in a fight against tax evasion, treaty shopping and base erosion and profit-shifting (BEPS). Combined with the upcoming exchanges of financial information between countries starting in 2017 and 2018, Canada’s “new” offshore tax compliance section since 2013 and the offshore tax informant program (OTIP) rewarding whistleblowers, wealthy Canadians and businesses engaged in aggressive tax planning are more likely than ever to be audited.

In addition, the 2016 Federal budget proposed a plan to “improve tax compliance, prevent underground economic activity, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning,” requiring an investment of $444.4 million over five years to be used by the CRA for:

  • hiring additional auditors and specialists
  • developing robust business intelligence infrastructure
  • increasing audit activities
  • improving the quality of investigative work that targets criminal tax evaders

The expected additional revenue from such measures is $2.6 billion.

To most Canadians, these measures may sound perfectly legitimate. But many taxpayers in the province of Québec will hear a familiar tune that evokes unpleasant memories.

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