Alain Ranger pratique depuis plus de 30 ans en droit fiscal, plus spécialement en droit fiscal lié au droit des sociétés et au droit des affaires. Au cours des années, Alain a développé une expertise reconnue dans une variété de domaines dont les fusions et acquisitions, les transactions transfrontalières, les réorganisations d’entreprises, les investissements étrangers, les financements structurés et la fiscalité des sociétés.Le 28 mai dernier, le ministre des Finances du Canada a déposé à la Chambre des communes un avis de motion de voies et moyens (l’« Avis ») officialisant ainsi l’intention du Canada de présenter un projet de loi pour mettre en oeuvre les propositions retenues de la Convention multilatérale pour la mise en œuvre des mesures relatives aux conventions fiscales pour prévenir l’érosion de la base d’imposition et le transfert de bénéfices (l’« IM »). L’Avis a été adopté par les parlementaires le 21 juin et le projet de loi a ainsi franchi l’étape de la première lecture à la Chambre des communes.
Pour fins de rappel, le Canada était l’un des signataires de l’IM le 7 juin 2017 et il avait alors annoncé son intention d’adopter les normes minimales proposées par l’OCDE dans le cadre des propositions BEPS ainsi que l’arbitrage obligatoire lié aux différends dans les conventions fiscales. L’Avis prévoit donc l’adoption de ces normes minimales, ainsi que d’autres mesures à l’égard desquelles le Canada avait initialement réservé sa position.
On May 28, 2018, nearly a year after Canada became a signatory to the OECD’s Multilateral Instrument (“MLI”), a notice of ways & means motion has been tabled by the Minister of Finance (Canada) in the House of Commons signalling the Canadian government’s intention to introduce legislation to ratify the MLI. On June 20, 2018, Bill C-82, which will enact the MLI, received first reading in the House of Commons. The MLI has been signed by 78 countries including Canada.
When the MLI is ratified by Canada and the other signatories, existing bilateral tax treaties may be modified to apply certain agreed to minimum standards on treaty abuse and improving dispute resolution that were endorsed by participating countries under the OECD /G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project.
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 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.