Tag Archives: Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)

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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Canada Without Poverty v. Attorney General of Canada

jonathan-denney-103328-unsplashOn July 16, 2018, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice delivered a major victory to Canadian charities that devote all or a portion of their resources to non-partisan political activities.

In Canada Without Poverty v. Attorney General of Canada, the Court held that non-partisan political activities constitute charitable activities for the purposes of the Income Tax Act (Canada) (the Act), provided that they are carried out in furtherance of an organization’s charitable purposes. Accordingly, a registered charity may devote significantly more than 10% of its resources to such activities, contrary to long-standing Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) policy.

This decision is of particular interest to registered charities that have been the object of increased audit activity from the CRA for having engaged in political activities. Depending on the specific circumstances at issue, the decision may forge a path to a successful outcome for those involved in administrative audits with the CRA or legal proceedings before the courts.

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Canada Life: The Denial of Rescission is a Troubling Decision for Taxpayers and Professional Advisors

pexels-photo-936722On June 21, 2018, the Ontario Court of Appeal handed down a decision in the case of Canada Life Insurance Company of Canada v. the Attorney General of Canada and Her Majesty the Queen in the Right of Ontario. This is a very troubling decision for taxpayers and their professional advisors. The facts are briefly as follows. The Canada Life Insurance Company of Canada (“CLICC”) and certain of its affiliates carried out a series of transactions and events in December 2007. The purpose of the transactions was to realize a tax loss to offset unrealized foreign exchange gains accrued in the same taxation year. The Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) disallowed the claimed loss in the reassessment of CLICC’s taxes for 2007. Asserting that it had proceeded on the basis of erroneous advice from its tax advisor, CLICC applied to the courts for an order setting aside the transactions and replacing them with other steps retroactive to the date of the original transaction.

The problem arose because the tax loss was to be triggered by the winding up of a limited partnership. The mistake was that the general partner of the limited partnership, CLICC GP, was also wound up at the same time that the partnership was wound up. This resulted in the limited partner, CLICC, carrying on the business of the limited partnership alone within three months of the dissolution of the partnership.

CLICC originally applied for an order rectifying the transaction so as to move the winding-up of the general partnership from December 31, 2007 to April 30, 2008. The taxpayer was successful in its application before the application judge. However, the Attorney General appealed the decision. While the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of the Fairmont Hotels,[1] overruled previous decisions which permitted rectification. The change in law restricted the scope of the equitable remedy of rectification to the correction of written agreements. Continue Reading »facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

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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GST/HST burden, insolvent suppliers, and the pros & cons of credit notes

lab-316553On January 12, 2018, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal (the “FCA”) released its decision in North Shore Power Group Inc. v. Canada, 2018 FCA 9 (“North Shore Decision”), which addressed the tax implications to a purchaser of receiving credit notes from an insolvent supplier.  The FCA’s unanimous decision also sheds light on the scope of a purchaser’s obligation for unremitted goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (“HST”) and illustrates how the textual, contextual and purposive approach to statutory interpretation is applied by Canadian courts.  The decision also serves as a useful reminder of the practical considerations for purchasers, as well as suppliers, in using credit notes when dealing with refunds.

HST overpayments generally

By way of background, HST overpayments made by a purchaser to a supplier are generally addressed in one of two ways: (1) the purchaser files a rebate with the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) for the tax (an option that many suppliers favour), or (2) the supplier can refund the tax to the purchaser and claim the refunded tax back in its HST return (an option that many purchasers favour).  The rules relating to option (2) are set out in section 232 of Part IX of the Excise Tax Act (Canada) (the “HST legislation”), and were the subject of the North Shore Decision.

Section 232 of the HST legislation

Subsection 232(3) is triggered when a supplier “adjusts, refunds or credits” HST under section 232 (e.g. because the HST was incorrectly charged or the price was later reduced) to a purchaser and generally requires, among other things, that the supplier “within a reasonable time, issue to the other person a credit note, containing prescribed information…” If the purchaser has already claimed back the HST paid to the supplier as an input tax credit (“ITC”), section 232 requires the purchaser to repay the credited HST to the CRA when it files its HST return, so that it is prevented from recovering the single HST payment twice (i.e. once as an input tax credit and once as a credit from the supplier).

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