DAVID WILKENFELD, CPA, CA, canadian tax CONSULTANT

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

The End of the Tax Mulligan

In Canadian Income Tax on June 5, 2017 at 9:00 am

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What happens when a transaction is undertaken that is planned to be tax-free, but due to an unforeseen error in the execution of the plan, it is subsequently discovered that tax is payable? Until recently, if all else failed, one option was to apply to the courts to allow for “rectification”. That is, since the parties to the transaction originally based their actions on the assumption that the plan was tax-effective, ask the courts to allow them to “redo” the deal correctly to restore its original tax-free intent.

Rectification is essentially not a tax concept. It generally applies where parties to a transaction discover that the legal documents that apply do not accurately represent the agreement or intent of the parties at the time. When both parties agree, the courts are inclined to grant relief and allow for a retroactive correction of the legal documents.

Back in 2000, in the case of Juliar, rectification was granted in a tax context to correct what was essentially an error on the part of the tax planners. Simply put, Mr. and Mrs. Juliar transferred shares to a holding company on the assumption that the shares had a high adjusted cost base (ACB) and no rollover provision was made. When it was subsequently discovered that the ACB was indeed low, they applied to the court for rectification, asking to convert a taxable sale to a rollover under section 85 of the Income Tax Act. The court agreed.

Since then, the case of Juliar has been cited often in cases where mistakes in legalities have created undesired tax results. However, in the recent decisions of Jean Coutu and Fairmont, the Supreme Court has overturned Juliar and has put an end to the idea that rectification can be used as a tool to correct errors in tax planning and its execution.

The court in Fairmont stated:

“…rectification is not equity’s version of a mulligan. Courts rectify instruments which do not correctly record agreements. Courts do not “rectify” agreements where their faithful recording in an instrument has led to an undesirable or otherwise unexpected outcome.”

Juliar was expressly overturned on the basis that the decision resulted in “impermissible retroactive tax planning”.

There is a famous decision (Shell Canada) that stands for the idea that a taxpayer is taxed on the way it arranges its affairs, rather than how it could have arranged its affairs. This concept is often referred to when a legal transaction is executed poorly, resulting in unintended tax consequences. These new decisions are in line with this concept, and they take away a weapon of last resort for taxpayers and their advisors.

2017-2018 Quebec Budget Summary

In Budgets on March 29, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Under the Auspices of the Quebec Order of Chartered Professional Accountants, I am pleased to provide a copy of the2017-2018 Québec Budget Summary2017-2018-Résumé du budget du Québec.  I will also place a link on the Tax Links Page, and they will remain there, along with future federal and Quebec budget summaries for future reference.

2017 Federal Budget Summary

In Budgets on March 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Under the Auspices of the Order of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, I am pleased to provide a summary of 2017 Federal budget summary/ 2017 Résumé du budget fédéral. I will also place a link on the Tax Links Page, and it will remain there, along with past federal and Quebec budget summaries for future reference.

Can Employees Deduct Cost of Cell Phone Plan?

In Canadian Income Tax, Employment Income on February 10, 2017 at 5:01 pm

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This should be an area of interest to pretty much anyone that owns a cell phone, so I thought I’d reproduce it here. It’s a recent CRA technical interpretation on the question of whether the cost of a cell phone plan is deductible from employment income.

Deductions from employment income must be specifically provided for under the Income Tax Act. Section 8(1)(i)(iii) deals with supplies used up in the course of performing employment duties. There must be a requirement under the employment contract for the employee to pay for his own supplies, and the employer must sign form T2200 to attest to this requirement.

The CRA was asked whether the cost of a basic cellular service plan is deductible from an employee’s employment income where an employer requires the employee to use a cellular phone to perform employment duties.

CRA Response: It is a question of fact. Section 8(1)(i)(iii) of the Income Tax Act (the “Act”) provides a deduction to an employee for “the cost of supplies that were consumed directly in the performance of the duties of . . . employment and that the . . . employee was required by the contract of employment to supply and pay for.” For supplies to be considered consumed directly in the performance of employment duties, the supplies must be used up and play an integral and essential part in the performance of the employment duties. The cost of the supplies should also be reasonable.

Based on the above, cellular minutes and data would be considered “supplies that were consumed directly” where it is determined that the cellular minutes and data were used up and played an integral and essential part in the performance of the employment duties. It is our understanding that service providers typically provide a detailed breakdown of each cellular minute used, but do not similarly provide a detailed breakdown of cellular data used. It is our view that without a detailed breakdown an employee would not be able to substantiate the amount of cellular  data that was used for employment purposes. Where the cellular minutes or data and costs cannot be substantiated, a deduction from employment income is not permitted under s. 8(1)(i)(iii) of the Act. If an employee can substantiate that they used their cellular phone exclusively for employment purposes (i.e., no personal use), it is our view that the basic service plan may reasonably reflect the cost of those cellular minutes and data. Where there is both employment and personal use and the employment use can be substantiated, an employee may apportion the basic service plan on a reasonable basis. However, if only the employment use of cellular minutes can be substantiated, only the portion of the basic service plan for minutes may be apportioned (i.e., the portion of the basic service plan for data cannot be deducted).