Why don’t you write me I’m out in the jungle, I’m hungry to hear you
Send me a card I am waiting so hard to be near you….Paul Simon
If a person transfers capital property to his or her spouse, Income Tax Act (ITA) subsection 73(1) deems it be transferred at cost, unless the taxpayer elects in his return not to have the rollover apply.
A bad debt on a loan may be considered to be a disposition of that debt for tax purposes under ITA section 50, but only if the taxpayer elects in his tax return to have that provision apply.
On a change of control of a corporation, there is an automatic deemed year end. If that date is within 7 days after the normal year end, then that normal year end can be extended to the date of the change of control, but only if the taxpayer so elects in his return of income under ITA paragraph 249(4)(c).
I could go on and on, but point is, there are many provisions in Canadian tax law that require elections or designations in a taxpayer’s tax return. Some elections require specific prescribed forms to be filed. Others, however, have no form assigned to them. These are usually handled with a letter attached to the return stating that the taxpayer wishes to elect to have a certain provision apply.
So, how does a taxpayer wishing to make an election “in his tax return” do so if he is electronically filing? Currently, the CRA has no way of processing these “letter” elections electronically. However, they do make the statement in various guides and publications that a separate letter should be sent to the Taxation Centre, and even though it is not actually “in the return of income” as is required by law, if the letter arrives before the due date of the return, it will be valid. Furthermore, for corporate filers, the CRA states that an election may be included as part of the notes to the financial statements in the GIFI.
But what if no actual “letter” is produced? What if the taxpayer, in his return of income, simply takes advantage of the election? For example, isn’t it obvious that a taxpayer who makes a claim for a capital loss on the disposition of a bad debt under section 50 in his tax return has made the election in his return? Similarly, if a taxpayer shows a disposition at fair market value on a property transferred to his spouse, isn’t it clear that he has elected out of subsection 73(1)?
Clearly, the CRA’s polcies would suggest that a letter expressly making the election under the specific section of the law should always be prepared. However, for those who have not done so, the recent case of Dhaliwal may offer some support.
In Dhaliwal, the taxpayer failed to send a letter to the CRA and and claimed a loss under section 50 in his tax return. The loss was denied by the CRA, but the Tax Court of Canada had this to say:
The question thus becomes: Must a subsection 50(1) election be made with an express reference to electing to have subsection 50(1) apply, or is it sufficient that the taxpayer elects to report a loss in his or her tax return on a deemed disposition that results because he or she has chosen to avail himself or herself of subsection 50(1)? In an electronic-filing age, this takes on considerable importance as, if an election making a specific reference to subsection 50(1) is required, but no such choice is available in the CRA’s electronic tax returns, this would mean that subsection 50(1) is only available to paper-filers or that the CRA is derelict in its duties in administering the Income Tax Act .
…upon a proper interpretation of section 50, it is sufficient to communicate the taxpayer’s election by clearly communicating in his or her tax return that he or she wants to be allowed an ABIL in respect of particular debt or shares disposed of in that year. This same analysis applies equally to electronic and paper format tax return. In this case, Mr. Dhaliwal’s 2007 electronic tax return clearly claims an ABIL, using the CRA’s ABIL schedule, in respect of a $156,000 loan made in 2005 and disposed of in 2007. The matter could hardly be clearer.
Perhaps at some point in the future, the CRA will come up with a clearer procedure to make elections and submit written information within an electronically filed income tax return. For now, those who are vigilant should follow their guidelines, but those who are not should follow Dhaliwal.