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USA Citizens: Risks of Tax Non-Compliance

Photo by Aaron Kittredge from Pexels

Since January 1, 2016, the US State Department was able to deny or revoke passports to US citizens having a “seriously delinquent tax debt” or no Social Security Number associated with their passport. A “seriously delinquent tax debt” is one where the taxpayer owed more than $51,000, after January 1, 2018 (indexed going forward), in tax, interest, and penalties. 
An Alert on the IRS website recently noted that beginning January 2018 the IRS will begin certifying tax debts to the State Department. After receiving certification from the IRS, the State Department will not generally issue a passport.
In addition to passport denial and revocation, several states impose non-monetary, non-criminal sanctions for certain taxpayers who are sufficiently delinquent on their taxes. For example, New York, California, Louisiana, and Massachusetts may revoke driving privileges. 
Action Item: If you have an outstanding U.S. tax liability, or are concerned you may not b…

Reasonable Automobile Allowances: GST/HST Claim

A travel allowance paid to an employee for the use of their personal vehicle for business purposes will be non-taxable if it is reasonable. Where such reasonable allowances are paid, an input tax credit (ITC) may be claimed by the employer.The ITC is computed as the imputed GST/HST in the allowance, without adjustment for the fact that some costs likely did not attract GST/HST. In non-harmonized provinces/territories (such as Alberta and B.C.), the ITC would be 5/105 of the allowance.The ITC in a harmonized province is different.For example, in Ontario, with 13% HST, the ITC would be 13/113 of the allowance.Other HST provinces would apply this formula to their respective rate.
In a November 10, 2017 Tax Court of Canada case, CRA denied ITCs of $4,935 related to motor vehicle allowances paid to employees that were also shareholders. CRA argued that the allowances were not reasonable.
Taxpayer wins The allowances were based on the maximum per kilometre rates that the employer could deduct…

Door to Door Tax Scam

The Times Colonist (Victoria, BC) reports about a CRA fraudster coming to a citizen's door with handcuffs. Read more here.

Corporate Passive Investment Income: Proposed Changes

A new passive investment tax regime for Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPCs) is proposed to apply to taxation years commencing after 2018. Passive income may include interest, rental, royalties, dividends from portfolio investments and taxable capital gains. 
Two significant changes are proposed. First, a limit to the small business deduction for CCPCs generating significant income from passive assets, and second, a new regime to stream the recovery of refundable tax to the payment of specific types of dividends (eligible versus non-eligible).
Access to the Small Business Deduction (SBD)The first prong of the proposals will reduce access to the SBD for CCPCs having more than $50,000 of passive income. CCPCs with passive income in excess of the threshold will incrementally lose access to their SBD, until $150,000 of passive income is reached, at which point the entire SBD will be lost. The prior year’s passive income will determine the current year’s SBD limit.
For purposes of…

Family Members: Can I Pay Them a Salary?

For a small business, whether operated as a corporation, proprietorship or partnership, it is quite possible that relatives of the owners or partners may be engaged as employees. Due to the closer familial relationship between employer and employee, CRA pays particular attention to ensure that the salary is truly an eligible deduction to the business. 
According to CRA, salaries to children and spouses are deductible as long as all of these conditions are met: the salary is actually paid;the work the family member does is necessary for earning business or professional income; andthe salary is reasonable when considering the family member’s age and the amount one would pay someone else.

CRA also states that T4s are required for all employees, including family members, and subject to payroll deductions, as appropriate. Payment in the form of room and board is not accepted by CRA.
CRA suggests that the average salary for an arm’s length person providing similar services under similar conditi…

Digital Currency: Basics and Tax Implications

What is Digital Currency (DC)? DC is essentially electronic money. It’s not available as bills or coins. Cryptocurrency is a type of DC created using computer algorithms with the most popular being bitcoin.
No single organization, such as a central bank, creates DC. DC is based on a decentralized, peer-to-peer network. The “peers” in this network are the people that take part in DC transactions, and their computers make up the network.
DC can be used to buy goods and services, whether in store or online. DC may also be bought and sold on open exchanges (similar to a stock market).
DC is often created through a complex process known as “mining” and then monitored by a global network of computers. About 3,600 new bitcoins are created each day, with about 16.5 million now in circulation. Like all currencies, its value is determined by how much people are willing to buy and sell it for.

Tax – Buying and Selling Digital Currency
Gains or losses from selling or buying DCs must be reported on one’…

Commission Paid to a Corporation: Any Issues?

Consider the successful real estate or insurance agent, the financial product vendor, the area sales representative, or any other person earning commission income. One day they are asked, if they ever considered running their activities through a corporation as opposed to providing the services personally. There are definitely some valuable possibilities, but there are dangers too.
In a July 11, 2017 Technical Interpretation, CRA opined that whether a corporation is actually carrying on a business and earning commission income is a question of fact and requires more than a mere assignment of income.
CRA noted that “if insurance agents, realtors, mutual fund salespersons, or other professionals are legally… precluded from assigning their commissions to a corporation, then the commission income must be reported by the individuals, and cannot be reported through a corporation, regardless of the documentation provided”. Care must be taken to document that it is truly the corporation providi…

Business Failure: Personal Liability For Corporate Tax Debt

There are special laws which hold a director personally liable for certain amounts that their corporation fails to deduct, withhold, remit, or pay. Most commonly, these amounts include federal sales tax (GST/HST) and payroll withholdings (income tax, EI and CPP). It does not generally include normal corporate income tax liabilities. In a June 22, 2017 Tax Court of Canada case, at issue was whether the director of a corporation could be held liable for $66,865 in unremitted source deductions, related penalties, and interest six years after the corporation went bankrupt. The taxpayer presented various defenses. Two-Year LimitationIn general, CRA must issue an assessment against the director within two years from the time they last ceased to be a director. The taxpayer argued he should not be liable since he was forced off the property and denied access by the Trustee in bankruptcy more than two years before the assessment. However, the Court determined that only once one is removed as dir…

Loans to a Relative's Business: What Happens When it Goes Bad?

You’ve loaned money to a family member’s corporation. Perhaps it was an investment, maybe it was a favor, or both. Or, perhaps, it was made for a completely separate reason. Regardless, sometimes the loan may go bad and you are not able to collect on the debt. What happens from a tax perspective when this occurs?
If the loan was made to earn income and other conditions are met, you may be able to write-off half against your regular income as an allowable business investment loss (ABIL). A recent tax court case shed some light on defining whether the loan was made to earn income.
In a November 3, 2016 Tax Court of Canada case, at issue was whether an ABIL could be claimed in respect of the loan from a taxpayer to his daughter’s start-up company. Within approximately two years, operations had ceased and the daughter had claimed personal bankruptcy.
The loan agreement stipulated that interest at 6% was to be charged from the onset, but no payments would be made for approximately the first t…

Marijuana: A Growing Industry

As the legislation to legalize marijuana for non-medical purposes works its way through parliament (Bill C-45 entered the Senate phase on November 27, 2017), producers, vendors, regulators, enforcement, and potential customers are seriously considering the implications. Although it has been expected legalization would occur by July, 2018, the timeline is not certain (as the Senate has recently been scrutinizing draft legislation and other stakeholders have noted concerns).
Where are we at from a tax perspective? On December 11, 2017, the federal and provincial/territorial Finance Ministers reached an Agreement in principal regarding the taxation of cannabis for the initial two years after legalization. This agreement followed a consultation with stakeholders.
The Agreement noted that in addition to general sales taxes, the combined rate of all federal and provincial/territorial cannabis-specific taxes will not exceed the higher of $1 per gram, or 10% of a producer’s selling price. Of the…

Input Tax Credits: Checking Up On Suppliers

Do I have to check up on a supplier when paying them GST/HST? Yes!In a January 29, 2016 Tax Court of Canada case it was noted that CRA had denied over $500,000 of input tax credits (ITCs), and assessed penalties and interest, in respect of GST and QST paid to twelve suppliers. Unknown to the taxpayer, the suppliers did not remit the tax. The taxpayer, a scrap metal dealer, obtained evidence of prospective suppliers' GST and QST registration prior to accepting them as suppliers. Taxpayer wins – mostlyA taxpayer must use reasonable procedures to verify that suppliers are valid registrants, their registration numbers actually exist, and that they are in the name of that person or business. The Court held that the taxpayer's procedures (reviewing the suppliers' registrations, stamped by Revenue Quebec) were generally sufficient. It was not relevant that some suppliers did not have scrapyards and/or vehicles to carry on scrap businesses, nor that payment was often made in cash, ma…

Income Splitting: Where are We Now?

On December 13, 2017, the Department of Finance released a number of updates relating to the income sprinkling proposals (originally announced on July 18, 2017). Below is a summary of the proposals as they are currently drafted.
Individuals that receive certain types of income derived from a “related business” will be subject to Tax on Split Income (TOSI) unless an exclusion applies. TOSI is subject to the highest personal tax rate with no benefit of personal credits.
Commencing on January 1, 2018 TOSI will potentially apply in respect of amounts that are received by adults, not just those under 18 years. The application of TOSI to individuals under age 18 (commonly known as the “kiddie tax”) would not generally change.
Income Streams at Risk Private corporation dividendsPartnership allocationsTrust allocationsCapital gainsIncome from debt.Related Business
A related business includes any business, where another individual related to the recipient of income does any of the following:
persona…

Support of Refugees: Tax and Filing Requirements

Two Technical Interpretations (May 26 and March 3, 2017) considered whether support provided to a refugee would be required to be reported on a Form T5007, Statement of Benefits.
Essentially, the CRA considered whether the support would constitute “social assistance” which would require a T5007. If the amount is not considered “social assistance”, no T5007 would be required.
CRA opined that amounts would be considered “social assistance” if provided by a government or government agency, or other organization such as a charity (the “source” test”) and the payment is made on the basis of one of the following (the “purpose” test): an “income” test, which is based solely on the income of the applicant;a “means” test, which is similar to the income test but also takes into account the assets of the applicant; anda “needs” test, which not only takes into account income and assets but also financial needs of the applicant.Social assistance payments should be reported on Form T5007, unless a spe…