Insurer loses battle against Quebec tax authorities

Insurers are required to collect tax on insurance premiums, and remit it to the provincial government, within a certain allotted time.

When clients sent a cheque or made an electronic payment to pay their premiums before it was due on the effective date of the policy,  one insurer accepted the sums as soon they were received but did not yet remit to the tax authorities because the policy was not yet in force.

The Quebec Court of Appeal nixed that practice.

The insurer, as per s. 527 of the Act respecting the Québec sales tax (Act), must in its capacity as agent account for the tax collected in the preceding calendar month at the end of the month, held the Appeal Court in Agence du revenu du Québec c. Assurances générales Desjardins inc., 2022 QCCA 57. Whether or not the premium is due does not change the fact that the insurer has collected the amount of tax on insurance premium paid by the insured and must therefore remit it to the Minister, added the Appeal Court.

“There is no doubt that, where the premium is paid on the day the contract comes into force, the tax on insurance premiums collected must be remitted to the Minister in accordance with the terms of section 527 of the Act.

“The issue at stake here is that the customer voluntarily fulfills his obligation, the payment of the amount corresponding to the premium, which includes the tax on insurance premiums, before the arrival of the suspensive term agreed between the parties and that the (insurer) collect this amount although they are technically not yet entitled to it.”

On top of that, under article 2398 Civil Code, this contract is formed as soon as the application is accepted by the insurer, even if it takes effect at a later date, added the Appeal Court. The enforceability of the reciprocal obligations of the parties is then simply suspended until the date fixed, concluded the Appeal Court.

Federal Court of Appeal allows use of mark-to-market tax accounting

Taxpayers are entitled to use the mark-to-market method to compute income for federal tax purposes if it provides a more accurate picture of a taxpayer’s income, ruled the Federal Court of Appeal.

The federal appeal court decision bolsters the possibility for taxpayers to use methods to compute income  that are not forbidden by the Income Tax Act (Act), affirms Canada Revenue Agency’s administrative position that allows regulated financial institutions to tax derivatives on a mark-to-market basis, and may open the door to allow financial accounting to become more influential in determining what constitutes an acceptable method of computing income from business, according to tax experts.

“The case confirms that taxpayers are to determine profit for tax purposes on the basis that reflects an accurate picture of the taxpayer’s income,” said James Morand, a Toronto tax lawyer with Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP. “If mark-to-market presents a truer picture of a taxpayer’s income than realization or some other method of computation, it is preferable.”

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Appeal court orders seized material to be sealed in Uber case

Nearly six months after 20 Revenue Quebec officials raided the Montreal offices of Uber Canada Inc. as part of a tax investigation, the popular ride-sharing service won a legal battle against the provincial taxman after the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling and held that the seized evidence must be sealed.

The succinct 12-page ruling will likely pave the way for more applications for impoundment as the courts and tax authorities grapple with the challenges posed by e-commerce, disruptive business models, and technology, according to tax lawyers.

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Court rules there are limits to reverse or correct unintended tax consequences

Taxpayers do not have a general license to “travel back to through time” with the benefit of hindsight to reverse or correct unintended tax consequences of commercial dealings, held the Quebec Court of Appeal in two separate but related rulings.

The rulings effectively limit the scope of the so-called rectification remedy in a tax context under civil law, according to tax experts. A powerful legal instrument, rectification essentially allows taxpayers, under certain conditions, to correct errors in legal documents or instruments that do not reflect the true intention of the parties, and which lead to unintended consequences. Rectification allows the parties to “fix” the terms of the transaction so that the intended tax consequences are achieved. Its effect is retroactive.

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Ambitious international effort to rewrite tax rules at risk

An ambitious international effort calling for a coordinated approach to rewrite global tax rules over profit shifting risks being undermined by the number of growing countries that are unilaterally introducing significant tax reforms, warn tax experts.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), backed by the G20 Finance Ministers, proposed in July 2013 a sweeping series of proposals that take aim at aggressive international tax planning by multinational companies in the wake of intense political scrutiny and public outcry over the likes of Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Starbucks moving billions of profits out of higher-tax countries into low or no-tax jurisdictions.

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