CRA Provides Update on Audit Priorities and Activities

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At the Canadian Tax Foundation’s recent Ontario Tax Conference (October 29-30), the Canada Revenue Agency provided an update on its current audit priorities and activities as part of the conference’s “Tax Administration Panel“.

The CRA was represented by Fiona Harrison, Manager of the Resources Section at the CRA’s Income Tax Rulings Directorate, and Jeff Sadrian, National Director of the CRA’s Large Business Audit Programs.

In the course of the presentation, the CRA discussed a variety of issues (see the “Tax Administration Panel” conference slides), including “red tape” reduction, the CRA’s trust audit project, Regulation 105 waivers, ABIL claims, and omission penalties under s. 163(1). The CRA confirmed that it determines audit priorities based on the “highest risk”, and that it is continuing its “intelligence-based risk assessment” of taxpayers to determine which files will be selected for audit.

Other highlights included:

  • Folios – The CRA considers many existing Interpretation Bulletins to be out of date. The CRA intends to reorganize the information in the existing publications in new Folio chapters (i.e., all information relating to specific subjects will be “grouped” together). The CRA plans to update the Folios on an on-going basis, and the first 10-12 Folio chapters are likely to be published before the end of 2012.
  • Entity Classification - In a reversal of an earlier position (see, for example, CRA Document No. 2011-0415141E5 “Tax status of a German Family Trust” (August 4, 2011)), the CRA will once again accept requests for rulings on the classification of foreign entities.
  • Inter-Provincial Trusts – Where a trust claims to be resident, and pays tax, in one province, and the trust is later reassessed as resident in another province, the CRA will reassess the trust only for the difference between the tax paid in the first province and the tax owing in the second province.
  • U.S. LLCs – The CRA continues to disagree with the Tax Court’s decision in TD Securities (USA) LLC. v. The Queen (2010 TCC 186). The CRA’s view is that a fiscally-transparent U.S. LLC does not qualify as a resident of the U.S. for the purposes of the Canada-U.S. Tax Treaty, and is not a “qualifying person” under Article XXIX-A of the Treaty.
  • Section 56(2) – The CRA stated that it is aware of “elaborate arrangements” utilized to divert business income to family members. The CRA stated that, where such arrangements include the use of a trust, section 56(2) may be applied in respect of distributions from the trust provided the requirements of the provision are otherwise met (see Neuman v. The Queen (98 D.T.C. 6297 (S.C.C.)). In other words, the CRA may apply s. 56(2) to the actions of a trustee.

(The Tax Administration Panel conference slides are republished with permission of the Canadian Tax Foundation.)