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Can Tax Authorities Demand Access to Audit Workpapers? Canadian Experience Follows U.S. Rule

Can Tax Authorities Demand Access to Audit Workpapers? Canadian Experience Follows U.S. Rule

Recent victories in litigation have allowed the Canada Revenue Agency to review tax accrual workpapers of Canadian corporations, provided the request for access is not a “fishing expedition” attempting to find issues.In the U.S., the I.R.S. has enjoyed that power for many years. Sunita Doobay of Blaney McMurtry L.L.P., Toronto, examines the scope and limitations of the Canadian decisions. Stanley C. Ruchelman reviews case law in the U.S., the role of FIN 48, and the purpose behind Schedule UTP (reporting uncertain tax positions), which surprisingly is designed to limit examinations of tax accrual workpapers.

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Alta Energy Affirms Treaty Benefits: A Canadian Case Study for Applying the M.L.I.

Alta Energy Affirms Treaty Benefits: A Canadian Case Study for Applying the M.L.I.

As part of its attack on B.E.P.S., the O.E.C.D. published its Multilateral Instrument, a device that revised more than 1,200 income tax treaties. One of the provisions of the M.L.I. targets treaty shopping by the adoption of, among other things, a principal purpose test ("P.P.T."). In simple terms, the P.P.T. disallows a treaty benefit when a principal purpose of a transaction is to obtain that benefit. Transactions in accordance with the object and purpose of the provisions of a treaty are not affected by the P.P.T. Many North American tax advisers know that the P.P.T. is based on a provision of Canadian law known as the General Anti-Avoidance Rule or G.A.A.R. A recent decision of the Tax Court of Canada addresses the application of G.A.A.R. to a cross-border tax plan set up by a U.S. financial institution designed specifically to obtain enhanced Canadian tax benefits by rechanneling a U.S. investment in Canada into a U.S. investment into Luxembourg that was then invested into Canada. The Canada Revenue Agency ("C.R.A.") attacked the Luxembourg company's entitlement to treaty benefits relying heavily on G.A.A.R. Kristy J. Balkwill and Benjamin Mann of Miller Thomson L.L.P., Toronto, explain the decision and its potential impact on the P.P.T. The case has been appealed by C.R.A.

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Insights Vol. 4 No. 1: Updates & Other Tidbits

This month, we look briefly at several timely issues, including (i) the termination of foreign acceptance agent agreements used to confirm copies of passports outside the U.S. when a non-U.S. individual obtains an I.T.I.N., (ii) a court order in Canada upholding a demand for disclosure of client names and documentation relating to participation in a discredited tax shelter, (iii) E.U. steps that identify potentially blacklisted low-tax or no-tax countries, and (iv) worsening relations between the U.S. and the E.U. stemming from widening differences in tax policies.

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A Year of Guest Features

A Year of Guest Features

This month, we reminisce on the best of 2016, with articles contributed by guest authors from around the world.

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Contract Manufacturing in a US-Controlled Group

First published by the Canadian Tax Foundation in (2016) 24:7 Canadian Tax Highlights.

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Canada Adopts Changes to Trust & Estate Taxation Rules

On January 1, new income tax rules came into effect regarding the Canadian taxation of trusts and estates. Use of graduated tax rates for multiple trust, charitable donation credits for estates, and allocation of gains at death are the targets. Amanda Stacey, Nicole D’Aoust, and Rahul Sharma of Miller Thomson LLP, Toronto explain.

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Insights Vol. 3 No. 2: Updates & Other Tidbits

This month, Insights looks at the latest development in the deferred prosecution agreement with Swiss banks, a property tax increase in Jerusalem for “ghost apartments,” Canadian procedures to exempt foreign employers from withholding tax on salaries paid to certain individuals that are resident outside of Canada but work in Canada from time to time, and the adverse effect outside the U.S. of deferred CbC reporting for U.S.-based multinationals.

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Planning for Canadian Parents with U.S. Children

Published in Taxes & Wealth Management by Thomson Reuters, Issue 8-4: November 2015.

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Insights Vol. 2 No. 6: F.A.T.C.A. 24/7

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On July 1, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“F.A.T.C.A.”) celebrated the first anniversary of its implementation. F.A.T.C.A. was created to improve international tax compliance and combat offshore tax evasion. Notwithstanding dire predictions about its impact on the financial community when F.A.T.C.A. was first enacted in 2010, the sky has not yet fallen as of its first anniversary.

The US Net Investment Income Tax

First published by the Canadian Tax Foundation in (2015) 23:6 Canadian Tax Highlights.

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Guidance for Canadian Snowbirds

Published in The Bottom Line, December 2014.

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Hybrid Entities in Cross Border Transactions: The Canadian Experience, the U.S. Response, & B.E.P.S. - the O.E.C.D. End Game

Published by the Practising Law Institute (PLI).

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New I.R.S. Procedures for Canadian Retirement Plans

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On October 7, 2014, the I.R.S. released Revenue Procedure 2014-55, which provides guidance for U.S. citizens or residents who own a Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (“R.R.S.P.”). In short, U.S. citizens/Canadian residents, Canadian citizens/U.S. residents, and dual citizens will no longer need to file Form 8891 to defer the accrued R.R.S.P./R.R.I.F income for U.S. tax purposes. The deferral will now occur automatically, assuming the individual is “eligible.” These new procedures will apply even if the contributions to the R.R.S.P./R.R.I.F. were made as a resident of Canada.

However, practitioners should note that this does not alleviate the need to file Form 8938 or FinCen Form 114 upon receiving a distribution from an R.R.R.P.

Original Treatment

An individual who is both a U.S. citizen/resident and a beneficiary of a R.R.S.P will be subject to current U.S. income taxation on income accrued in the plan even though the income is not currently distributed to the beneficiary. In Canada, the individual is not subject to Canadian income taxation until the accrued income is actually distributed from the plan. This leads to a mismatch in the timing of the U.S. tax and the Canadian tax, resulting in possible double taxation.

Article XVIII, Paragraph 7 of the U.S.-Canada Income Tax Convention (the “Treaty”) provides that an individual may defer U.S. taxation on income accumulated in an R.R.S.P., but only if the individual makes an annual election to defer the taxation of income.

Canadian Immigration Trust Exemption Withdrawn

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For over 40 years, Canada offered a unique tax benefit to individuals not previously Canadian resident or who had been resident in Canada for less than 60 months. Such persons were allowed to establish a nonresident trust, which would not be taxable by Canada and from which a Canadian resident beneficiary could receive tax-free capital distributions. In addition, and in comparison to U.S. tax rules, income accumulated in the trust at the end of the calendar year automatically became capital, following typical provisions in discretionary trusts. Once converted into capital, the rules for tax-free distributions of capital became applicable.

This made Canada an attractive jurisdiction for global elite. Wealthy immigrants to Canada could shelter foreign investment income and capital gains from Canadian tax for a period of up to 60 months after becoming resident. Needless to say, these structures became quite popular.

In a surprise move announced in February 2014, the tax benefit was withdrawn from 2015 onwards. However, if the trust received a contribution after February 22, 2014, it would become taxable from 2014 onwards. Importantly, no grandfathering was provided for existing trust arrangements, which is both unfortunate and unfair. The change impacts a large number of individuals, as many people have structured their tax planning on the basis of having this exemption for 60 months.


Canada has a common law definition of residence, which is basically a facts and circumstances test. When an individual establishes sufficient ties to Canada, that person will become resident. While Canada also has a substantial presence rule (183 days in the calendar year), this rule is only applicable to persons who spend time in Canada without becoming resident under common law principles. Citizenship and immigration status are not a basis for levying tax.

The McKesson Transfer Pricing Case

volume 1 no 7   |   Read article

By Sherif Assef

In this month’s lead article, Sherif Assef of Duff & Phelps weighs the consequences of a recent Tax Court of Canada case involving risk shifting and function shifting within a multinational group when neither risks nor functions are actually shifted. Nonetheless, profits were shifted and this annoyed the C.R.A.  See more →

Cross-Border Estate Planning: Canadian Parents of U.S. Children

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U.S. transfer taxes (U.S. gift, estate and generation skipping taxes) should be a concern to any practitioner creating an estate plan with U.S. links. The following article addresses U.S. estate tax consequences of a family comprised of Canadian citizen/resident parents with American children.


Transfer tax is imposed on the fair market value of the property transferred, reduced by any consideration received.

U.S. citizens, and non-U.S. citizen individuals that are domiciled in the U.S., are subject to the U.S. transfer tax system on global assets.

A person acquires a domicile in a place by living there, for even a brief period of time, without the presence of a definite intention to leave.

A facts and circumstances test is used to determine domicile. Factors include, e.g.:

  1. Statements of intent (as reflected, e.g., on tax returns filed, visa application, and similar evidence);
  2. Time spent in U.S. versus time spent abroad;
  3. Visa status (e.g., green card holder);
  4. Ties to the U.S. versus abroad;
  5. Country of citizenship;
  6. Location of employment, business, and assets;
  7. Other indicators such as voting, affiliations, membership, driver license, and similar items.

Residence without the intention to remain indefinitely will not constitute a domicile, and the intention to change domicile will not effect such a change unless accompanied by actual relocation.

Understanding Your Neighbour

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As with most international tax planning, the key to cross-border Canada/US tax and estate tax planning is to synchronize the timing of the tax events and the taxpayer in order to minimize, and even eliminate, double taxation. Avoidance of tax in one jurisdiction may not be a satisfactory solution if it is merely a deferral or a shifting of a tax burden to a different taxpayer who or which may be subject ot tax at a lower rate (as well as a later time).

Canadian personal tax overview

Federal income tax is imposed on resident individuals, estates, trusts and companies based upon residency or domicile in Canada. Canada has an extensive array of dual tax treaties, so in many cases tax residency may be overidden by a treaty. If a resident, tax may be imposed on one's worldwide income, which, of course, is determined under specific definitions.

Hybrid Entities in Cross Border Transactions: The Canadian Experience - The U.S. Response [2008]

Published by the Practising Law Institute (PLI) in the Partnership Tax Practice Series: Planning for Domestic & Foreign Partnerships, LLCs, Joint Ventures & Other Strategic Alliances, 2008.

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Cross-Border Canadian-U.S. Planning

Published by ALI-ABA in The Practical Tax Lawyer, Volume 19, Issue 2: 2005.

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Economic Substance Around the World

Joint Meeting of the American Bar Association – Section of Taxation: May 2004.

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