Canadian Court Case Showcases CRA Incompetence

Larry Stolberg

The Canadian Income Tax Act provides a time period in which one may appeal a Notice of Assessment (NOA) or Reassessment. It is not unusual for a taxpayer not to have received the NOA. Although the taxpayer should advise Canada Revenue Agency of any change in addresses or to correct an incorrect address on file, this case was decided on the premise of the lack of communication to the taxpayer of CRA’s assessment of tax payable for a taxation year.

Per CCH report on recent cases:

Pilgrim v. The Queen, 2015 DTC 1236

In September 2012, the Canada Revenue Agency issued Notices of Reassessment for the taxpayer for the 2009 and 2010 taxation years, and a Notice of Assessment for the 2011 taxation year. All of the notices were sent by mail but were not, according to the taxpayer, received by him. He became aware of a tax amount outstanding for previous years when he received his Notice of Assessment for the 2012 taxation year in the spring of 2014. He then brought an application for an extension of time to file Notices of Objection for the 2009, 2010, and 2011 taxation years. The Canada Revenue Agency took the position that the deadline for making such an application was no later than one year after the date by which the original Notice of Objection for the taxation year in question must have been served. Consequently, the application deadline had passed for all of the taxation years in issue. The application was dismissed.

During the course of the hearing of the application, it was determined that the address to which the notices at issue were sent was not the taxpayer’s correct address, and that some items of correspondence sent to the taxpayer had been returned to the CRA as undelivered. The notices had been sent to the correct street address for the taxpayer’s condominium complex, but had failed to specify the number of the taxpayer’s unit. The Court held that where a taxpayer alleges that a Notice of Assessment or Reassessment was not communicated to him, the Minister bears the burden of proving that the notice was mailed or otherwise communicated to the taxpayer. As well, it is incumbent upon the Minister to mail or otherwise send a Notice of Assessment or Reassessment to a taxpayer’s correct address. The jurisprudence provides that the fact that a notice which is sent to a wrong address leads to the conclusion that it was not issued at all. The Court concluded that the Notices of Assessment and Reassessment had therefore not been sent to the taxpayer and that the applicable limitation period had not begun to run. Consequently, the taxpayer’s Notices of Objection for the 2009, 2010 and 2011 taxation years had been timely served, and the issue of the timing of his application for an extension of time was moot.

Larry Stolberg

Larry Stolberg, CPA, CA, CPA (South Carolina), has been practicing as a full-time tax specialist for over 30 years, in the Toronto, Ontario Canada and surrounding GTA area with primary emphasis on:

•Corporate restructuring for business owners
•Estate/succession planning
•U.S. expatriate and cross border issues
•Tax efficient planning that will achieve both your short and long term objectives

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