Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Dangerous Assumptions Leave Directors Liable For Unpaid Taxes

Posted by Ron Davis on Thu, Sep 14, 2017

The Tax Court of Canada ruling in Sud v. Canada (2017 TCC 106), reinforces the saying “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” for directors trying to mitigate their personal liability for tax remittance risk. Arun Sud was advised to incorporate his courier business by his employer for tax reasons. He incorporated 1186271 Ontario Inc. (the “Corporation”) under the laws of Ontario on June 21, 1996, and operated the business as its sole director and shareholder until it ceased operations in August, 2005. GST collected was owed for the period from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2005. In November 2006, the Corporation was assessed for unpaid GST and it filed an appeal of the assessment in the Tax Court. In February of 2010, a consent agreement was filed with the Court in which the Corporation was to pay $36,363.28. This amount was never paid.

On August 1, 2014, Sud was assessed $17,298.32 of the Corporation’s unremitted GST as the Corporation’s director and he filed his appeal to the Tax Court. He argued that he had not acted as the Corporation’s director since it had ceased operations in 2005 and that the assessment in 2014 was outside the two-year limitation period for assessing director’s liability in s. 323(5) of the Excise Tax Act. He also argued that since no annual corporate returns had been filed since 2005, he believed the Corporation would be automatically dissolved after two years. In fact, the Ministry of Finance of Ontario by Notice of Dissolution effective October 24, 2016, dissolved the Corporation, at which point its certificate of incorporation was cancelled.

The Tax Court noted that the two-year limitation in the Excise Tax Act only begins to run after a person “last ceased to be a director,” and therefore, the question was whether Sud ceased to be a director before the date of his assessment. It held that that issue was determined by the rules in the applicable corporate statute, which, in Ontario, would occur on the director’s death, resignation, removal or disqualification. The Court held that the first and the latter two rules were not applicable in this case. The Ontario rule regarding resignation required the corporation must receive a written resignation in order to constitute an effective resignation. Sud had never submitted such a resignation.

The Court rejected the argument that Sud had ceased to be a director because the Corporation had ceased operations, relying on an earlier decision, Bremmer v. R., (2007 TCC 509), finding that a director’s duties continue after the corporation ceases operations. The Court also noted that even if Sud had submitted a written resignation, it may not have been effective because the Ontario statute required the corporation have at least one director, so in order for Sud to resign, another director would have had to be appointed or elected. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Sud’s appeal.

In another decision by the Tax Court of Canada, Grant v. Canada (2017 TCC 121), Christopher Grant, a director of RII Holdings Inc. (the “Corporation”) was found liable for unremitted source deductions, interest and penalties of $ $66,865.44. The Corporation that had made the deductions had become bankrupt and its assets were taken over by a bankruptcy trustee August 1, 2006. The assessment against Grant as a director was made in May 2012. Grant claimed that he had ceased to be a director when the Corporation became bankrupt and the bankruptcy trustee assumed control of its assets in 2006, well beyond the two-year limitation period for assessing directors after they cease being directors.

The Court held that bankruptcy did not terminate a director’s status as a director of the bankrupt corporation, despite control being asserted by the trustee. The Court held that the only legislation governing how a director ceases to hold office is the relevant corporate legislation, in this case the Ontario Business Corporations Act (OBCA), which requires a written resignation be received by the corporation in order for a director to effectively resign. As no resignation had been submitted, the Court found that Grant was still a director and able to be assessed for the liability for the source deductions.

These decisions, once again illustrate that individuals serving as corporate directors, need legal advice about the avenues available to mitigate their personal liability risks. Corporate law statutes have various requirements that must be met if an individual wishes to effectively resign their directorship. Relying on common sense understandings, as Sud and Grant apparently did respectively, regarding the effect of ceasing to file the corporation’s annual reports, or the effect of corporate bankruptcy, may lead to unanticipated liability for that individual. For further information on the risk mitigation strategies with respect to tax liability, see Canadian Directors’ Liability, Chapter 5, “Liabilities Relating to Taxation Law,” Section 2, Subsection a.2, “Ceasing to be a Director.”

Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) has just published an update to its publication Directors' Liability in Canada and provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include:

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About the Author
Ronald Davis is an associate professor emeritus at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto in 1990, graduating as that year’s silver medalist. He was called to the Ontario Bar and practiced law in Toronto for 10 years before returning to graduate studies at the University of Toronto. 

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Tags: Accounting & Tax, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

Latest Department of Justice Guidance for Evaluating Corporate Compliance Programs in Criminal Investigations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 23, 2017

Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Fraud Section issued additional enforcement guidelines to US Attorneys, entitled “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs.” DOJ’s US Attorneys perform these evaluations to weigh whether and how severely an organization might be charged for illegal conduct by directors, officers, or other employees. But individuals may be committing crimes to further the organization’s goals (remember Volkswagen’s recent use of fraudulent means to defeat emission requirements), or for their own purposes despite organizational efforts. For readers in organizations that aren’t encouraging criminal behavior, these guidelines provide important guidance to the design (and implementation) of effective compliance programs.

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, Accounting & Tax, Audit Standards, Environmental risks, Environmental, corporate social responsibility, directors, directors & officers

SEC Ponders Responsibilities For Board of Directors’ Audit Committees

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 15, 2015

Boards of directors are responsible for governing their corporations. Many boards divide their work among committees. Committees often include an “audit committee,” with responsibilities that may include:

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Tags: Business & Legal, SEC, Accounting & Tax, Audit Standards

Tax Court Holds Unsigned Resignation Effective

Posted by Ron Davis on Mon, Mar 23, 2015

The Tax Court of Canada reviewed the requirements for a directors’ resignation to be effective in the context of potential personal liability for the corporation’s failure to remit source deductions under the Income Tax Act in determining that a resignation document prepared by corporate counsel was sufficient, even though the directors never saw the document (Gariepy v. The Queen, 2014 TCC 254). In this case, Donna Gariepy and Sally Chriss agreed to act as directors of 1056922 Ontario Limited (“105”) at the urging of their husbands, Derek Gariepy and George Chriss, the actual managers of 105. The directors’ husbands had been directors of CG Industries (CGI) that had become insolvent and owed significant unremitted source deduction amounts to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Accounting & Tax, Employee Rights, Canadian

Securities and Exchange Commission Roundup 2013

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Jan 24, 2014

For the second year running, SEC activities during 2013 were dominated by its efforts to issue rules required by two major pieces of recent legislation:

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, SEC, Employer Best Practices, Accounting & Tax, Accountants, JOBS Act

Derivatives and Hedging: Good News for Dealers and Brokers From FASB

Posted by Viola Funk on Wed, Nov 27, 2013

Dealers and brokers seeking hedging exposures to the Overnight Index Swap rate (OIS) are in luck. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently issued final guidance that allows dealer-brokers to designate the US OIS, the Fed Funds Effective Swap Rate, as a benchmark interest rate for hedge accounting purposes.

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Tags: Business & Legal, SEC, Accounting & Tax, Accountants, US GAAP, GAAP

SEC Pay Ratio Disclosure Rule—Comment Period Ending

Posted by STP Editorial Team on Mon, Nov 18, 2013

The SEC voted (3-2), on September 18, 2013, to propose pay ratio disclosure rules as required by Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It has issued for public comment until December 2, 2013, its proposed rule, Pay Ratio Disclosure, requiring companies to disclose ratio of the chief executive officer’s (CEO’s) compensation to the median compensation of their employees. According to the SEC staff, registrants are given flexibility in calculating the median employee and total compensation for disclosure purposes based on their size, structure, and how they compensate their employees. Stakeholders who would like to have their views considered should act quickly to meet the December 2, 2013, deadline.

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, SEC, Accounting & Tax, Accountants

Currently Proposed Changes to U.S. Lease Accounting Rules

Posted by STP Editorial Team on Fri, Nov 08, 2013

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), under their joint Leases Project, propose to substantially revise the existing rules for lease accounting.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Accounting & Tax, Lease Accounting, Accountants, US GAAP, GAAP

SEC Proposes Controversial Pay Ratio Reporting Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Oct 07, 2013

On September 18 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed to require public companies to calculate and disclose the pay ratio between their principal executive officer (PEO) and other employees:

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, SEC, Accounting & Tax

CEO/Worker Pay Ratio—SEC Proposes Controversial and Costly Statistic

Posted by Ron Pippin on Wed, Oct 02, 2013

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Tags: Corporate Governance, SEC, Accounting & Tax, Accountants