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Money could also be king, however it may possibly trigger complications if the taxman denies your claims

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Jamie Golombek: With no information, the burden of proof is definitely larger as this ‘impartial spirit’ from PEI came upon

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It’s typically stated that money is king, however it could not at all times be the perfect methodology of cost on the subject of coping with the taxman, who could ask you some robust inquiries to justify tax-deductible bills or, on the flip facet, show you earned a minimal quantity of qualifying revenue to benefit from varied advantages or credit.

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For instance, there’s been a slew of current instances coping with taxpayers’ eligibility for COVID-19-related advantages, such because the Canada Emergency Response Profit (CERB) and Canada Restoration Profit (CRB), by which taxpayers needed to show that they had earnings of at the least $5,000 to qualify for these advantages. If these earnings had been paid in money, and by no means deposited in a checking account, the validity of assorted taxpayers’ claims was challenged.

However the issue in proving money earnings may also come up outdoors the realm of pandemic advantages. Take a current case involving a taxpayer’s declare for the Working Earnings Tax Profit (WITB), since changed by the Canada Staff Profit (CWB). The profit is a refundable tax credit score that dietary supplements the earnings of low-income employees, and is offered to people 19 years of age or older who aren’t at school full time.

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For 2022, the CWB is the same as 27 per cent of every greenback of working revenue above $3,000, to a most credit score of $1,428 for single people with out dependents, and $2,461 for households ({couples} and single dad and mom). The CWB is phased out at a charge of 15 per cent of every greenback of revenue above $23,495 for single people (with out dependents), and $26,805 for households. (Observe that quantities could also be completely different for residents of Alberta, Nunavut and Quebec.)

In 2018, about 1.4 million Canadians acquired the WITB. The important thing to qualifying for the WITB (or the CWB now) is that the person claiming the credit score will need to have “working revenue,” which is basically employment or enterprise revenue.

However how does one show working revenue if you happen to’re paid solely in money?

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That was the query earlier than the choose in a current Tax Court docket of Canada case involving a Prince Edward Island resident and his WITB declare for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 taxation years. The taxpayer’s claims had been denied as a result of the Canada Income Company concluded he “was not actively working a enterprise” and had “not earned any working revenue giving entitlement to the WITB.”

By means of background, the taxpayer lives “very modestly” in a trailer together with his spouse and was described by the courtroom as a person “gifted with an impartial spirit.” All through his life, he has held varied jobs, together with as a bar singer in Montreal, in addition to gigs in expertise and building and renovation.

In courtroom, the taxpayer was represented by a childhood buddy, a tax specialist, who additionally ready his tax returns for the three years in query. His buddy additionally occurs to personal a number of properties, the place the taxpayer carried out all types of labor, together with the renovation of loos, set up of flooring, restore of flood injury and building of galleries and balconies, in addition to plumbing and electrical energy — in brief, something associated to renovation or upkeep.

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Through the tax years in query, the taxpayer solely labored through the summer season with a purpose to earn sufficient cash for him to spend the winter on a sailboat within the Bahamas. He didn’t want some huge cash as a result of he didn’t have any dependents and had only a few private bills. The annual bills for his sailboat amounted to $5,000. Every winter whereas on his boat, “it price him nothing to stay. He ate what he caught,” and testified, “Life on the ocean isn’t costly … To stay on his sailboat … is … the absolute best life; it’s heaven on earth.”

In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the taxpayer declared enterprise revenue of solely $10,000 to $13,500, as a result of he was crusing for six months of the yr. He additionally didn’t incur, nor deduct, any enterprise bills, as his prospects purchased any obligatory constructing supplies.

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His buddy paid him in money, however the taxpayer didn’t hold any documentation of the revenue he earned or a register, though, in response to the choose, “he has since realized the significance of protecting a file and preserving any supporting paperwork.” His buddy marked the work, or the quantities paid to the taxpayer, on a small calendar and, on the finish of the yr, did the accounting. The taxpayer didn’t deposit his revenue in his checking account, however claimed to have declared all his revenue to the CRA on his returns.

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The CRA argued that the revenue the taxpayer declared was not associated to the operation of a enterprise or employment, as a result of he carried out a cash-only enterprise, saved no information, incurred no enterprise bills and produced no supporting paperwork to assist his claims. The taxpayer and his tax specialist buddy relied “nearly solely on their reminiscence, which is unreliable in nature.”

The choose acknowledged that “in a self-assessment system like we now have in Canada, protecting books and information is essential,” however the failure to maintain good information isn’t, by itself, enough grounds to dismiss a case.

Absent good books and information, the burden of proof is definitely larger and the choose should assess the credibility of the taxpayer and any witnesses, such because the tax specialist. As for working a money enterprise, the courtroom cited prior jurisprudence which concluded: “Using money is authorized and legit … and it doesn’t essentially result in a conclusion of tax avoidance.”

The choose weighed all of the proof and was happy the revenue declared by the taxpayer through the years in query did, certainly, relate to the operation of a enterprise, was corroborated by his tax specialist and constituted working revenue. The choose, due to this fact, concluded the taxpayer was entitled to the WITB for the three years in query.

Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP is the managing director, Tax & Property Planning with CIBC Non-public Wealth in Toronto. Jamie.Golombek@cibc.com

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