Packed with valuable information, our publications help you stay in touch with the latest developments in the fields of law affecting you, whatever your sector of activity. Our professionals are committed to keeping you informed of breaking legal news through their analysis of recent judgments, amendments, laws, and regulations.
COVID-19: Anticipating Capital Gains, Wealth, Gift and Inheritance Taxes
The deficits being generated by the emergency measures that the federal and provincial governments have implemented since March 2020 are a reminder of the magnitude of our governments’ pre-crisis deficits. This situation will inevitably lead to a greater tax burden for businesses and individuals at some point. Despite the unprecedented nature of these circumstances and the difficult financial situations that organizations find themselves in, steps can be taken now to mitigate repercussions. For several years, there has been increasing speculation about the capital gains inclusion rate being increased. Rumours also abound about the potential creation of an inheritance tax, which would undoubtedly be accompanied by a gift tax and a wealth tax. In this context, it is becoming ever more plausible that the federal government will finally increase the capital gains inclusion rate and tax the value of inheritances and gifts as early as the next budget, which has been postponed because of the ongoing crisis. An annual wealth tax on high net worth individuals could likewise be in the pipeline. As is now customary, the measures would apply as of midnight the night before the budget is tabled, closing the door to most tax planning strategies to reduce the impact of such measures. In the face of this situation, several steps can be taken as of now as, for instance: Crystallization of unrealized capital gains using a business corporation, partnership or trust; Gifts of money or property to family members or trusts; Termination of Canadian tax residency in favour of a lower-tax jurisdiction. The majority of tax planning strategies aiming to reduce or postpone the impact of such measures can be reversed should the anticipated measures not be adopted. In the event that governments do not increase the tax burden straightaway or opt for other, difficult-to-predict measures, well-planned transactions, such as realizing an accumulated gain on certain assets, making a direct gift, or making a gift through a trust, will ensure that additional taxes need not be paid. If you would like more information, our taxation team is available to help you.
Product advertising in the time of COVID-19: Health Canada and the Competition Bureau are on the lookout for misleading claims
It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many companies are attempting to market products intended to help consumers deal with the risks associated with COVID-19. Some of the most common examples of such products include face masks, testing devices, hand sanitizers, and hard-surface disinfectants. However, while many of these products can be useful (such as by helping reduce the risk of infection), there remains the question of what COVID-19 related claims, if any, can be attributed to the product (e.g. on the product's packaging or in an advertisement). An inaccurate or inappropriate statement can garner the attention of both Health Canada and the Competition Bureau. In fact, since the start of the pandemic, the Competition Bureau has been issuing compliance warnings to businesses across Canada regarding potentially false or misleading claims that their products and services can prevent the disease and/or protect against the virus.1 Accordingly, we have written this newsletter to summarize what Health Canada and the Competition Bureau are looking for when assessing COVID-19-related claims. We also provide examples of the types of statements that have been considered “unacceptable,” as well as a brief description of the consequences of utilizing such unacceptable statements. Please note that the following does not address which licenses are necessary to sell specific products in Canada, nor does it address which legal requirements apply. For example, hand sanitizers, in order to be sold in Canada, must meet the requirements of the Natural Health Products Regulations (NHPR). The general principles of the Competition Act and the rules of the Canadian Competition Bureau With respect to both COVID-19-related claims and product claims in general, the Competition Act prohibits false or misleading claims about any product, service, or business interest. This applies to both the literal meaning of a statement and the general impression it creates. Furthermore, the Competition Act prohibits performance claims that are not backed up by adequate and proper testing. First, such testing must be performed prior to the claim being made and on the actual product being sold, as opposed to a comparable or similar product. Second, they must reflect the product's real-world usage—such as in-home use. Third, the results of the tests must support the general impression created by the claims. Since as early as May 2020, the Competition Bureau has enforced the above guidelines by issuing direct compliance warnings to a variety of businesses across Canada to stop potentially deceptive claims, including warnings against: Making claims that certain products (including herbal remedies, bee-related products, vitamins, and vegetables) can prevent COVID-19 infections; and Making claims—without first conducting the testing required by law—that certain UV and ozone air sterilization systems, as well as certain air filters or air purifiers, will effectively kill or filter out the virus. Accordingly, the above rules should always be followed when making any COVID-19-related claim about a product. Examples of advertising incidents addressed by Health Canada Health Canada has provided a list of more than 400 advertising incidents related to COVID-19.2 The table provided in footnote 2 lists products and corresponding companies or advertising media found to engage in non-compliant marketing, which are currently under review or have been resolved. While many of these incidents have been resolved, it is unclear what resolution occurred. Was the claim modified or removed entirely? Did the company have to pay a fine? Did the company manage to convince Health Canada that their claim was acceptable as is? Nonetheless, it is clear that the statements were questionable enough that Health Canada found it necessary to intervene. The COVID-19-related claims found therein can thus serve as an effective guide of what claims not to use when advertising products. Along with many unauthorized general claims of “preventing” or “treating” coronavirus and/or COVID-19, some interesting examples of statements flagged by Health Canada include the following: “To protect against Coronavirus” – with respect to a “bandana and protection mask set.” “Flatten the curve with these on trend Fashion Masks” – with respect to a face mask. “Anti-Microbial Micropoly Fabric” – with respect to a face mask. “Ideal for Covid-19” – with respect to a face mask. “Anti-coronavirus, blocks pollution like: exhaust fume, smog, flu virus” – with respect to a face mask. “Effectively isolates saliva carrying coronavirus” – with respect to an “Anti-Dust And Anti-Fog Hat Anti Coronavirus Hat.” “The importance of boosting the immune system during the threat of COVID-19” – with respect to various natural health products. “Suitable in bathroom, living room, bedroom hotel, flu Covid-19” – with respect to a “UV Disinfection Lamp Steriliser.” “labeled ‘COVID-19’ under tab” – with respect to a face mask. As can be seen, some of the statements do not even directly mention COVID-19 or coronavirus, and instead reference concepts such as “flattening the curve” or make general representations about having “anti-microbial” properties. Moreover, many of the claims simply reference COVID-19, without making any representations about treating and/or preventing it. In addition to consulting the above guidelines and examples, it may be wise to seek out products that have been approved by Health Canada for use against COVID-19. Some examples of such products include the following: Disinfectants with evidence for use against COVID-19. Authorized medical testing devices for uses related to COVID-19. Authorized medical devices other than testing devices for uses related to COVID-19. Based on the above, products should only bear COVID-19-related claims if they have been approved for use against COVID-19 by Health Canada, and, even then, such claims should be limited to said use and to what the supporting evidence demonstrates. Some of the links above also contain information on how to obtain the aforementioned approval from Health Canada. Please note that, as of the date of this newsletter, no hand sanitizers have been approved in Canada with COVID-19-related claims.3 Consequently, although hand sanitizers can help reduce the risk of infection by, or spread of, microorganisms, COVID-19-related claims should not be used with such products. Even so, Health Canada has provided a list of hand sanitizers that they have authorized for sale in Canada. In general, a sound policy is to thoroughly review your marketing materials to identify any claims related to the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 that may be false, misleading, or unsubstantiated, and immediately modify or remove such claims accordingly. Penalties for false representations and misleading marketing practices The penalties for using COVID-19-related claims that do not comply with the law can be quite severe and can include fines and jail time.4 In fact, false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices, regardless of whether they involve COVID-19-related claims, can be prosecuted under civil law and/or criminal law. As an example, under civil law, the court may order a person to cease an activity, publish a notice and/or pay an administrative monetary penalty. On first occurrence, individuals are liable to penalties of up to $750,000, and corporations, up to $10,000,000. For subsequent occurrences, the penalties increase to a maximum of $1,000,000 for individuals and $15,000,000 for corporations. Under criminal law, a person is liable to a fine of up to $200,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. We thus strongly recommend avoiding making false or misleading COVID-19-related claims at all times. We hope that our newsletter serves as a useful guide regarding what Health Canada and the Competition Bureau consider an “inaccurate” or “false” COVID-19-related claim, and that it has clearly laid out what the consequences of making such a claim in association with a given product can be. However, whether a COVID-19-related claim is appropriate will depend on many factors, such as the exact wording of the claim and the exact nature of the product. Our intellectual property team would be happy to help you with any questions you may have regarding what COVID-19-related claims, if any, you should use on your products, as well as any other legal requirements that must be met before a specific product can be sold in Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/competition-bureau/news/2020/05/competition-bureau-cracking-down-on-deceptive-marketing-claims-about-covid-19-prevention-or-treatment.html https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/health-product-advertising-incidents.html https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/disinfectants/covid-19.html https://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03133.html
Work, Lockdown and Curfew: Answers to Your Questions
In order to reduce community transmission and preserve everyone’s safety and that of our healthcare system, the government requires everyone to make extra efforts, both in their private lives and at work. The closure of retail businesses, save for some exceptions, is maintained, the lockdown to prevent gatherings continues and a curfew was added on January 9, 2021, to remain in effect until the currently announced date of February 8, 20211. How can employers review their work organization to the extent possible for them while complying with government guidelines? Here are a few questions and answers to clarify the situation. With the curfew in effect, do I need to review my work organization and schedules if my activities are not suspended or prohibited? If you operate an essential retail business, you are required to review your employees’ schedules and work hours in order to abide by the curfew and allow your employees to leave your business no later than 7:30 p.m. in order to be home by 8 p.m. Companies in the construction, manufacturing and primary processing industries must reduce their activities “to pursue only those activities necessary to fulfil their commitments” (our translation): To properly measure the scope of this requirement, the guidelines and directives issued by the authorities (including CNESST) must be closely followed. However, on the basis of this statement in the Decree adopted on the evening of January 8, 2021, in order to be able to demonstrate the steps taken to comply with directives, companies should review confirmed contracts and orders, agreed-upon delivery dates and inherent production delays to modify work planning (e.g. priority orders to be delivered by February 8, 2021, staff work days and hours, evening and night shifts). In its online communications, the Government of Quebec asks not only that activities be reduced to a minimum to complete commitments, but also that shifts be adjusted to limit the staff present at any time on production and construction sites. Businesses in this situation may require special negotiations to make the necessary adjustments given working conditions, policies or collective agreements in place. When should I consider temporary layoffs due to a reduction in my activities as a result of the increased lockdown or curfew? Subject to the provisions of a collective agreement or employment contract (e.g. guaranteed hours of work), an employer may consider reorganizing work and allocating working hours among employees by coming to an agreement on temporary working conditions with them to avoid layoffs. If such an agreement is not possible for legal, organizational or efficiency reasons, layoffs may be considered: With confirmation of the layoffs as being related to COVID-19, in which case concerned employees can verify their eligibility for the Canada Recovery Benefit or EI benefits depending on the circumstances. An employer should also document the reasons behind temporary layoffs and, for example, in its determination of who is affected according to the organization’s applicable criteria, for recall purposes and analysis of whether or not extending such layoffs is necessary. How do I protect my essential employees who would have to travel during curfew to get to work or return home? For each employee required to travel during the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, the employer must prepare an explanatory letter (attestation letter) as evidence that the employer’s activities are authorized under the applicable directives and that the employee’s work is essential to carrying out authorized activities (this includes transporting goods required for such activities). The attestation letter must include information that could reasonably lead the police to conclude that the employee is allowed to travel during the curfew because that employee qualifies for one of the exceptions provided by the government. Exceptions are known to be interpreted restrictively. On the basis of the form letter issued by the government and the purpose of the attestation letter, this letter should include information such as: The name of the employer and its authorized representative (with letterhead confirming the company’s contact information, including its website). The nature of the employer’s activities. The employee’s duties, home address and work contact information. The employee’s work schedule. The contact information and telephone number of the person available between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. to provide details to police officers who may stop the employee (this person must be familiar with the employer’s authorized activities involving the employee as well as the employee’s position and schedule). The validity period of the attestation and its date of signature. I operate a retail business that is not identified as an authorized priority business since December 25, 2020. Can I operate and sell goods online and how can my customers retrieve their purchases? E-commerce is allowed, even for non-essential goods (sales can also be completed by phone). The key points: Telework should be maximized as much as possible, with physical presence being limited to only those employees whose presence is essential to the workplace. Goods can be delivered or picked up at the door without entering a store. Payment must be made by telephone if a sale is made in this way and without the customer entering the business. We will follow developments and keep you informed as it is important to keep track of possible—and often frequent changes and adjustments brought to the directives. The professionals of our Labour and Employment team are available to advise you and answer your questions. See https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/2019-coronavirus/confinement-in-quebec/ and the January 8, 2021, Order in Council 2-2021 Ordering of measures to protect the health of the population amid the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
Teleworking: What are the allowable expenses for employees and tax impacts for employers?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Canadian workplaces. For many organizations, the pandemic and its containment measures have fast-tracked the shift to teleworking. In this context, the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) and the Agence du Revenu du Québec (the“ARQ”) have published administrative positions regarding deductible expenses for employees working from home as well as for their employers. Eligible expenses for an EMPLOYEE The first condition for claiming employment expenses related to teleworking involves being obliged to work from home. The CRA has announced some flexibility in this regard, to the effect that if an employer did not require an employee to work from home but gave them the option to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRA will consider the employee to have worked from home as a result of the pandemic. Temporary flat rate method: Federal and Quebec deduction of $2 per day without Form T2200 On December 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that employees who worked from home more than 50% of the time for at least four consecutive weeks in 2020 will be able to deduct $2 from their incomefor each day worked during that period and for each additional day worked outside that period, for a maximum of $400. The temporary flat rate method only applies to the 2020 taxation year. To qualify, the employee must only deduct only home office expenses and no other employment expenses. Details of expenses incurred for with teleworking or Form T2200 will not be required to claim this deduction. On December 16, 2020, the Government of Quebec followed the Government of Canada’s lead by announcing that taxpayers would be allowed to deduct $2 per day for each day worked from home, up to a maximum of $400, without supporting documents or a TP-64.3 form. Detailed method In general, an employee (whether a tenant or a homeowner) may deduct reasonable expenses directly related to the use of space in the home for work if and only if at least one of the following two conditions is met: (i) The space devoted to work in the home is “the place where the individual principally (interpreted by the courts to be more than 50% of the time) performs the office or employment duties”; or (ii) The workspace in the home is “used exclusively [...] to earn income from the office or employment and, on a regular and continuous basis, for meeting customers or other persons in the ordinary course of performing the office or employment duties.” The period used to assess eligibility criteria for 2020 must be at least four consecutive weeks. This period may last more than a month. If the workspace is part of a residence rented by the individual, a reasonable portion of the rent may be deductible. However, an individual may not claim any deduction for the rental value of the workspace in a home owned by the individual or for amortization, taxes, insurance or mortgage interest in respect of that home. Notwithstanding the above restrictions, the Income Tax Act provides that employees remunerated by commissions may deduct a reasonable portion of the taxes and insurance paid for the home they own, if one of the above criteria is met. It is important to note that these expenses are eligible only to the extent that they are not otherwise reimbursed by the employer. In order to determine the amount that can be deducted in this way, it is important to use a reasonable basis for calculation.For example, the calculation can be based on the area of the workspace in proportion to the total area of the home. Other possible uses of space must also be considered. The use of 100% compared to 75% of the space by an employee is an important factor in the calculation. For example, a kitchen table used as office space by an employee will have mixed use, which will have a direct impact on the amount of deductible expenses. Eligible expenses(salaried employees and those remunerated by commission) Electricity Heating Water Utility portion (electricity, heat and water) of the employee’s condominium fees Home internet service costs Maintenance and minor repair costs Rent paid for the house or apartment where the employee lives Eligible expenses(employees remunerated by commission only) Home insurance Property taxes Rental of a cell phone, computer, laptop, tablet, fax machine, etc. that is reasonably related to commission income Ineligible expenses(salaried employees and those remunerated by commission) Mortgage interest Mortgage payments Internet connection fees Furniture Capital expenses (replacement of windows, floors, furnace, etc.) Wall decorations Note that if an employee can deduct an expense in calculating taxable income for income tax purposes, they may also qualify for a refund of the Goods and Services Tax / Quebec Sales Tax (“GST/QST”) paid. GST and QST refunds are taxable and must be included in the employee’s income tax return the following year. It is also important for the employee to keep supporting documents. The CRA recently developed an expense calculator to simplify calculating eligible expenses. An employee will have to complete the following forms to deduct expenses and obtain GST and QST refunds: a) T777 – Statement of Employment Expenses; b) TP-59 – Employment Expenses of Salaried Employees; c) GST370 – GST/HST Rebate Application; and d) VD-358 – QST Rebate for Employees. In order to deduct employment expenses from income, including certain expenses related to space devoted to working from home, the employee must have received two forms from the employer: a) Form T2200 - Declaration of Conditions of Employment (“T2200”); and b) Form TP-64.3 General Employment Conditions (“TP-64.3”) (Quebec employee only). Considerations for the employer On December 15, 2020, the CRA announced the launch of a simplified process to claim home office expenses for the 2020 tax year. Accordingly, a simplified version of Form T2200 was made available as Form T2200S. The form may be found here. In order for an employee to be able to deduct the expenses described above, Form T2200S must indicate: If the employee worked at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic; If the employer reimbursed or will reimburse the employee for some of the home office expenses; and If the amount was included on the employee’s T4 slip. Finally, the employer will have to certify that “this employee worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19, and was required to pay some or all their own home office expenses used directly in their work while carrying out their duties of employment during that period.” It is expected that a large number of employees will meet the criteria for this deduction, at least as long as the workplace access restrictions attributable to COVID-19 remain in place. The ARQ, for its part, has announced that, exceptionally, an electronic signature of the employer on the TP-64.3 form would be permitted. In addition, on December 16, 2020, the Government of Quebec announced that it will launch, in early 2021, an online service for generating a large number of TP-64.3 forms to be sent to teleworkers. This service aims to reduce the administrative burden on medium and large companies. More information on the online platform is expected in 2021. Other eligible expenses for an employee An employee will also be able to deduct certain expenses for supplies consumed directly in the course of their duties to the extent that they are not reimbursed by the employer, such as: a) Paper, pencils and ink cartridges; b) Internet costs, if they are charged based on usage. To this end, the CRA has announced that for the 2020 taxation year, it will exceptionally accept monthly residential internet service costs (the cost of the plan must be reasonable). Expenses reimbursed by an employer Normally, an amount received from an employer to reimburse an expense is considered a benefit to the employee and must be added to the employee’s employment income, unless such expenses are necessary for the performance of the employee’s duties. Employees may not deduct reimbursed expenses. In addition, in the current context, the CRA and the ARQ have announced that the reimbursement of $500 by an employer to an employee to offset the cost of acquiring personal computer equipment or office equipment required for telework does not constitute a taxable benefit to the employee. For example, if the purchase is a $1,000 desk, the taxable benefit included in the employee’s income will be $500. The CRA has recently announced that this amount will not be increased. Allowance paid by an employer Some employers will prefer to pay an allowance directly to their employees who are teleworking to cover the additional costs they incur. In this context, the employer will be able to deduct this allowance in the calculation of its taxable income, provided that it is a reasonable amount. Normally, the amount of this allowance will be treated as a taxable benefit to the employee and will have to be included in employment income for the taxation year in which the employee receives it, except in the situation covered by the exception mentioned above. Other considerations for the employer It is also important for the employer to consider the tax implications—particularly with respect to source deductions—of the location where the employee primarily works during the pandemic if it differs from the location of the employer’s establishment where they normally report for work. The CRA and the ARQ have announced relief in this respect for the 2020 taxation year. For example, the province of work will not change for employees who work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The province for the purpose of calculating source deductions will continue to be the province of the normal place of work. However, if the employee performs their work in a foreign country, certain tax implications for both the employee and the employer should be considered. Lavery’s tax law team can guide you and answer your questions regarding your company’s tax compliance. Technical interpretation IT-352R2.
Tax Aspects of Insolvency and Bankruptcy
The current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused, and will continue to cause, significant liquidity problems for some businesses. Companies whose financial difficulties threaten their very existence will have to restructure in order to avoid bankruptcy, either by availing themselves of the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act1 (the "CCAA") or by using the proposal mechanism of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act2 (the "BIA"). Tax considerations related to an arrangement or a proposal accepted by creditors Making use of the provisions of the CCAA or the BIA entails tax considerations for the debtor corporation that directors and owner-operators need to consider. Some of these tax considerations are discussed below. In the context of the restructuring of a debtor company, creditors may accept a partial settlement of their claim or a conversion of their claim into shares in the debtor company. If a corporation is not bankrupt within the meaning of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the settlement of a debt for an amount less than its principal will have tax consequences for the debtor corporation. For example, certain tax attributes of the debtor corporation such as the balance of loss carryforwards, the undepreciated portion of the capital cost of depreciable property or the adjusted cost base of capital assets will be reduced by the amount of the reduction in the receivable, if any. In certain cases, if the tax attributes of the debtor corporation are insufficient to absorb the amount of debt forgiven, inclusion in the calculation of its taxable income may occur, creating a tax liability. Several strategies can be adopted to limit undesirable consequences in the context of a restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. As mentioned, it may be possible, among other things, to convert the debt into shares of the debtor company without causing adverse consequences, if the fair market value of the shares issued upon conversion of the debt is equal to the principal of the debt. In some cases, a debt held by a shareholder of the debtor company could be written off without consideration and without the need to issue shares. Finally, it may be possible, in certain situations, to avoid inclusion in the income of the debtor corporation through the use of certain reserve mechanisms or through tax deductions. Insolvency is a delicate situation for any business. Proper tax planning will allow the debtor company to maximize the effectiveness of the restructuring process offered by the CCAA. Our taxation team can help you set up effective planning in this context. R.S.C. 1985, c. C-36 and amendments R.S.C. 1985, c. B-3 and amendments
The Unforeseen Benefits of Driverless Transport during a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been not only causing major social upheaval but disrupting business development and the economy as well. Nevertheless, since last March, we have seen many developments and new projects involving self-driving vehicles (SDV). Here is an overview. Distancing made easy thanks to contactless delivery In mid-April 2020, General Motors’ Cruise SDVs were dispatched to assist two food banks in the delivery of nearly 4,000 meals in eight days in the San Francisco Bay Area. Deliveries were made with two volunteer drivers overseeing the operation of the Level 3 SDVs. Rob Grant, Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Cruise, commented on the usefulness of SDVs: “What I do see is this pandemic really showing where self-driving vehicles can be of use in the future. That includes in contactless delivery like we’re doing here.”1 Also in California in April, SDVs operated by the start-up Nuro Inc. were made available to transport medical equipment in San Mateo County and Sacramento. Toyota Pony SDVs were, for their part, used to deliver meals to local shelters in the city of Fremont, California. Innovation: The first Level 4 driverless vehicle service In July 2020, Navya Group successfully implemented a Level 4 self-driving vehicles service on a closed site. Launched in partnership with Groupe Keolis, the service has been transporting visitors and athletes on the site of the National Shooting Sports Centre in Châteauroux, France, from the parking lot to the reception area. This is a great step forward—it is the first trial of a level 4 vehicle, meaning that it is fully automated and does not require a human driver in the vehicle itself to control it should a critical situation occur. Driverless buses and dedicated lanes in the coming years In August 2020, the state of Michigan announced that it would take active steps to create dedicated road lanes exclusively for SDVs on a 65 km stretch of highway between Detroit and Ann Arbour. This initiative will begin with a study to be conducted over the next three years. One of the goals of this ambitious project is to have driverless buses operating in the corridor connecting the University of Michigan and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in downtown Detroit. In September 2020, the first SDV circuit in Japan was inaugurated at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The regular route travels 700 metres through the airport. A tragedy to remind us that exercising caution is key On March 18, 2018, in Tempe, Arizona, a pedestrian was killed in a collision with a Volvo SUV operated by an Uber Technologies automated driving system that was being tested. The vehicle involved in the accident, which was being fine-tuned, corresponded to a Level 3 SDV under SAE International Standard J3016, requiring a human driver to remain alert at all times in order to take control of the vehicle in a critical situation. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the vehicle’s automated driving system had detected the pedestrian, but was unable to classify her as such and thus predict her path. In addition, video footage of the driver inside the SDV showed that she did not have her eyes on the road at the time of the accident, but rather was looking at her cell phone on the vehicle’s console. In September 2020, the authorities indicted the driver of the vehicle and charged her with negligent homicide. The driver pleaded not guilty and the pre-trial conference will be held in late October 2020. We will keep you informed of developments in this case. In all sectors of the economy, including the transportation industry and more specifically the self-driving vehicles industry, projects have been put on hold because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, many projects that have been introduced, such as contactless delivery projects, are now more important than ever. Apart from the Navya Group project, which involves Level 4 vehicles, all the initiatives mentioned concern Level 3 vehicles. These vehicles, which are allowed on Quebec roads, must always have a human driver present. The recent charges against the inattentive driver in Arizona serve as a reminder to all drivers of Level 3 SDVs that regardless of the context of an accident, they may be held liable. The implementation of SDVs around the world is slow, but steadily gaining ground. A number of projects will soon be rolled out, including in Quebec. As such initiatives grow in number, SDVs will become more socially acceptable, and seeing these vehicles as something normal on our roads is right around the corner. Financial Post, April 29, 2020, “Self-driving vehicles get in on the delivery scene amid COVID-19,”.
Time limit extensions: What are the possible consequences on limitation periods for tax purposes?
A recent Ministerial Order1 from the Minister of National Revenue has formally extended certain deadlines under the Income Tax Act (“ITA”) and the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”). The Order is retroactive to March 13, 2020. The extension is 6 months or until December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier. This Ministerial Order will have various implications for taxpayers and registrants, in particular in terms of limitation periods. For example, notices of reassessment may be issued until December 31, 2020, for taxpayers whose reassessment period under the ITA expired between May 20, 2020, and December 30, 2020, even in circumstances where there is no misrepresentations attributable to negligence, carelessness or wilful default in tax returns and no waivers of the regular reassessment period have been signed. As a result, the taxation years subject to the Order (in particular 2016 or 2017, depending on the taxpayer) and reporting periods would not be statute-barred in these circumstances. Reporting periods and taxation years that became statute-barred on or before May 19, 2020, are not subject to the Order. It remains to be seen how the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) intends to apply the Ministerial Order. The CRA has stated that “generally, taxpayers would be informed of the details of a potential (re)assessment, including whether or not the CRA is applying an extension to a (re)assessment period under the Ministerial Order.”2 Time limits extended by 6 months The period for claiming SR&ED expenditures (Form T661), normally 12 months after the corporation’s filing due date for a return;3 The period for claiming an SR&ED investment tax credit (Form T661 and Schedule 31 or Form T2038), normally 1 year after the corporation’s filing due date for a return; The normal reassessment period for a taxation year (normally 3 years or 4 years after the issuance of a notice of assessment under the ITA) that would normally have expired after May 19, 2020, but before December 31, 2020; The normal reassessment period for a reporting period (normally 4 years following the issuance of an assessment under the ETA) that would normally have expired after May 19, 2020, but before December 31, 2020; The deadline for applying for an extension of time to file a Notice of Objection under the ITA and the ETA that would normally have expired after March 12, 2020 (normally 1 year after the expiry of the time limit for filing a Notice of Objection), as well as the time limit for appeal of the Minister’s decision dismissing such an application with the Tax Court of Canada. Our taxation team can help you manage your deadlines and your interactions with the tax authorities. Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 154, No. 37: COMMISSIONS, September 12, 2020 https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/covid-19-ministerial-orders/time-period-other-limits-faq.html For corporations and trusts with a tax year-end from September 13, 2018, to December 31, 2018, and an SR&ED reporting deadline from March 13, 2020, to June 30, 2020, the deadline is extended by 6 months. For corporations and trusts with a tax year-end from January 1, 2019, to June 29, 2019, and an SR&ED reporting deadline from July 1, 2020, to December 29, 2020, the deadline is extended to December 31, 2020. For individuals who operated a sole proprietorship for which the tax year ended on December 31, 2018, and whose SR&ED reporting deadline was June 15, 2020, the deadline is extended to December 15, 2020.
Artificial Intelligence and Telework: Security Measures to be Taken
Cybersecurity will generally be a significant issue for businesses in the years to come. With teleworking, cloud computing and the advent of artificial intelligence, large amounts of data are likely to fall prey to hackers attracted by the personal information or trade secrets contained therein. From a legal standpoint, businesses have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect the personal information they hold.1 Although the legal framework doesn’t always specify what such reasonable means are in terms of technology, measures appropriate for the personal information in question must nevertheless be applied. These measures must also be assessed in light of the evolution of threats to IT systems. Some jurisdictions, such as Europe, go further and require that IT solutions incorporate security measures by design.2 In the United States, with respect to medical information, there are numerous guidelines on the technical means to be adopted to ensure that such information is kept secure.3 In addition to the personal information they hold, companies may also want to protect their trade secrets. These are often invaluable and their disclosure to competitors could cause them irreparable harm. No technology is immune. In a recent publication,4 the renowned Kaspersky firm warns us of the growing risks posed by certain organized hacker groups that may want to exploit the weaknesses of Linux operating systems, despite their reputation as highly secure. Kaspersky lists a number of known vulnerabilities that can be used for ransom attacks or to gain access to privileged information. The publication echoes the warnings issued by the FBI regarding the discovery of new malware targeting Linux.5 Measures to be taken to manage the risk It is thus important to take appropriate measures to reduce these risks. We recommended in particular that business directors and officers: Adopt corporate policies that prevent the installation of unsafe software by users; Adopt policies for the regular review and updating of IT security measures; Have penetration tests and audits conducted to check system security; Ensure that at least one person in management is responsible for IT security. Should an intrusion occur, or, as a precautionary measure for businesses that collect and store sensitive personal information, consulting a lawyer specializing in personal information or trade secrets is recommended in order to fully understand the legal issues involved in such matters. See in particular: Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector (Quebec), s. 10, Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada), s. 3. General Data Protection Regulation, art. 25. Security Rule, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 45 CFR Part 160, 164. https://securelist.com/an-overview-of-targeted-attacks-and-apts-on-linux/98440/ https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/nsa-and-fbi-expose-russian-previously-undisclosed-malware-drovorub-in-cybersecurity-advisory
Important Changes to the CEWS announced: will you now be eligible, and what should you consider?
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (the “CEWS”) is a key component of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 economic response plan. The purpose of the CEWS, adopted on April 11, 2020, is to help Canadians keep their jobs during the crisis and help companies maintain an employment relationship with their employees in order to recover more quickly when the economy returns to normal. On July 13, 2020, when the Canada Revenue Agency had already approved 667,400 applications, the Prime Minister of Canada confirmed that the CEWS will be extended until December 2020. A few days later, on July 17, the Minister of Finance of Canada announced that the CEWS will be extended until December 19, 2020. He also announced major changes to the structure of the CEWS, which, for the time being, should apply until November 21, 2020. Details are expected to follow for the eligibility period from November 22 to December 19, 2020. Summary of changes As the draft legislative proposal has not yet been adopted, the proposed changes may be modified. Duration of the CEWS Pursuant to the legislative proposal, the CEWS would now be available until November 21, 2020, and CEWS applications may be accepted until February 2021. Eligibility The concept of eligible entity remains the same, except that trusts would now be eligible for the CEWS. The changes to the CEWS are intended to make the eligibility criteria more flexible to enable more employers to benefit from the subsidy. Businesses that do not meet the 30% drop in revenue test would now be eligible to the CEWS. The base rate of the CEWS would now vary depending on the revenue decline’s level, and its application would be extended to employers with a revenue decline of less than 30%. However, despite being more flexible, the criteria would be more complex than those applicable to initial eligibility periods. CEWS’s “base” and “top-up” subsidy The amount of the CEWS for each employee would now vary according to the employer’s drop in revenue, expressed as a percentage. The CEWS would consist of two parts: a “base” subsidy and a “top-up” subsidy. During an eligibility period, the CEWS amount would be calculated by adding the base and top-up percentages, as defined in Appendix A below. Base subsidy: The maximum base CEWS rate would be gradually reduced from 60% in eligibility periods 51 and 6 to 20% for the last period (Period 9). The maximum base CEWS rate would be available for eligible entities that have experienced a revenue drop of more than 50%. It would then be gradually reduced by the percentage of the eligible entity’s revenue decline from the maximum base rate for the relevant eligibility period to zero. For example, for a revenue drop of 50% or more, the maximum CEWS amount would now be 60% for Periods 5 and 6, to be reduced to 50% for Period 7. Top-up subsidy: A maximum top-up subsidy of 25% would be offered in certain cases to provide additional support to companies particularly affected by the crisis. The top-up subsidy would be available to eligible entities that have experienced a revenue drop of more than 50% for a given eligibility period. To be eligible for the maximum top-up subsidy, a revenue drop of 70% or more must be registered for the three months preceding the relevant period. A transitional rule is provided for Periods 5 and 6 to allow eligible employers to elect the most advantageous subsidy, that is, the CEWS rate of 75% under the initial structure with a threshold of 30% or one of 60% (+ potentially 25%) under the new structure. In addition, the special rule providing for automatic eligibility forthe subsequent period would also be modified. Thus, an entity that qualified for Period 3 would automatically qualify for Period 4. However, for subsequent periods, the revenue reduction percentage from the previous qualifying period could be applied if the revenue reduction percentage for the current qualifying period is lower. For example, if an eligible entity had a 45% revenue reduction for Period 6 but its revenue reduction for Period 7 fell to 25%, the entity could benefit from the Period 6 percentage, that is, 45%. The base and top-up CEWS would apply to the remuneration of active employees. A separate CEWS rate structure would apply to furloughed employees. For furloughed employees, for Periods 5 and 6, the CEWS calculation would remain the same as it is now, but would be adjusted for Periods 7 to 9 to harmonize with income support through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) and/or Employment Insurance. Calculating the CEWS In order to calculate the CEWS, the proposed legislation introduces three new definitions that are further described in Appendix A below. These definitions are used to calculate the base and top-up subsidies. Base percentage (if revenue decline < 50 %) Base percentage (if revenue decline = 50 %) Top-up percentage (if revenue decline > 50 %) CEWS Period 5: July 5 to August 1st, 2020 CEWS Period 6: Period 6 : August 2 to August 29, 2020 1.2 x % decline 60 % 1.25 x (% of revenue decline on preceding three-month average – 50 %) Max 25 % CEWS Period 7: August 30 to September 26, 2020 1 x % decline 50 % 1.25 x (% of revenue decline on preceding three-month average – 50 %) Max 25 % CEWS Period 8: 27 septembre au 24 octobre 2020 0.8 x % decline 40 % 1.25 x (% of revenue decline on preceding three-month average – 50 %)Max 25 % CEWS Period 9: October 25 to November 21, 2020 0.4 x % decline 20 % 1.25 x (% of revenue decline on preceding three-month average – 50 %)Max 25 % CEWS amount The maximum weekly amount per employee would be increased from $847 to a maximum percentage of 85% (maximum base and top-up subsidies) of the lesser of the weekly remuneration paid and $1,129, for a maximum of $960 per week, per employee. This percentage would be reduced according to an eligible employer’s revenue decline. The concept of eligible remuneration would remain the same, but the concept of basic remuneration would no longer apply as of Period 5, except in the case of employees that do not deal at arm’s length with the employer. Other significant changes to the CEWS A variety of other changes were announced, including: An appeal process based on the existing Notice of Determination procedure to make it possible to appeal to the Tax Court of Canada. For example, an employer denied the CEWS in whole or in part could avail itself of the objection and appeal process under the Income Tax Act to challenge the CRA decision in this regard. On June 17, 2020, as part of the economic response plan, the CRA announced that it would begin post-payment audits of CEWS claims as early as September 2020. Employers whose employees are paid through a payroll service provider would now be able to claim CEWS for the salaries of their eligible employees; For reference periods beginning July 5, employees who have not received remuneration for 14 consecutive days would still be granted eligible status; New optional reference periods have been added to each qualifying period to account for the particularities of seasonal businesses; Corporations formed on an amalgamation would be deemed to be the same corporation and a continuation of each of the corporations existing immediately before the amalgamation; Trusts would now be eligible entities; Continuity rules would be introduced to make it possible for employers who have purchased all or substantially all the assets of a business to calculate their drop in revenues for the purposes of CEWS. Labour and employment law considerations As in the previous version of CEWS, an employer would not be required to pay employees the pre-crisis remuneration they were receiving in order to be eligible to the CEWS2. However, it is important to remember that a substantial change in an employee’s working conditions, especially one lasting for an extended period of time, may give rise to allegations of constructive dismissal. An analysis of the employment contract of employees affected by a change in their working hours, remuneration, position or duties is recommended, as well as obtaining legal advice. Considering the elimination of the requirement that an employee should not be “without remuneration from the eligible employer in respect of a period of 14 or more consecutive days in the claim period,” employers will now have more flexibility in terms of call-back dates and employee schedules. Caution is still advised when calling employees back to work. While employer eligibility for CEWS is no longer dependent on the “14-day rule,” employees may still be required to reimburse the CERB benefits received, depending on their income level during the applicable eligibility period. Currently, an employee must reimburse the CERB in the following cases: 1st1 CERB eligibility period Other CERB eligibility periods An employee will be required to reimburse the sum of $2,000 if they have earned or will earn, for at least 14 consecutive days during that period, , more than $1,000 (before deductions) in employment or self-employment income. An employee will be required to reimburse the sum of $2,000 if they have earned or will earn more than $1,000 (before deductions) in employment or self-employment income during this period. Finally, despite CEWS’s rules being more flexible, some employers will have to consider permanently laying off part of their workforce. Legal advice should be obtained in order to assess an employer’s obligations under the employment contracts’ terms and applicable law. Particular considerations also apply to notice and severance pay for an employer benefiting from the CEWS, as the amounts paid generally cannot be subsidized through the CEWS. Lavery’s tax and labour law teams are available to answer all your questions regarding the application of the CEWS and to support in the case of audits by tax authorities. APPENDIX A “Revenue reduction percentage” means the percentage of revenue reduction for the qualifying period relative to revenue for the reference period used to determine eligibility. For qualifying periods beginning July 5, 2020, employers would now have the option of calculating their revenue reduction percentage by electing the greater of: The revenue reduction obtained by comparing the current month with the same month in 2019; and The revenue reduction obtained by comparing the previous month with the same month in 2019. Otherwise, an eligible employer would have the possibility of electing to calculate the revenue reduction percentage by comparing either: The current month and the average of January and February 2020; or The previous month and the average of January and February 2020. Employers would be able to decide which calculation method they wish to use for the qualifying period beginning July 5, regardless of the election they made for qualifying periods prior to that date. The method chosen for the eligibility period beginning July 5 would become mandatory for all subsequent qualifying periods. The reference periods for the purposes of calculating the revenue reduction percentage of an eligible employer would thus be as follows: Reference period (revenue reduction percentage) Optional reference period (revenue reduction percentage) Qualifying period 5: July 5 to August 1, 2020 July 2020 compared to July 2019 or June 2020 compared to June 2019 July or June 2020 compared to the average of January and February 2020 Qualifying period 6: August 2 to August 29, 2020 August 2020 compared to August 2019 or July 2020 compared to July 2019 August or June 2020 compared to the average of January and February 2020 Qualifying period 7 : August 30 to September 26, 2020 September 2020 compared to September 2019 or août 2020 comparé à août 2019 September or August 2020 compared to the average of January and February 2020 Qualifying period 8: September 27 to October 24, 2020 October 2020 compared to October 2019 or September 2020 compared to September 2019 October or September 2020 compared to the average of January and February 2020 Qualifying period 9: October 25 to November 21, 2020 November 2020 compared to November 2019 or October 2020 compared to October 2019 November or October 2020 compared to the average of January and February 2020 “Top-up percentage” is the percentage equal to the lesser of: 25%; 1.25 multiplied by the result of the following subtraction: The average monthly revenue for the last three calendar months divided by the average decrease in revenue compared to their respective reference period; minus 50% The qualifying periods and their corresponding reference periods for the purpose of calculating the top-up percentage are set out in the table below: Qualifying period Reference period (top-up percentage) July 5 to August 1, 2020(Period 5) Average of April to June 2020 compared to the average of April to June 2019 or January and February 2020 August 2 to August 29, 2020(Period 6) Average of May to July 2020 compared to the average of May to July 2019 or January and February 2020 August 30 to September 26, 2020 (Period 7) Average of June to August 2020 compared to the average of June to August 2019 or January and February 2020 September 27 to October 24, 2020(Period 8) Average of July to September 2020 compared to the average of July to September 2019 or January and February 2020 October 25 to November 21, 2020(Period 9) Average of August to October 2020 compared to the average of August to October 2019 or January and February 2020 “Base percentage” means the percentage calculated based on the base percentage defined above and the qualifying period, as set out in the table below: Reference period (base percentage) Base percentage if the revenue reduction percentage exceeds 50% Base percentage if the revenue reduction percentage does not exceed 50% Qualifying period 4: June 7 to July 4, 2020 June 2020 compared to June 2019 or the average of January and February 2020 N/A N/A Qualifying period 5: July 5 to August 1, 2020 July 2020 compared to July 2019 or the average of January and February 2020 60 % 1.2 x revenue reduction percentage Qualifying period 6: August 2 to August 29, 2020 August 2020 compared to August 2019 or the average of January and February 2020 60 % 1.2 x revenue reduction percentage Qualifying period 7: August 30 to September 26, 2020 September 2020 compared to September 2019 or the average of January and February 2020 50 % 1 x revenue reduction percentage Qualifying period 8: September 27 to October 24, 2020 October 2020 compared to October 2019 or the average of January and February 2020 40 % 0.8 x revenue reduction percentage Qualifying period 9: October 25 to November 21, 2020 November 2020 compared to November 2019 or the average of January and February 2020 20 % 0.4 x revenue reduction percentage As set out in the table above, the base percentage rate, and therefore the total amount of CEWS paid relative to an employee’s salary, would gradually decrease over the qualifying periods. The maximum CEWS for an employee’s salary for a given week in the last qualifying period beginning October 25, 2020, would be $508. New CEWS calculation For qualifying periods beginning August 30, the amount of the CEWS that may be claimed for each employee would be calculated as follows: If the employee deals at arm’s length with the employer and is not on paid leave in a particular week: The percentage obtained by adding the base percentage and the top-up percentage for the qualifying period multiplied by the lesser of: The remuneration paid in respect of that week; and $1,129.00. If the employee does not deal at arm’s length with the employer and is not on paid leave for a particular week: The lesser of: The eligible amount of remuneration paid in respect of that week; An amount prescribed by regulation; and $0 if both the revenue reduction percentage and the top-up percentage are 0%. Eligibility periods: March 15, 2020, to April 11, 2020 (Period 1), April 12, 2020, to May 9, 2020 (Period 2), May 10, 2020, to June 6, 2020 (Period 3), June 7, 2020, to July 4, 2020 (Period 4), July 5, 2020, to August1, 2020 (Period 5), August 2, 2020, to August 29, 2020 (Period 6), August 30, 2020, to September 26, 2020 (Period 7), September 27, 2020, to October 24, 2020 (Period 8), and October 25, 2020, to November 21, 2020 (Period 9). It should be noted that the government strongly encouraged businesses to supplement employee remuneration to bring it back to pre-crisis levels wherever possible.
Further COVID-19 Update on Canadian IP
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has now made a further announcement concerning the extension of deadlines, to the effect that deadlines falling within March 16 to August 7, 2020, are extended to August 10, 2020. CIPO is otherwise still open for business and our IP team members have been continuing operations and transacting with CIPO on a regular basis, in a remote and secure manner. Please do not hesitate to contact a member of our IP group should you have any questions. In addition, the Canadian government has enacted the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, which, inter alia, has amended the Canadian Patent Act to add new section 19.4. This amendment provides a type of temporary compulsory licensing regime for patented technologies necessary to respond to a public health emergency. This is a temporary measure, since (1) if such authorization is granted, it will not last longer than 1 year (or may end sooner if the Minister of Health determines that such authorization is no longer necessary), and (2) no such authorization will be granted after Sept. 30, 2020. Under this provision, the authorized party may make, construct, use and sell the patented invention to the extent necessary to respond to public the health emergency. In return, the authorized party must pay the patentee what the Commissioner of Patents considers to be adequate remuneration under the circumstances. Rest assured that we remain at your service for all your legal needs, including those required to manage this pandemic, and that we will keep you informed as the situation evolves. We would like to offer our thoughts and support during these challenging times.
Sale of a Business: New Tax Planning Option
The sale of a business is often the most significant business transaction in an entrepreneur’s life. In addition, the net proceeds from such a sale often represent an entrepreneur’s only retirement fund. Therefore, it is crucial to maximize such proceeds by reducing or deferring the taxes resulting from the transaction as much as possible. The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) recently reversed an administrative position that it had expressed in 2002 with respect to beneficial tax planning as part of the sale of a business. This change in its rather technical administrative position opens the door to very effective tax planning that offers real tax deferral opportunities to business owners wishing to sell their business. Consider the following example: Sale of 100% of shares to a third party without prior planning Ms. Tremblay wishes to sell 100% of the shares of her company (“Opco”) to a third party for their fair market value (“FMV”) of $10 million. These shares have an adjusted cost base of $1.00. Ms. Tremblay’s direct sale of 100% of Opco shares to a third party would result in a capital gain of approximately $10 million and total income taxes of approximately $2.7 million, assuming that her capital gain is not eligible for the capital gains exemption. In this scenario, Ms. Tremblay would be left with a sum of approximately $7.3 million after taxes. Sale of shares with the newly approved prior tax planning In the second scenario, prior to the sale to the third party, Ms. Tremblay would create a management company (“Gesco”) and transfer 50% of Opco shares to it on a rollover basis, with no immediate tax consequences. Gesco would then internally exchange Opco shares in order to realize a $5 million capital gain within Gesco, resulting in income taxes of approximately $1.26 million for Gesco, a portion of which would later be refunded through the use of a non-eligible refundable dividend tax on hand account. Subsequently, Ms. Tremblay would sell her remaining 50% of Opco shares to Gesco in two transactions of 25% each, both payable by a promissory note equal to the FMV of the shares—in our example, $2.5 million per transaction. Ms. Tremblay would then be deemed to have received two dividends of $2.5 million each. The first would be designated as a capital dividend by Gesco and would therefore be tax-free for Ms. Tremblay. The second would be designated as an ordinary (non-eligible) dividend, resulting in total income taxes of approximately $1.18 million for Ms. Tremblay. The designation of the second dividend as an ordinary dividend would result in a refundable dividend tax on hand for Gesco of approximately $766,000. Gesco, owning 100% of Opco shares having an adjusted cost base equal to their FMV, would sell them to a third party for a sum of $10 million, generating no additional capital gain within Gesco. By using the tax mechanisms of a capital dividend account and a non-eligible refundable dividend tax on hand account, the sale of Opco shares would result in total income taxes of approximately $1.67 million, split between Ms. Tremblay and Gesco. Ms. Tremblay would then be left with proceeds of $3.82 million after taxes, while Gesco would be left with $4.51 million after taxes. Given that Ms.Tremblay would keep funds within Gesco, she would be able to defer the time at which she would be taxed on them, that is, when Gesco would pay her a dividend. In the meantime, she could make investments through Gesco. This type of planning would result in a tax deferral of almost 38% of the income taxes that, without prior planning, would have been payable on the sale of the shares. Our taxation team will be happy to answer all your questions and advise you on the most appropriate tax planning for your business. The information and comments contained herein do not constitute legal advice. They are intended solely to enable readers, who assume full responsibility, to use them for their own purposes.
Resumption of Mergers and Acquisitions: What May Change After the Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis has significantly slowed economic activity in all respects. The area of corporate mergers and acquisitions is no exception, and the level of activity, which was high before the crisis, has dropped significantly because of it. It is difficult to predict when and at what pace such activity will resume, but we expect that, like many other sectors of the economy, this market will be different from what it was before the crisis. Among other things, we expect that the uncertainty regarding economic recovery will see vendors and purchasers increasingly rely on earnout clauses to reach agreements on the value of a business. Opportunities to obtain financing for the acquisition of a competitor or a complementary business are also likely to be limited, which will change how such transactions are financed. The new behaviours made necessary by the post-crisis economic environment will certainly have considerable fiscal impacts. The tax rules applicable to earnout clauses can be complex, and parties to such transactions should learn about them before signing a letter of intent for a potential transaction. Those wishing to sell could get an unpleasant surprise in terms of the net result of the sale of their business if they aren’t properly advised from the outset. In some cases, the sale of a business that would normally be expected to generate a capital gain with only 50% of such gain being included as taxable income could instead be 100% taxable as business income. Earnout clauses offer very interesting tax planning possibilities in some cases, such as the maximization of capital dividend accounts that corporations can use to pay tax-free dividends to their shareholders. The same care should be applied by those wishing to acquire or sell a business with regard to the different methods of financing transactions that are likely to become popular after the crisis, such as partial financing by the vendor. Poor tax planning in this regard could result in liquidity problems for vendors if payment of the balance of the sale price is spread out over too long a period. Purchasers will also want to maximize the tax benefits of this type of financing. The main way to do so involves banking on interest costs resulting from the financing of the purchase price, but to reap such benefits and others, the commercial agreements relating to the purchase must be carefully structured. Tax complexities are numerous in M&A transactions, and those mentioned above are just two examples. The tax incidence of such transactions should be analysed as soon as they are contemplated. Parties to M&A transactions often wait too long before analyzing tax aspects. They thus greatly limit their opportunities to benefit from optimal tax planning. For more information, our taxation team is available to help you.
COVID-19: Support for Agriculture and Agri-Food Businesses in Quebec and Canada
It goes without saying that the economic upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are posing countless challenges for all companies, whether or not they are pursuing their activities within the limits imposed by the governments of Canada and Quebec. Food producers such as agricultural and food processing businesses, considered by the Quebec government to be essential services, are not exempt from this harsh reality. In this context, different levels of government and certain key economic actors have taken critical measures to support and protect businesses in the agriculture and agri-food industry, which are vital to both the health of individuals and that of the Canadian and Quebec economies. This bulletin presents the various support measures specific to agri-food industry businesses, which may also be eligible for general tax and economic support measures announced in response to COVID-19, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Canadian measures Recruitment support Many food producers depend on the additional input of foreign labour during the summer months. To offset the impact of the mandatory 14-day isolation period for anyone arriving from abroad, the Canadian government is providing financial assistance of $1,500 to such producers for each temporary foreign agricultural worker arriving in Canada to work. This financial assistance is conditional on compliance with the mandatory isolation period or other public health guidelines. Financial support The Government of Canada has also increased Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) capital base by $5 billion in order to increase its lending capacity for agribusinesses and food producers and processors. For existing borrowers, FCC offers: Deferral of principal and interest payments for up to 6 months or deferral of principal payments for up to 12 months; and Access to an additional secured line of credit up to a maximum of $500,000 (for Quebec borrowers only). FCC offers term loans of up to $2.5 million,with no fees, to any Canadian agriculture and agri-food business whose working capital or production is impacted by COVID-19. Borrowers have the option of paying interest only for 18 months and benefit from a 10-year amortization period. The Government of Canada additionally announced support measures for farm producers, agri-food businesses and the food supply chain, which consist of the following: A sum of $77.5 million to help food processors purchase protective equipment and adapt work areas; A $125 million injection into the AgriRecovery program to cover additional costs to meat producers; A budget of $50 million to buy back certain surpluses, including potatoes and poultry; An increase of $200 million in the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit to support temporary storage costs for butter and cheese; Financial assistance of $62.5 million for the fish and seafood processing industry; and Income support for fishers who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, in the form of benefits and subsidies. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy On May 15, 2020, the Government of Canada announced its intention to amend the legislation on the CEWS to include measures to increase support for employers that hire seasonal employees. These new provisions, once they are passed, will give employers that are eligible for the CEWS two options for the calculation of their eligible employees’ average “baseline remuneration”: (1) the period from January 1 to March 15, 2020, or (2) the period from March 1 to May 31, 2019. In both cases, any period lasting seven days or more without remuneration will be excluded from the calculation. To be eligible, the employees must not be residents of Canada. Quebec measures The reality of COVID-19 is demonstrating that the success of the agriculture and agri-food industry is one of the Government of Quebec’s top priorities, as it is for the population in general. Recruitment support On April 17, 2020, the Government of Quebec announced that it will pay a premium of $100 per week to anyone taking on work for farmers between April 15 and October 31, 2020. As of April 22, 2020, close to 2,300 Quebecers had applied for such positions, the government’s goal being to encourage 8,500 people to get involved. Financial support La Financière agricole du Québec (FAQ), a government organization serving the agricultural and agri-food industry, has also implemented exceptional measures: Loans of up to $50,000 to support farm producers experiencing liquidity problems related to COVID-19; A six-month moratorium on loan repayments; Interim payments increased to 75% under the AgriStability program to ensure that program benefits are quickly available; Notices of assessment for the Farm Income Stabilization Insurance Program deferred to July 1, 2020; Deadline to enrol in the Crop Insurance Program extended from April 30 to May 21, 2020. Deadline to apply for the Agristability Program extended from April 30 to July 3, 2020. Notices of assessment for the Crop Insurance Program deferred from June 1 to July 1, 2020; Investment grant payments under many FAQ programs moved up from June1 to May 1, 2020. Finally, the investment company Fondaction, whose mission is to practice socially responsible development, has undertaken to allocate $40 million to Quebec SMEs in the agricultural and agri-food industry over the next year. In addition, Fondaction has made its financing offer more flexible in order to provide support to industry businesses that are solid and growing, provided that they were profitable before COVID-19. Such businesses can apply for assistance from Fondaction to finance any project of $500,000 or more requiring development capital. The Lavery team is committed to supporting your agricultural and agri-food business. We are available to answer all your questions regarding the announced measures, how they affect your business and any aspect relating thereto. The information and comments contained herein do not constitute legal advice. They are intended solely to enable readers, who assume full responsibility, to use them for their own purposes. The information and comments contained in this document are limited to measures in Quebec or Canada announced or made public on or before June 4, 2020.