Tax Tip: DIRECTOR LIABILITY

In a May 5, 2016 Tax Court of Canada case, at issue was whether the taxpayer (a director and 50% shareholder of the Corporation) was liable for the Corporation’s unremitted payroll deductions and tax. 

A director would not be held liable if he/she had exercised the degree of care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person in comparable circumstances in order to prevent the corporation’s failure to remit.

In this case, the taxpayer was informed by the other 50% shareholder, who was involved in the day-to-day operations, that the business was doing well. In reality, the Corporation was in financial difficulty and remittances were not being made.

On receiving correspondence from CRA regarding arrears with its GST and payroll deduction remittances, the taxpayer turned his attention to the corporation’s failures. He spoke to the other 50% shareholder about the need to be diligent, as well as stopping by the business every two or three weeks to check on matters. However, he continued to rely on assurances provided by the other 50% shareholder, even after receiving additional correspondence regarding outstanding source deductions.

Director loses – personally liable for corporate remittances The Court found that reliance on the other shareholder’s word was not acting diligently given the taxpayer’s knowledge of the Corporation’s financial state. The Court suggested a reasonable person would independently verify that remittance payments were being made, whether by direct contact with CRA, review of the Corporation’s bank account, or other approaches. As a result, the Director was personally liable for the unremitted corporate GST/HST and source deductions.

Action Item: Especially in times of corporate financial difficulty, review source documents to ensure that payments to CRA are being made appropriately.