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Opinion

UPDATED: SNC Lavalin – Just the Facts Ma’am

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  • Opinion by Cory Litzenberger

    Let’s take emotion out of it. Let’s take a look at the legislation. While I am not a lawyer, I do interpret tax legislation for a living, and so I decided to take a closer look at the criminal legislation pertaining to the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

    The relevant legislation is in 《parentheses》below, but here is the Coles notes:

    FACT – in 2015 SNC was charged by the RCMP under Section 3 of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act

    《3 (1) Every person commits an offence who, in order to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of business, directly or indirectly gives, offers or agrees to give or offer a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind to a foreign public official or to any person for the benefit of a foreign public official

    (a) as consideration for an act or omission by the official in connection with the performance of the official’s duties or functions; or

    (b) to induce the official to use his or her position to influence any acts or decisions of the foreign state or public international organization for which the official performs duties or functions.》

    FACT – In 2015, the RCMP charged SNC-Lavalin, along with its international division, with corruption and fraud in relation with their business dealings in Libya. The RCMP said officials at the company attempted to bribe several public officials in the country, including dictator Moammar Gadhafi, as well as other businesses in Libya.

    FACT – The prosecutor is allowed to enter into a remediation agreement under Section 715.32 of the Criminal Code of Canada , if ALL conditions are met under 715.32(1).

    《715.32 (1) The prosecutor may enter into negotiations for a remediation agreement with an organization alleged to have committed an offence if the following conditions are met:

    (a) the prosecutor is of the opinion that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction with respect to the offence;

    (b) the prosecutor is of the opinion that the act or omission that forms the basis of the offence did not cause and was not likely to have caused serious bodily harm or death, or injury to national defence or national security, and was not committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization or terrorist group;

    (c) the prosecutor is of the opinion that negotiating the agreement is in the public interest and appropriate in the circumstances; and

    (d) the Attorney General has consented to the negotiation of the agreement.》

    FACT – for the prosecutor to evaluate their public interest opinion, they must consider subsection 715.32(2) in its entirety which includes many relevant pieces of information except when 715.32(3) overrides it

    《 Factors to consider

    715.32(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(c), the prosecutor must consider the following factors: [(a) to (h)]; and

    (i) any other factor that the prosecutor considers relevant.》

    FACT – 715.32(3) says even with all those factors to consider, you can NOT factor in the national economic interest (ie: the jobs argument) if they were charged the way the RCMP charged them

    《Factors not to consider

    715.32(3) Despite paragraph (2)(i), if the organization is alleged to have committed an offence under section 3 or 4 of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, the prosecutor must not consider the national economic interest, the potential effect on relations with a state other than Canada or the identity of the organization or individual involved.》

    CONCLUSION – the jobs argument is irrelevant under the law in these circumstances – The prosecution knows this – The former Attorney General knows this – and based on the provisions as written, the jobs argument for SNC does not meet the legal requirement for a remediation agreement.

    For these reasons, I find in favour of the former Attorney General.
    — — — —

    Update: While being interviewed on the afternoon of March 7, 2019, I looked even closer at the legislation and caught something I didn’t realize on first glance when reading it.

    Notice at the end of 715.32(1)(c) the word “and”.

    While I said this means that all of the tests in (a) through (d) must be met, I neglected to say that this means no one person has the sole final decision. The prosecutor is mentioned in (a), (b), and (c); while the Attorney General is only mentioned in (d).

    To put another way, this law is written so that it is not solely the decision of the Attorney General, nor the prosecutor. Rather, it requires both the Attorney General and the Prosecutor to agree to proceed with negotiations.

    Similar to a scene in the movies where you see nuclear codes kept between two different military heads before proceeding with the launch, such is the wording of this provision.

    This means that the Attorney General does not have the final decision and so any suggestion that she does is incorrect. The decision is a joint one with most of the leg work having to be done by the prosecutor, not the Attorney General.

    So let me recap: I think it is quite simple, that a Remediation Agreement (aka Deferred Prosecution Agreement) cannot be considered under the “national economic interest” (jobs) argument based on what legislation the RCMP used for the charges.

    If that’s the argument, then the answer is “no” and the repeated number of times asking for the former Attorney General to revisit it over a four month period for something that appears so black and white might be considered workplace harassment if I were to do such a thing to one of my colleagues.

    So, since the economic argument is moot, what other argument is there?

    We heard in testimony that the parties may have wanted the Attorney General to look at it from a stance that does not imply economic interest.

    Ironically, “we need to win an election” may actually be legal as “any other factor that the prosecutor considers relevant” but then we would have to assume the prosecutor would have to be partisan, and that is highly not likely in my experience.

    So we now know that there must be an agreement between the prosecutor and the Attorney General.

    We also know that “economic interest” cannot be the reason under the law.

    So, if the law is that clear on economic interest, why would the Attorney General be asked repeatedly for reconsideration, unless it was not “economic interest” they wanted her to consider?

    For these additional reasons, I still find in favour of the former Attorney General

    Update #2: On March 8, 2019, the Federal Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Public Prosecution Service on SNC Lavalin’s request for judicial review citing:

    “The law is clear that prosecutorial discretion is not subject to judicial review, except for abuse of process.” – Federal Court of Canada Justice Kane

    Then, on March 11, 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) came to the same conclusion as my interpretation of the law regarding the intention of the 1999 agreement, and said:

    “political factors such as a country’s national economic interest and the identity of the alleged perpetrators must not influence foreign bribery investigations and prosecutions.” – OECD

    We now have confirmation that there is no legal way that a country’s national economic interest can be considered under the law.

    For these additional reasons, jurisprudence about the authority of the Public Prosecution Service, and third party reports about the intentions of the 1999 agreement from the OECD, I still find in favour of the former Attorney General for a third time.

    Click to listen to Red Deer Accountant Cory Litzenberger on Charles Adler Tonight

    Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the President & Founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors; you can find out more about Cory’s biography at http://www.CGLtax.ca/Litzenberger-Cory.html


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    Opinion

    Budget 2019 – Poor wording requires 2 ex-spouses within 5 years for Home Buyers Plan

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  • This is one of those rare times I hope I am wrong in my interpretation, and look forward to being proven wrong by my professional colleagues.

    On March 19, 2019 the federal government tabled its election-year budget. One of the newest and strangest provisions is the ability for people going through a separation or divorce to potentially have access to their RRSP under the Home Buyers Plan.

    Now in my article and podcast entitled: “Escape Room – The NEW Small Business Tax Game – Family Edition” with respect to the Tax On Split Income (TOSI) rules, I made a tongue in cheek argument that people will be better off if they split, because then the TOSI rules won’t apply.

    In keeping with the divorce theme, beginning in the year of hindsight, 2020, the federal government is giving you an incentive to split up and get your own place.

    However, there are a few hoops:

    On page 402 of the budget, under new paragraph 146.01(2.1)(a), at the time of your RRSP withdrawal under the Home Buyers Plan, you must make sure that:

    • – the home you are buying is not the current home you are living in and you are disposing of the interest in the current home within two years; or
    • – you are buying out your former spouse in your current home; and

    you need to:

    • be living separate and apart from your spouse or common-law partner;
    • have been living separate and apart for a period of at least 90 days (markdown October 3, 2019 on the calendar),
    • began living separate and apart from your spouse or common-law partner, this year, or any time in the previous 4 years (ok, you don’t have to wait for October); and…

    …here is where the tabled proposed legislation gets messy.

    Proposed subparagraph 146.01(2.1)(a)(ii) refers to where the individual

    • wouldn’t be entitled to the home buyers plan because of living with a previous spouse in the past 4 years that isn’t the current spouse they are separating from

    “(ii) in the absence of this subsection, the individual would not have a regular eligible amount because of the application of paragraph (f) of that definition in respect of a spouse or common-law partner other than the spouse referred to in clauses (i)(A) to (C), and…”

    The problem with the wording of this provision, is that it is written in the affirmative by the legislators using the word “and”. This means, you must be able to answer “true” to all the tests for the entire paragraph to apply.

    The way I read this, the only way to answer “true” to this subparagraph is if you have a second spouse (ie: spouse other than the spouse referred to) that you shared a home with and you split from in the past four years.

    If you have a second spouse that you shared a home with in the past four years, then “paragraph (f)” in the definition of “regular eligible amount” would apply and the answer would be “true”.

    If the answer is “true” you can then get access to your RRSP Home Buyers Plan.

    If you don’t have a second spouse then, even though “paragraph (f)” might be met, the phrase “spouse other than the spouse referred to” would not be met, and therefore the answer would be “false”.

    This would, in turn, cause the entire logic test of the provision to be “false” and so you would not be able to take out a “regular eligible amount” from your RRSP for the Home Buyers plan because you do not meet the provisions.

    If my interpretation is correct then I would really be curious as to what part of the economy they are trying to stimulate.

    In my opinion the legislation could be fixed with a simple edit:

    “(ii) in the absence of this subsection, the individual would not have a regular eligible amount because of the application of paragraph (f) of that definition in respect of:

    (A) a spouse or common-law partner; or

    (B) a spouse or common-law partner other than the spouse referred to in clauses (i)(A) to (C); and…”


    Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the President & Founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors; you can find out more about Cory’s biography at http://www.CGLtax.ca/Litzenberger-Cory.html


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    Opinion

    Budget 2019 – Don’t spend your new Canada Training Credit just yet

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  • On March 19, 2019, the federal government tabled its election-year budget. One of the new provisions is a refundable credit called the Canada Training Credit. However, the $250 credit won’t even be available until you file your 2020 income tax return in April of 2021.

    Further, if you are born in 1995 or later, you won’t qualify yet. If you were born in 1954 or earlier, you would never be eligible.

    In addition, the maximum benefit you can receive is $5,000 in a lifetime (which will take 20 years to get at $250 a year) and the benefit can only be used to a maximum of 50% of eligible tuition costs.

    So let’s consider the following scenario:

    It is 2019 – you are 25 years of age making $27,000 a year and file your taxes every year.

    You decide to take advantage of this credit and enroll in your first semester of schooling in the fall of 2023.
    According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian undergraduate pays $3,419 per semester.

    So, you take time off work to go to school full-time in the fall, thus reducing your income by 1/3 in the year to $18,000.

    Under the current 2019 rules, you would only have $39 in federal income tax. This amount is low because the tuition credits reduce your taxes.

    By 2023, you have built up a “pool” of $250 per year after you turned 26, and believe you have a $1,000 pool available for that year.

    When you file your 2023 return the $1,000 is triggered as a refundable tax credit. But you won’t be getting $961 back ($1,000 – 39).

    Here’s the catch:

    The $1,000 pool reduces the amount you can claim for tuition credits as well, which changes the tax owing to $189 Federal income tax. Meaning the $1,000 pool that you waited for is reduced by 15% by the time you pay it out.

    Cash in jeans: $811.

    But what if the course you decided to go into begins in January of 2023? You go for the January-April semester, work from May-August, and attend school September-December.

    Using the same $27,000 – your income is now reduced by 2/3 while attending full time. Your income is only $9,000 as a result of the May-August period.

    Your tuition (possibly paid through student loans) is $6,838 for the year.

    Your tax is now zero because even before tuition credits you are below the Basic Personal Amount in your earnings.

    Does this mean you get the full $1,000?

    No.

    Because your income is less than $10,000 in 2023, you don’t get the $250 for that year. As such, you only get $750, and your tuition credits available for carryforward are reduced by $750 as well, thus having a future negative impact on tax of $112.50.

    Net result: $637.50 cash in jeans

    What if you are a parent that decides to stay home with the kids until they are in school full time and go back to school in 2023?
    Unfortunately, because you did not make more than $10,000 a year in any of the years, you get zero.

    What if you were laid off, collecting regular EI benefits, and decide to go back to school?
    Regular EI Benefits don’t qualify for the $10,000 income calculation. As a result, unless you had special EI benefits like parental leave or earned income from another source greater than $10,000, you don’t qualify.

    What if you were self-employed through a small business corporation and paid yourself dividends instead of wages and then decided to upgrade your training?
    Your dividend income does not qualify, and so you are not eligible for amounts to be added to the pool.

    So assuming you qualify, and you wait the four years to build up a pool of $1,000 (remember that the $1,000 is only a net $850 because of the reduction in tuition credits). That same Statistics Canada report says that tuition is increasing at 3.3% per year. That means by you waiting four years so you can get the Net $850 means your annual tuition has likely increased from $6,838 to $7,786 ($948).

    You waited four years, and the tax amount you receive won’t even cover the inflationary price increase on tuition.

    In Conclusion

    • Those that do qualify won’t see anything until April 2021; the actual net amount of what they will see is only $212.50; and their annual tuition will likely have increased by $225.65.
    • Students under the age of 25 will see nothing;
    • People over the age of 25 that don’t have more than $10,000 of income will see nothing;
    • Seniors will see nothing;
    • Parents looking to re-enter the workforce will see nothing; and
    • People who have been laid off and have less than $10,000 of non-EI income will see nothing.

    Seems like a lot of complex legislation for nothing.


    Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the President & Founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors; you can find out more about Cory’s biography at http://www.CGLtax.ca/Litzenberger-Cory.html


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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

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    sat30mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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