A federal judge in Ottawa ruled Wednesday that Ottawa cannot stop the federal government from collecting tax refund money from Canadian citizens and businesses.
The ruling came in the case of three Canadians whose claims to a federal refund were rejected by the federal tax agency.
In a 4-3 decision, Justice Mark Gartland found that the Treasury Board cannot prevent Ottawa from taking the money from Canadians.
It is up to the CRA to make the decision, Gartartland wrote.
The three Canadians, all from British Columbia, filed claims for a refund in 2012.
They claimed that they owed a provincial tax in British Columbia that they could not pay.
They argued that their tax liability for the tax owed in British Colombia was $12,600 and the CRA rejected their claim for the refund.
Gartland said Ottawa cannot force a tax refund for an individual who is ineligible to claim it because he or she is not eligible for a tax benefit.
He also said that the CRA must determine the “proportionality of an applicant’s tax liability and whether the applicant is likely to be eligible for the benefit.”
The decision could make it harder for other Canadians to claim refunds for tax refunds.
For example, if the tax claim was denied because the CRA determined the applicant was ineligible for the payment, he or her tax liability could increase, said Chris LeBlanc, the director of tax and tax planning at Deloitte.
Gentoo Software’s head of tax compliance, Jim MacLeod, said the decision will likely encourage Canadians to file tax returns with more certainty and less fear.
“When the CRA has to make these determinations and determine if the person is eligible to receive a refund, they will have to take into account all of the information they have in their filing history, and that is a big challenge,” he said.
“If you have more information in your file, you’re more likely to file a refund.”
Gartlanders ruling is likely likely to have an impact on a number of Canadian businesses, including companies like the home repair and construction supply chain.
MacLeod said the ruling could impact businesses who are trying to hire employees, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
He said the CRA should consider the impact on small businesses, who may have difficulty finding qualified workers for a new job.
MacLeod also said businesses could have difficulty accepting tax refunds in the short term, because of the potential for delays with the CRA.
The federal government has appealed the ruling.