Message from the Executive Director

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March 2019

Hello to all CTF members—

The first quarter of 2019 is drawing to a close, and it has been a busy period at the Foundation. This time of year has traditionally been reserved for addressing internal operational matters and for beginning to plan our five major multi-day conferences (the Annual Conference and the four regional conferences). This year, in addition to taking on these customary tasks, we have delivered three conferences on a diverse range of topics.

In late February, we held the Corporate Management Tax Conference, which had an overarching theme of tax and technology. An interesting array of speakers addressed the impact of technology on both the tax base and the professions. It is clear that innovation and change, which have long been key factors in the practice of tax, will continue to stimulate and challenge the profession. It was encouraging to see so many younger professionals at the conference (understandable, given the impact of technology on their careers), and it was interesting to take in the insights of more seasoned practitioners. A personal highlight for me was the remarks of the Honourable Marshall Rothstein, who participated in a panel discussion concerned with the impact of artificial intelligence on professional education, on the practice of law, on research, and on the evolution of tax jurisprudence.

A symposium dedicated to 30 years of GAAR was held in early March. We were honoured that so many members of the tax community—not only practitioners but also representatives from the judiciary, from government (the departments of Finance and Justice, and the CRA), and from industry—participated in this event, both as panel members and as members of the audience. The insights of these eminent professionals were most interesting. Some of these participants also shared, at a dinner the evening before the symposium, their personal recollections of the enactment of GAAR, the workings of the GAAR Committee, or of their involvement in landmark cases. This symposium highlighted the unique nature of both the Foundation and the Canadian tax community. It was remarkable (as several people observed to me) to see participants with diverse—and often adversial—interests exchanging views with such civility and generosity.

Finally, at the end of March, we delivered a specialized conference on transfer pricing. This event, which was organized at our members’ request, sold out very quickly—a testament to the growing importance of this practice area and to the need, in Canada, for specialized training in it. As I mentioned in an earlier message, the feedback from Foundation members is very important in the formulation of our programming; this event was, among other things, a response to members’ requests for one-day events on timely topics. I anticipate the delivery of more such events in the future.

March 19 was the date of the 2019 Federal Budget, and I was in Ottawa for the lock-up. As with the 2018 budget, tax measures this year were generally modest (a restraint that is consistent with a pre-election approach and with Finance’s earlier announcement that tax reform was not on the table). These measures combined a mix of narrowly targeted incentives, on the personal and business income tax fronts, with specific anti-avoidance measures in the areas of business and international tax—measures designed to target particular issues. In some areas, a general intention was expressed, with the prospect of supporting details to come after further review and consultation (as in the case of intergenerational business transfers) or at some point in the future (as in the case of stock option taxation). Although the accompanying notice of ways and means motion was relatively slim, some of the draft legislation—notably, in the area of international tax—is surprisingly complex, with the potential for some unexpected outcomes. Finally, the budget confirmed the government’s intention to proceed with various measures that were previously announced, including those from the November Fall Economic Statement, and it confirmed the government’s commitment to moving forward, as required, with technical amendments that will improve the certainty of the tax system. The next six months, leading up to the federal election, could prove interesting, given the current political climate. However, those who are seeking significant action on the tax front will likely have to wait until after the election.

I conclude this message on a sombre note. Many of our members are familiar with Susan Wong, who served as TaxFind Manager at the Foundation. We were terribly saddened by her passing on February 25. Generous, good-natured, and gregarious, Susan was a friend to all in her 25 years at the Foundation, and she was an invaluable employee whose tireless commitment to our members and to her work—the development and growth of TaxFind—was integral to the Foundation’s success. We will miss Susan greatly.

See you next month.

Heather L. Evans,
Executive Director and CEO