This post is Part 1 of my thoughts on Justice Martineau’s decision. You can find Part 2 here.
I left my root canal appointment this afternoon to a message announcing that Justice Martineau had rendered his decision. We did not win round 1. Notice that I did NOT say that the Government won round 1.
Here is the decision:
Before, I comment specifically on the decision, I want to be clear on the following points:
- This decision marks the end of the beginning. It has always been clear that this litigation would NOT stop at the first level of trial.
- The “summary trial” on the Tax Treaty issues was a “carve out” of the main Charter issues.
- Obviously we continue on.
I am not surprised by the result – that is a “win” or a “loss”. What I am surprised at is the content of the decision (which I will get to in a moment).
But first some general thoughts/feelings/comments …
A. As you know, the CRA has announced that it will be sending the results of “FATCA Hunt” to the IRS on September 23, 2015.
This is hardly a surprise, given that Canada, has been and continues (under the Harper Government) to be a “World Leader” in FATCA implementation. Obviously this is a great disappointment. My guess is that it will be a long time before there are any specific results (meaning letters from the IRS) from this.
This is the beginning of a long struggle. Remember, this is a “marathon” and NOT a sprint. Concern is appropriate. Panic is not. Justice Martineau’s decision does reinforce the principle that the Treaty does NOT obligate the Canada Revenue Agency to assist the IRS in collecting tax on Canadian citizens. Do NOT do anything that is reckless and is a reaction to this decision (as opposed to a response). You will be subject to a good deal of “fear mongering” from various people (accountants, lawyers, bankers …). You should deal with this situation “one FATCA letter at a time”. Remember that a “FATCA Letter” is a letter that indicates that you are under “suspicion of being a U.S citizen”. It does not mean that you are a U.S. citizen.
In any case, Justice Martineau has “cleared the way” for the CRA to send your account information to the IRS. This is not good news.
B. It’s important to see this decision as an event that brings us one step closer to moving this issue through the courts.
For those of you who see the result as failure (and I don’t) I remind you that every failure brings us one step closer to our next success.
As George said over at Brock:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we go back to work and keep moving forward.”
I believe that it will end at the Supreme Court of Canada. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Canada is “public importance”.
Interestingly Justice Martineau did NOT make a “costs award” against Gwen and Ginny. He wrote (p 44):
“There shall be no costs. This is a case where, in view of the nature of the issues and the public interest involved in clarifying the scope of novel provisions affecting hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens, no costs should be awarded against the losing parties.”
It strikes me that this is a recognition of the “public importance” of the issues involved, confirming that this is a case that should eventually be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
C. Thoughts on Justice Martineau’s decision …
Full disclosure – I read the decision very very quickly. It is 46 pages. I will read it again later, much later. There doesn’t seem to much substance to the decision. A huge part of the decision simply recites the terms of the IGA and the implementing legislation.
Basically, what Justice Martineau says is:
– the IGA was of great benefit to the banks and was supported by the banks (p 21)
– “Congress has spoken” (have you heard that before): Meaning this is a political decision in the United States
– The Government of Canada has the right to make and interpret tax treaties that involve “information exchange”. In this context, it is NOT for the Government of Canada to question the relevance of the information to the enforcement of U.S. tax laws in Canada. Treaties are about giving the treaty partner country information that they want (p 43)
– Whether the IGA is a Treaty or not is irrelevant (from a Canadian perspective) . Either way it is consistent with and within the purview of what is allowed by the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty (p 29)
– If you are a dual citizen, too bad. That’s simply the price of U.S. citizenship or dual citizenship (he doesn’t seem to get that citizenship is being forcibly imposed on people who believe that they relinquished U.S. citizenship years ago)(p 44)
– Justice Martineau adopts the distinction between the “assessment of taxes and penalties” and the “disclosure of information”. In other words, he rejects the submission that the Government of Canada is assisting the U.S. to collect tax on Canadian citizens. (p 42)
I would imagine that many, many expats will disagree with this last point, as Dash said:
I think Justice Martineau’s ruling boils down to the following:
“Accordingly, in the absence of concrete evidence, it is speculative to suggest that the automatic collection and disclosure of taxpayer information mentioned in the IGA is tantamount to providing help to the US authorities in the collection of taxes.”
This is where I strongly disagree with Justice Martineau. Collecting information about someone’s assets (not just income) can serve no purpose other than to assist in collecting taxes.
What this means …
In the world of FATCA, IGAs, and tax treaties the rights of individuals (if they have any) are subordinated to the broader purposes of the information exchange. Justice Martinueau says: “Just renounce” (have you heard that before)? -(p 27)
On the one hand Justice Martineau’s decision may be consistent with the interpretation of the Tax Treaty.
On the other hand Justice Martineau’s decision makes it clear that individual rights are irrelevant to Tax Treaty interpretation.
The Charter of Rights, on the other hand, is about the recognition and protection of individual rights. It strikes me that the lack of concern for individual rights in Justice Martineau’s decision (whether correct as a matter of law or not) may strengthen the validity of the Charter of Rights claims.
In closing …
This post is a quick message to supporters. I want to emphasize how much we at the Alliance For The Defence of Canadian Sovereignty value your support and thank you for it! I repeat we thank you. This lawsuit has been and continues to be about you.
I will reread the decision and update this post later this evening or early tomorrow.
P.S. Canada is the country most affected by FATCA and the country with the “moral authority” to resist FATCA. The Harper Government could have chosen to be the “FATCA Terminator”. Instead it decided to establish itself as a “World Leader In FATCA Implementation”. This is further evidence of the Government of Canada behaving as “managers” instead of as “leaders”.
On October 19, 2015 you might remind Prime Minister Harper how you feel about his surrendering Canada’s sovereignty to the IRS.