I have been talking about director's liability over the posting of this week, I will continue this theme.
On October 10, 2010, Judge Sharlow of the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the Tax Court of Canada that imposed liability on a director for GST debts of a corporation. Judge Sharlow used to be a tax lawyer before becoming a judge and her decisions on tax matters are worth reading.
In Jarrod v. The Queen, Judge Sharlow would not grant the Jarrod's request. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the decision regarding her reasoning. That being said, Judge Sharlow clearly held the self-represented Jarrod could be assessed under section 323 of the Excise Tax Act regardless of the fact that the CRA waited over 10 years and even if the delay put Mr. Jarrod at a disadvantage (significant interest was owing).
It is necessary to look at the Tax Court of Canada decision for the key facts. The company, Jarrold and Associates, was responsible for unremitted net GST owing by the Company to the Minister for the years in question. Keeping collected GST is one of the worst forms of action on the part of a supplier.
The company did not pay the assessment of unremitted net taxes of $8,027.21 together with the related penalties and interest for the periods in issue. Jarrod was the sole director of Jarrod and Associates and, therefore, had complete control over GST remittances - so nobody would have been in a better position that he would be to know what was going on.
The Tax Court of Canada held that the CRA was justified in making its assessment against Jarrod as a director of the company after so many years. The Tax Court stated:
 With respect to the question about whether or not the Minister acted reasonably and responsibly in waiting for 10 years before making this assessment, the Court has no control over that. The Minister was within his rights to wait as he did, but apart from that, certainly there was substantial evidence before me as to why there was the delay that there was. Part of it had to do with the Appellant himself in not filing returns. The returns were filed late. The Minister attempted to get him to file documentation, to send in information so that he could conclude whether the offer that he was making to settle the matter was reasonable or not. All of those things accounted for some of the delay. So overall, the Court is satisfied that the delay has been explained.
 The Court is satisfied the Minister acted reasonably in any event. It accepts counsel for the Respondent’s position that the Minister had the right to decide as to how he was going to collect this debt. It is satisfied that the Minster waited part of the time because one of the agents on the file did not think they would be successful in processing the claim because there were no assets to attach. But subsequently, another officer had come in and, through her research, found that there may have been assets there which were capable of satisfying the account. It was reasonable, then, for the Minister to make the assessment that he did.
 This Court has no jurisdiction to question the Minister’s decision to proceed as he did. This Court is satisfied the Minister had the option to proceed as he did and there was nothing wrong with proceeding the way he did. The Minister had the right to assess the penalties that he did and to assess the interest that he did. There was nothing wrong in the manner in which he acted.
With this information, one can see why the courts have held Jarrod to pay. Whether the result would be fair if another director is assessed, will be a question for another day. What will be necessary to show in any future case is that the CRA's actions are wrong. Even then, there would be no guarantee that a court would grant an appeal and vacate the assessment. The question may be that of fairness.