Darren Joblonkay, a JD student in Osgoode Professor Jinyan Li’s tax law class, received the Canadian Tax Foundation (CTF) Student Paper Prize for Ontario in November for his piece entitled To Tax or Not Tax Non-Resident Digital Supplies: An Assessment of Quebec’s ‘Netflix Tax’. The award came with a monetary prize of $2000 from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, the regional sponsor of the award. In addition, the abstract of his paper will be published in the Canadian Tax Journal.
Joblonkay was inspired to write his paper after attending a seminar last year where the guest lecturer, Rosalie Wynoch of the C.D. Howe Institute, discussed how foreign digital service providers (Spotify, Netflix, Apple Music, etc.) were not required to collect and remit GST/HST on behalf of their Canadian consumers.
“Rather, the onus is on each individual to file a form and remit the appropriate GST/HST each month, which of course none of us do,” Joblonkay says. “And the government simply can’t be bothered to enforce such a tax. What this means is that a substantial amount of revenue is lost each year.”
People speak of a ‘Netflix Tax’ as though it is a new/unique tax (or when politicized a “tax on the middle class”), but it’s really not, Joblonkay says. “In Canada, we, as consumers, are obligated to pay GST/HST on the goods and services we consume, this includes digital services. Unfortunately, the law is slow to adapt to fast-paced technological changes and simply hasn’t kept pace with current, global technological trends. Quebec has recently passed legislation to encourage digital service providers to collect and remit the GST/HST paid on their services and I took the opportunity to discuss the legal hurdles to effectively enforcing such legislation in my paper.”
Joblonkay says he is “very grateful to Professor Li for her encouragement and thoughtful comments” on his paper. He adds that he was “extremely humbled” to receive the CTF student paper award this year. “It’s always a fantastic feeling to have your work recognized by a professional body.”