Tax As Instrument Of Social & Economic Policy

This seminar considers the use of tax instruments to achieve social and economic goals. Now is a perfect time for studying this because governments around the globe – including the Canadian government – are relying on tax measures to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, globalization and digitalization, increasing wealth/income inequality, and the need to balance redistribution of income and economic growth. This seminar provides an opportunity for students to learn about tax policy in action, and more importantly, develop skills in legal and public policy analysis that can be applied in all areas of law.  

To take this seminar, students should have an intellectual curiosity, and be prepared to read and think like a legal professional. A detailed course outline and written guidance for each module of the class will be provided in advance.

Guest speakers will be invited to lead some discussions.

Tax Law and Policy Colloquium

This tax policy seminar is open to students who are enrolled in the “tax stream” as well as students who are interested in exploring tax issues at a deeper level. It serves as the capstone course for the Tax Law Program. The main learning objective, as both a tangible outcome of the course and the main basis for students’ evaluations, is to help students develop a strong sense of tax law in its fiscal and general legal context.  Attention is paid to the significance of this understanding for proglem solving and advice giving in a professional setting.  To that end, supervised by the instructor, students are responsible throughout the seminar to craft a piece of writing of at least 7,000 words that is of a  quality that would be expected of an entry-level lawyer in the private or public sectorof publishable quality.  This paper is expected to take advantage of the subjects addressed in the seminar and how they are explored to connects theory and policy in the tax law to outcomes in its application. More specifically, the seminar is designed to help students bring together the knowledge and skills they have developed in the tax and related courses they have taken, to further develop their critical thinking and writing abilities, and to engage them actively in the production of new knowledge in the tax field. Although the precise content of the course will vary from year to year to capture dynamic fiscal and tax policy developments in relation to fundamental tax notions, basically the seminar will involve a topics-oriented examination of current research in tax law and policy. At the end of the seminar students should have the ability to think critically and expabnsively about tax issues and to read the most sophisticated tax articles – whether theoretical or practical – critically and with understanding and to write publishable tax commentaries. There will be  scheduled classes throughout the course to discuss tax literature, topical policy issues and research methodology. Under the guidance of the instructor, students are expected to work on their chosen research project as early as possible in and throughout the term. Students will be required to present their draft papers before the end of the term by leading a seminar presentation in which all members of the class with the instructor will participate.

Taxation of Corporate Transactions

This seminar focuses on selected types of transactions typically undertaken by corporations that have significant tax implications or are motivated by tax considerations. These transactions include corporate financing, reorganizations, remunerating owner-managers, and estate freezing. It is perfect for a Praxicum – a seminar combining theory, practice and reflection.

Experienced and thoughtful practitioners will lead and participate in some discussions.

Expectations of students are similar to those of junior associates at a law firm or Department of Justice (DOJ): learning the materials with guidance and supervision; applying the knowledge gained from the readings for a specific purpose, e.g., identifying their “practical” implications for a client (a taxpayer or the CRA in the case of DOJ); critically reflecting upon the practical application in the context of the overall system design, purposes, and theoretical underpinnings of the Income Tax Act; and presenting the learning outcomes orally in class or writing (in the form of a memorandum).  

To take this seminar, students should have taken Taxation Law and should be prepared to work in groups. Relevant corporate tax materials will be covered in this seminar so that students who have not taken the corporate tax course would be able to fully participate in the learning process. A detailed course outline and written guidance for each module of the class will be provided in advance.

Consumption Tax Law

Consumption taxation is the most important source of tax revenue worldwide after income taxation. Still, although the latter is comprehensively studied in basic tax law courses across the country, law schools often provide limited opportunity for students to discuss and learn about the economic, political and legal complexities of consumption taxation. Many economists favour consumption taxation due to its neutrality on economic actors. Consumption taxes are also considered to provide a more efficient instrument for controlling the economy in the interests of economic stability than income taxes. Nonetheless, the implementation of consumption taxes raises relevant questions about equity and distributive justice due to its potential regressivity.

The primary form of consumption tax in Canada is the federal Goods and Services Tax and, in some provinces, the Harmonized Sales Tax or the Provincial Sales Tax. Most Canadians pay consumption taxes daily on the goods and services they acquire. Globally, consumption taxes account for a significant and growing proportion of tax revenues. Beyond its pervasiveness and apparent simplicity, consumption taxation elicits interesting political and legal questions. From a political perspective, the adoption of the Goods and Services Tax in Canada in the 90s faced the opposition of almost 80 percent of Canadians, despite the wide support of most public finance scholars. From a technical standpoint, the Canadian consumption tax is globally unique. It generally mirrors the European-style value-added tax but is one of the few worldwide to have been successfully implemented at a subnational level.

This seminar examines the nature and the application of consumption taxation in Canada. It discusses fundamental issues such as consumption versus income as a basis for taxation, overviews its underlying principles and policies, and analyzes the Canadian rules under the Excise Tax Act. It also covers important challenges with respect to the design of consumption taxes, such as regressivity, e-commerce, fraud, and financial services. Students will learn why consumption is taxed, the different forms of consumption taxes, the key principles of modern consumption tax systems, and how those principles are operationalized in the Canadian tax system. In addition, students will learn how to problem solve by applying normative concepts together with the basic technical rules. This seminar focuses on Canadian consumption taxation but will also explore some common principles of consumption taxes in other jurisdictions. The seminar will help students develop important legal skills, such as statutory interpretation, analytical thinking, comparative legal research, problem-solving and writing. Taxation Law is not a prerequisite.

Taxation Law

This course introduces the fundamental principles of the Canadian federal income tax system. We will focus on building the vocabulary of taxation and exploring the social, political, and economic factors that shape the development of the law. By the end of the course, students should understand why societies tax, who and what they tax, and how they do so; be familiar with the general structure and principles of the Canadian federal income tax system; and develop skills in close, critical reading and interpretation of primary and secondary legal sources.

The central focus of the course is on the tax principles for the treatment of revenue, losses, and expenses earned or incurred by individuals. We will further discuss general tax policy issues and situate the income tax within the broader Canadian tax system. To ensure students obtain a practical understanding of tax law, the course will also introduce the tax administration and dispute resolution frameworks.

Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to build their skills in interpreting complex statutes and applying tax rules to facts. The course uses a combination of lectures, videos, short exercises, and problems for discussion, which will provide you with several opportunities for active learning.

For those of you who fear numbers, take heart. This course focuses on the legal rules underlying our income tax system, not on mathematics. Any math used in class or tested on the exam is limited to simple computation exercises to illustrate tax rules and their application.

Taxation Law

Taxation Law is the foundational course in tax. It is one of the highly recommended courses for
students at Osgoode. It is designed for students who find tax issues intriguing and also for those
who are more interested in the many other substantive areas of law which invariably intersect with tax.  

The course is a survey of the federal income tax system, with a focus on the taxation of individuals. Students will learn about the general framework of the Income Tax Act, come to appreciate the underlying principles and policies of the system, and develop statutory interpretation skills that will serve them well in practice.  

Students are expected to have read the prescribed readings before class. The amount of the readings for this course is modest. Students are encouraged to bring questions to class. No laptops or mobile devices are allowed during class. Attendance is required.

Students interested in taking the course should obtain a copy of Li, Magee and Wilkie, Principles of Canadian Income Tax Law (9th edition) from the publisher (Thomson Reuters) or the York University Library before December 31, 2022. This book will used as the main reading material for the course.

Taxation of Business Enterprises

Taxation of Business Enterprises examines the federal income tax treatment of Canadian-resident corporations and their shareholders. The course covers the corporate tax rates on different types of income (including the small business deduction and refundable taxes on investment income), the integration system for taxing shareholders (including the tax treatment of dividends and other corporate distributions), the concept of paid-up capital, tax-deferred transfers of property to a corporation, and corporate reorganization provisions (including share-for-share exchanges, share conversions, capital reorganizations, amalgamations and liquidations).

The course explores the tax policy choices influencing Canada’s corporate income tax system, and encourages an understanding of complex statutory provisions through an appreciation of the underlying policy rationales.  The instructor will bring to the classroom numerous examples from his tax practice  experience to illustrate how Canada’s corporate tax rules apply in real-world circumstances. The course is intended to provide students pursuing business law careers with a practical understanding of foundational corporate tax principles, and is essential preparation for students pursuing further studies in taxation law.

International Taxation

This course covers one of the most dynamic and fascinating areas of tax law – taxation of cross-border transactions. In fact, the aspect of taxation described as “international taxation” is as much concerned with countries interacting with each other in relation to income earning circumstances of taxpayers as it is about the typical relationships between taxpayers and those countries’ tax regimes and tax authorities.   Because Canada has a small and open economy cross-border transactions and related relations are not only important to taxpayers and the government but they are unavoidable. Accordingly, a working awareness of how Canada’s tax system addresses the circumstances of persons from elsewhere who establish income earning connections with Canada and the circumstances of Canadians whose income earning activities extend beyond Canada’s borders is an important addition to a tax practitioner’s resources.   More broadly, the connection between “international taxation” and trade and the necessary dependence of taxation generally on a strong familiarity with private law and public law make this course an opportunity for students to develop and enhance their legal knowledge and skills from several perspectives.  Knowledge and skills learned from this course will help anyone interested in pursuing a career in law (not necessarily tax law), business or public policy.
This course builds on the knowledge and skills learned from introductory Tax Law and applies them to cross-border transactions (e.g. foreign corporations doing business or investing in Canada; Canadians doing business or investing overseas; and transactions between members of multinational corporate groups, etc.) and other relations of and among persons that may justify the taxing claims made by more than one country at the same time. In that connection, it will also cover issues concerning international tax treaties and international tax avoidance (and evasion) which continue to be topical in contemporary discussions and commentaries on “international taxation” including, notably, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations,  the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.   While not formally a co-requisite or pre-requisite, familiarity with the taxation of corporations will be helpful to students even though students can be successful in this course without this background.  The subjects addressed in the course will be infused with attention to ongoing topical issues in international tax, most notably led by the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and changes being considered for Canadian taxation to enact legislation that implements Canada’s commitments to the ongoing proposals to recalibrate the international tax environmwent.

The Praxicum element of this course is satisfied in a number of ways.  First, at every stage of the course, subjects will be addressed in terms actual problem solving and practical experience, building on the professional experience of the instructor.  Students will be engaged in these discussions; their focus will be on how to assess the reasonable parameters of the tax law, making professional judgments expected to be resilient in a professional setting, and related professional, including ethical, consideratons.  Second, the course will engage several problem solving / planning exercises to which students will be expected to contribute.  Third, there is a significant tax policy element to this course which will entail reflection not only about tax law itself but also in its private and public law contexts.  Students will be expected to write a short reflection / analysis suitable for posting as a blog post on Osgoode’s tax law blog.  In this vein, the examination for this course includes both problem solving questons and, importantly a survety / reflection / policy advice question framed with reference to international developments that are contemporary with the time of the course and the exam.  Students will be expected to answer the qusetion as a problem solving exercise by reflecting on the expanse of international taxation in its contemporary setting and riting a short advisory memorandum to a responsible government official.  

A detailed Syllabus and class discussion notes will be provided to guide students’ learning.  Each segment of the course will address practical problems to anchor the studying of the substantive law and related policies and guidance by tax authorities.

Taxation Law

The Income Tax Act (ITA) is the biggest statute in Canada. It was created during World War I, expanded during World War II, and matured into a Canadian legal institution with the establishment of the modern welfare state during the 1960s and 1970s. It affects every aspect of commercial and personal life of most Canadians. It is the “perfect” instrument for learning key legal skills – statutory interpretation, problem solving and policy analysis. The course relies an “easy-to-read” textbook (relative to other books on the subject) to supplement the ITA and landmark court decisions. Guest speakers will offer insights on key issues. As a foundational course in the JD program, the course will focus on basic provisions of the ITA, fundamental principles and the “fun” of learning how the law “speaks” and how taxpayers (and judges) react.