Tax as an 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 Lawyering

The purpose of the seminar is to step back from the substantive context of tax law to examine the procedures and skills involved in working as a tax lawyer in various settings, whether in tax planning or tax controversy. It is structured around topics that are central to the practice of tax and focuses on the progression of a tax dispute from the planning stages through to litigation. It reviews key features of the audit, assessment, and appeals processes, with an emphasis on early resolution. Through the use of a case study, students will also learn about the basic structure of a tax appeal and gain familiarity with the procedures for litigating the appeal, from the perspective of the Crown and the taxpayer.

Law, Society & State: Charities & Not-for-profit

This seminar explores the legal treatment of charitable and not-for-profit organizations. Charities and not-for-profits are the organizational forms through which social impact is pursued outside (and sometimes alongside) of government, politics and the marketplace of exchange. Charity in the legal sense means the private pursuit of public benefit. It includes such diverse things as
poverty relief, human rights, education, religion, scholarships, environmental protection, animal welfare, the arts, health care and many other pursuits of public benefit. Charity law supplies the legal infrastructure through which such pursuits are voluntarily carried out by private actors. The seminar will explore how the law defines, regulates and promotes charity. It will also explore the justifications for the liberal state’s choice to incentivize and promote through charitable status certain conceptions of the good but not others.

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 opportunities 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 taxation 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 application of consumption tax law in Canada but will also explore some common principles of consumption taxes in other jurisdictions. 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. 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. The seminar will help students develop important legal skills, such as statutory interpretation, analytical thinking, 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 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 and the anti-surplus stripping rules, 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 use examples from his tax practice experience to illustrate how Canada’s corporate tax rules actually 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 helps students further develop statutory interpretation and problem solving skills through studying the international aspects of the Canadian Income Tax Act (ITA), tax treaties and recent global tax reform measures.

With a small open economy, Canada has developed an international tax system that is closely aligned with international norms but has features to reflect Canadian fiscal policies and Canadian interest in maximizing welfare for Canadians. The system has a clear paradigm, but many wonderfully complex rules to give effect to policy objectives. There is a fertile ground for international tax planning. This course will cover the paradigm, fundamental policies and basic technical rules.

A detailed Syllabus will guide students’ learning. Each segment of the course will contain practical problems to anchor the studying of the technical rules and related policies. A reader-friendly textbook that has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada will be used as the main required readings. Problems, cases and professional commentaries will be used as supplementary materials. Students are expected to attend classes in person.

Taxation Law

This is a foundational course in the JD program. It focuses on the basic provisions of the Income Tax Act (ITA) and fundamental principles and policies. The ITA is the biggest statute in Canada, raising about 2/3 of total tax revenues to finance public spending programs that Canadians want and affecting every aspect of commercial and personal life of most Canadians. It embodies the balance of equity and efficiency and the give-and-take reached by Canadians through the democratic process over the past 100 years.

As part of the legal system governed by the rule of law, the ITA recognizes taxpayers’ right to minimize taxation and “speaks” as precisely as possible to specify who is taxable and for how much. This course is thus “perfect” for learning key legal skills – statutory interpretation, problem solving and policy analysis.

The course uses an “easy-to-read” textbook and supplement it with the ITA and landmark court decisions. Guest speakers will offer insights on key issues and practical application of the law.  Students are expected to be attend classes in person and be part of the learning community.

Taxation Law

Taxation Law is the foundational course in tax. It is one of the highly recommended courses for
students at Osgoode. It is intended for students who find tax issues intriguing or want to develop a stronger understanding of tax. It is also for those who are interested in the many 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 prepare for classes by completing the assigned readings and reflecting on them. The amount of readings for the course is modest. Attendance is required.

The main reading material for the course is Li, Magee and Wilkie, Principles of Canadian Income Tax Law (10th edition). Students will have access to an electronic copy of this book. They may also obtain a hard copy from the publisher (Thomson Reuters) or the York University Library.