Atlas Tube – Federal Court finds that CRA could compel disclosure of an EY tax due diligence report discussing uncertain tax filing positions of a target
The U.S. parent (JMC) of the Canadian taxpayer (Atlas) acquired another Canadian company (LSI), following which some of the pieces of LSI ended up in Atlas’ hands in a post-closing reorganization. CRA requested, pursuant to s. 231.1, a copy of a tax due diligence report - that EY had prepared on LSI in advance of the LSI acquisition - on the grounds that it might be relevant to its audit of Atlas.
The EY report included an analysis of the tax filing positions taken by LSI and their risk of successful challenge by CRA. Atlas argued that compelling disclosure of the report was contrary to BP, which found that tax accrual working papers setting out uncertain tax positions were protected. In rejecting this argument, Southcott J stated:
BP is to be read as precluding general and unrestricted access to TAWPs on a prospective basis, outside the context of an audit of particular issues. …
… Unlike in BP, the Minister’s request for access to the Report in the present case is made in the context of an active audit of particular issues. …[T]he information in the Report sought by the Minister meets the applicable threshold of relevance in that context. I therefore find that compelling Atlas to provide the Report would not offend the principle described in BP that a taxpayer is not required to self-audit.
He also found that, as the report’s “dominant purpose when commissioned and generated was to inform the decision whether to proceed with the transaction and at what price” rather than to assist Stikeman in structuring the acquisition, it was not protected by solicitor-client privilege.