CRA indicates that employee beneficiaries of a mooted ELHT form a single class if their benefit entitlements are reasonably similar

In order to qualify as an employee life and health trust (ELHT), s. 144.1(2)(e)(i) or (ii) must be satisfied. The test in s. 144.1(2)(e)(i)(A) requires that the “trust … contains at least one class of beneficiaries where the members of the class represent at least 25% of all of the beneficiaries of the trust who are employees of the participating employers under the trust.” The term “class of beneficiaries” is defined in s. 144.1(1) “as a group of beneficiaries who have identical rights or interests under the trust.”

CRA considered a plan covering all the non-unionized employees of over 1,000 stores in a retail chain, where the benefits offered to the employees varied by participating employer, so that there could be different classes of benefits and coverage levels offered to the employees of the different participating employers. In indicating that there being no 25% group with the same benefit entitlements or coverage would not necessarily preclude the s. 144.1(2)(e)(i) test from being satisfied, CRA stated:

[A] “right”, as it pertains to an ELHT, includes an entitlement to designated employee benefits (“DEBs”). Thus, where the employees of several participating employers have the same rights under the trust (but not necessarily the same benefit entitlements or coverage), it is our view that such employees may collectively form a class of beneficiaries for purposes of clause 144.1(2)(e)(i)(A) of the Act as long as the benefit entitlements for each employee in the class are reasonably similar. This could be the case, for example, if a particular designated benefit plan offers various levels of benefit coverage that are different but similar to those offered by another participating employer whose employees are included in the class.

Neal Armstrong. Summary of 5 December 2022 External T.I. 2021-0915921E5 under s. 144.1(2)(e)(i).