Unjust Enrichment

Table of Contents


Lauzon v. Canada (Revenue Agency), 2021 FC 431

rejection of an unjust enrichment claim by a taxpayer claiming he had not received refund cheques

Charitable donations made by the taxpayer to two Canadian tax shelter programs resulted in refund entitlements for his 2005 and 2006 taxation years which, according to CRA’s records, were issued to him by cheque in 2006 and 2007. CRA issued Notices of Reassessments for the 2005 and 2006 taxation years in 2008 and 2010, respectively, denying the tax credits and notifying the taxpayer that he had outstanding balances. Due to the passage of time, the taxpayer was unable to retrieve his bank records to substantiate his position that he did not receive or deposit the refund cheques and, for its part, the CRA no longer had copies of the negotiated cheques.

Walker J first found that the action was brought beyond the two-year limitations period under s. 4 of the Limitations Act (Ontario) given that an employee at the law firm for the taxpayer had received a letter in 2015 from CRA showing the issuances of the refund cheques in 2006 and 2007, so that the taxpayer “knew of his loss … in sufficient detail to bring his claim for unjust enrichment by early July 2015.”

In also finding that the taxpayer could not establish a claim for unjust enrichment, Walker J, stated (at paras. 62, 65):

I find that the CRA’s detailed evidence is reliable and establishes that the 2005 and 2006 Notices of Assessment and Refund Cheques were printed and mailed to Mr. Lauzon. He is deemed to have received the Notices of Assessment and Refund Cheques pursuant to subsection 248(7) … .

I agree with Mr. Lauzon that the CRA’s evidence does not establish whether the Refund Cheques were negotiated by Mr. Lauzon or were stolen and negotiated by a third party. However, the CRA has demonstrated on a balance of probabilities that the Refund Cheques were issued, mailed and cashed with the result that Mr. Lauzon has not established any enrichment of the Crown. Without proof of enrichment, Mr. Lauzon’s claim for unjust enrichment can go no further and his action must fail.

Locations of other summaries Wordcount
Tax Topics - Income Tax Act - Section 248 - Subsection 248(7) taxpayer deemed to have received refund cheques 125

Canada Trust Co. v. Parfeniuk, 89 DTC 5421, [1989] 2 CTC 202 (Man QB)

The plaintiff trust company, which had received a garnishee order under s. 224 for $5,362 in taxes alleged to be owing by an employee (the defendant), inadvertently paid the full amount of remuneration owing to the defendant, and thereafter felt compelled to pay the $5,362 to the Receiver General.

The defendant was held to have been unjustly enriched by the payment of the amount to him that the plaintiff instead was required to pay to the Receiver General. Following the tests in Petthus v. Becher, there was "'an enrichment, a corresponding deprivation and absence of any juristic reason for the enrichment.'"

See Also

St-Pierre v. The Queen, 2017 TCC 69, rev'd 2018 FCA 144

taxpayer was unjustly enriched when he received capital dividends that subsequently were declared to not have been validly paid as dividends

The individual taxpayer received payments from his wholly-owned corporation pursuant to a resolution, declaring a capital dividend, which was subsequently declared by the Quebec Superior Court to be a nullity. The Court also ordered the individual to repay the dividends to the corporation which he did.

Favreau J found that the taxpayer became indebted to the corporation by reason of unjust enrichment, in the amounts he received from the corporation, so that the Minister had correctly assessed the taxpayer under s. 15(2).

Locations of other summaries Wordcount
Tax Topics - Income Tax Act - Section 15 - Subsection 15(2) judicial nullification rather rectification of a premature capital dividend declaration gave rise to a s. 15(2) income inclusion 501
Tax Topics - General Concepts - Estoppel limited estoppel remedies in Quebec/no abusive conduct by CRA 459

HMR Commissioners v Investment Trust Companies (in liquidation), [2017] UKSC 29

investment funds had valid unjust enrichment claims against a supplier who had charged VAT on an exempt supply

The Lead Claimants, who were investment trust companies, received supplies of investment management services from their investment managers (the "Managers”) under contracts which provided for the Managers to be paid fees plus VAT “if applicable.” The Managers mistakenly charged the Lead Claimants VAT on the supply of those services (as a result of the UK statute not properly reflecting an exemption required by EU law), which the Lead Claimants paid. The reasons focused on a simple example where the Managers charged output tax of £100 on their supplies of investment management services, deducted input tax of £25 (also on the mistaken belief that they were making taxable supplies), and remitted £75 to the Commissioners. Primarily at issue was whether (i) the Lead Claimants had an actionable claim against the Commissioners for unjust enrichment (respecting “dead periods" during which a statutory right of recovery of such tax was statute-barred) and (ii), if so, whether it was for £100 or £75.

In finding, respecting the second issue, that the amount at issue was £75, not £100 (i.e., the Commissioners had been “enriched” only by £75), Lord Reed stated (at paras 29-30):

… [T]he Managers could not both claim reimbursement of the output tax which they had paid to the Commissioners…on the basis that their supplies were exempt from VAT, and simultaneously assert an entitlement to retain the amounts which they had deducted as input tax, on the basis that their supplies were taxable.

The Commissioners were not, therefore, enriched by the Managers’ retention of the notional £25, and the Managers have, in principle, no defence to a claim by the Lead Claimants for the restitution of that amount. …

On the first issue, Lord Reed first noted (at para 33), respecting the requirement that the enrichment be at the claimant’s expense:

The Lead Claimants owed no money to the Commissioners. Furthermore, the payment of the tax element of the invoices submitted by the Managers to the Lead Claimants was not the cause of the payment of tax by the Managers to the Commissioners: …the Managers were liable to account for tax to the Commissioners once they had supplied the relevant services

He then found (at paras 71-73):

...There was a transfer of value, comprising the notional £100, from the Lead Claimants to the Managers, under the contract between them. … There was a subsequent transfer of value, comprising the notional £75, from the Managers to the Commissioners. … These two transfers cannot be collapsed into a single transfer of value from the Lead Claimants to the Commissioners.

… The first transfer did not even bring about the second transfer as a matter of causation.... [T]he fact that, as a matter of economic or commercial reality, the Lead Claimants bore the cost of the undue tax paid by the Managers to the Commissioners does not in itself entitle them to restitution from the Commissioners.

It follows that the Lead Claimants did not in principle have any right to restitution against the Commissioners. They did, on the other hand, have a right to restitution against the Managers. That right was to restitution of the entire amount paid in respect of VAT, ie the notional £100. The Managers did not in principle have a change of position defence in respect of the notional £75 which they paid to the Commissioners, since that change of position was reversible under [the refund provisions of] section 80 of the 1994 Act… . Nor did they have a change of position defence in respect of the notional £25 which they retained.

In elaborating on the Lead Claimants’ rights against the Managers, Lord Reed stated (at para 93):

[T]he Lead Claimants had a common law right to restitution of the amounts mistakenly paid to the Managers, whose enforcement was neither impossible nor excessively difficult. The Managers had a statutory right to recover the notional £75 from the Commissioners, under arrangements which ensured that it was passed on to the Lead Claimants. The Managers retained the remaining £25 and were not insolvent. They were therefore in a position to refund it to the Lead Claimants. The only amounts which the Lead Claimants could not recover were the amounts which they had paid during the “dead periods”, to the extent that those amounts had been paid by the Managers to the Commissioners: that is to say, the notional £75 whose recovery from the Commissioners was time-barred under section 80(4) of the 1994 Act. Although a claim by the Lead Claimants against the Managers in respect of the dead periods would not have been time-barred, because of the more generous limitation period allowed by section 32(1)(c) of the Limitation Act 1980, the Managers would have a defence of change of position, since the amounts which they paid to the Commissioners during those periods were irrecoverable.

Locations of other summaries Wordcount
Tax Topics - Excise Tax Act - Section 232 - Subsection 232(1) unjust enrichment claim against supplier who claimed ITC re non-refunded VAT overcharge 159


Virgo, "The Law of Taxation is not an Island - Overpaid Taxes and the Law of Restitution", British Tax Review, 1993, p. 442.