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The Queen v. Robert & Ellen P. (Woodbridge)

The Case: The Queen v. Robert and Ellen P., Woodbridge, 2008

The Facts: Robert and Ellen P. were hardworking middle-class Canadians who had always made charitable donations. A friend referred them to a tax consultant who promised them that they could maximize the value of their contributions while saving them more on their taxes than they had in the past. He had been an accountant for many years before coming to Canada and opening his own tax consultancy practice. Robert and Ellen were led to believe that certain charitable donations only required a 10% down payment, with the rest of the amount to be paid over time. They entrusted the consultant with over $10,000 over two years, and saved over $50,000 in income. While this might sound too good to be true, the clients believed the tax consultant and had no intention to defraud the government. Nevertheless, they were charged with tax evasion and making false statements on the tax returns that the consultant had prepared.

The Defence Strategy: From the outset, it appeared to us that this couple had been duped by an unscrupulous consultant who had misrepresented the law on charitable donations. They were deceived, and they were now facing the prospect of jail, severe fines and penalties that could bankrupt them and cost them their life savings. We brought applications to compel disclosure of what steps the CRA had taken to investigate the tax consultant, and whether anyone else had been charged with criminal offences as a result.

The Result: The CRA and the Crown did not want to disclose the information we were seeking. We had to argue a complex disclosure motion under the Charter of Rights to force the government to turn over the documents. When we finally won the motion, it became clear that hundreds of other people had been taken in by this same tax consultant, and had declared false charitable contributions as a result. Unlike our clients, none of those other people had been charged. We brought this to the attention of the Crown and the Court, and filed an application to have the proceedings dismissed as an abuse of process as well as for unreasonable delay. Confronted with the prospect of having to pay our clients’ legal costs as a punitive measure, the government finally conceded and withdrew all the charges against them.

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