In a June 10, 2019 Federal Court of Appeal case, the Court upheld the previous Tax Court decision which classified an employer-provided parking pass as a taxable benefit to an employee of an airline. However, in doing so, the Court provided differing reasons which may affect employees in all sectors.
In the previous Tax Court case, the argument focused on whether the primary beneficiary of the pass was the employer or the employee. However, in this decision, the Federal Court of Appeal stated that the ultimate goal should be determining whether the employer conferred something of economic value on the employee. The determination of whether the employee was the primary beneficiary is useful in determining whether an economic benefit was conferred but is not the ultimate test in and of itself. Instead, the factors weighed in the primary beneficiary test may help determine that there was only incidental or no personal economic benefit, in which case it would not be a taxable benefit.
The Court also noted that the fact that the good or service provided is necessary for the discharge of employment-related activities is relevant in drawing an inference about whether it is also providing a personal benefit to employees. Basically, if the benefit provided is necessary for the employee to do their job, it is less likely personal.
Since having the employee’s car at work was not necessary to, or required by, the employer, the Court determined that the cost of parking was a personal expense and, therefore, a personal benefit.
ACTION ITEM: This case may result in a change in CRA assessing policy. Benefits not previously taxed may need to be reviewed in the upcoming year to determine if they are now taxable.