Employee or self-employed worker? Federal Court of Appeal’s 2-Step Process.

[109/365] Taxation.
Taxation. (Photo credit: kardboard604)
It is important to determine whether a worker is an employee or a self-employed individual.  Employment status directly affects a person’s entitlement to employment insurance (EI) benefits under the Employment Insurance Act.  It can also have an impact on how a worker is treated under other legislation such as the Canada Pension Plan and the Income Tax Act (ITA).

The facts of the working relationship as a whole determine the employment status.  If the worker is an employee (employer-employee relationship), the payer is considered an employer.  Employers are responsible for deducting Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, EI premiums, and income tax from remuneration or other amounts they pay to their employees. They have to remit these deductions along with their share of CPP contributions and EI premiums to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

An employer who fails to deduct the required CPP contributions or EI premiums has to pay both the employer’s share and the  employee’s share of any contributions and premiums owing, plus penalties and interest.

If the worker is a self-employed individual and in a business relationship, he or she is considered to have a business.

The best way to be sure if there is any doubt is to request a ruling from the CRA.  A ruling determines whether a worker is an employee or is self-employed, and whether that worker’s employment is pensionable or insurable. If you have a payroll account and are registered on My Business Account, you can use the “Request a CPP/EI ruling” service in My Business Account.

As well, an authorized representative for the payer can also request a ruling electronically through the Authorized Representatives Section of the CRA website, here.

A payer or a worker can request a ruling by sending a letter or a completed Form CPT1, Request for a Ruling as to the Status of a Worker Under the Canada Pension Plan and/or the Employment Insurance Act, to their tax services office (TSO).

Recently, the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA), in the case of 1392644 Ontario Inc. (Connor Homes) v. Canada (National Revenue), 2013 FCA 85 (CanLII) weighed in to reconcile competing tests on the proper way to determine whether an individual is a contractor or truly an employee through a 2-step process.

This appeal in this case  involved 3 women who worked for Connor Homes, a licensed operator of foster homes and group homes for children with serious behavioural and developmental disorders, as area supervisors and/or child and youth workers.  Each worked under a contract that stipulated she was an independent contractor “responsible for payment of all necessary remittances, including CPP, EI and Taxes”.  Each was paid at a specified hourly rate or flat rate that depended on the service provided and provided those services in accordance with the homes’ policies and procedures manual.

The CRA ruled that each of these workers were engaged in employment for purposes of the Canada Pension Plan and the Employment Insurance Act., which Connor Homes disagreed with.

In hearing the appeal, the FCA commented that the question of an individual’s working status has become increasingly important with the trend towards outsourcing and short-term contracts and the consequent effect on entitlements to Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan benefits. The Court also acknowledged that although the question is simple in theory, it is difficult to apply with any degree of certainty given its fact specific nature and the ever-changing workplace.

Many employers also tend to categorize employees as independent contractors so they are not responsible for withholding and remitting CPP, EI and Tax to the CRA on behalf of the employee and to avoid being responsible for benefits.  If the CRA determines  otherwise, the employer is responsible for both the employer and the employee portions of CPP, EI and tax (plus P&I) until they are current.

The FCA refined a number of lower court decisions into a two-part test;

1st step: Is there a mutual understanding or common intention between the parties regarding their relationship? This step generally will be determined by the written contractual arrangements and behaviour of the parties and is quite subjective.  For example, is there a written agreement, were invoices issued for services rendered, was the service provider registered for GST/HST, were the income tax filings consistent with that of an independent contractor?

If so, then;

2nd step:  Do the pertinent facts support that the worker is providing services as a business on her own account?  The factors to consider include the level of control exercised over the worker’s activities, and whether the worker provides her own equipment, hires helpers, manages and assumes financial risk, and has an opportunity of profit in the performance of her tasks.  This step is very objective.

In this appeal, the FCA found that, although the parties intended their relationship to be that of independent contractors, they were, in fact, employees.  The degree of control exercised over their work was the same as that exercised over employees, they were limited in what they could earn and they took on no financial risks.  Although the individuals were expected to use their own motor vehicles, this factor was insufficient to outweigh all others.

So if after this ruling and after a review of the CRA website, you are still unsure if you, or your worker is an employee or an independent contractor, then it’s best to get a ruling to be sure.

Author: Warren Orlans

Welcome to inTAXicating. inTAXicating has been published since 2008 to provide clarity around Canadian taxation issues, primarily related to the Canada Revenue Agency. As the primary author, Warren Orlans, has over 20-year's experience in the taxation industry, 11 of them working for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and 7-years working in the private sector Managing the tax departments for large financial institutions. If you have a collections, compliance or audit issue with the CRA, inTAXicating is the place you need to contact. inTAXicating works in strategic partnership with amazing accountants, tax lawyers, insolvency practitioners, mortgage brokers, debt counselling experts and much more. If you have a tax question, email it to info@intaxicating.ca or to intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com.

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