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Taxation law

COVID-19 and Tax Relief Measures

Mar 20th, 2020

By Frédéric Delisle and Hyacinthe Huguet

In these trying times in which all are asked to play their individual part to support the collective effort, the announcements made on March 17, 2020 (and which were slightly modified on March 18) by the Quebec Government are a welcome sign of relief.

The measures announced include an extension of the deadline to file personal income tax returns to June 1, 2020 (May 1st, 2020 for trusts whose tax returns are due by March 30,2020, except SIFTS), and an extension to August 31, 2020, for individuals and businesses to pay their income tax owing. Corporations, however, must file on time. As stated, “[w]ith this extension, Revenu Québec aligns itself with recently announced federal measures” (press release available here). The Quebec measures are indeed aligned with some of the announcements made by the Department of Finance Canada in response to COVID-19, available here. Further announcements have been made with respect to temporary aid for workers (link) and help for businesses (here). Further announcements will likely be made in the next few weeks.

In addition to the above, Revenu Quebec has also announced that it will suspend all non-essential services, including the work done by the audit and collection departments. Furthermore, Revenu Quebec “will show greater flexibility in respect of payment agreements for tax debts.” Again one can only welcome such announcements as individuals and businesses are struggling to ensure their continued operation and the welfare of their employees and clients. In times such as these, energy, resources and planning should not be diverted away from what is essential.

At some point in the future, COVID-19 will be behind us. While it may be difficult to predict how long it will take, it will happen. At that point, individuals and businesses will resume their activities, and so will the tax authorities. Conceivably, in order to facilitate same, the tax authorities may provide certain forms of relief, or mechanisms to attenuate fiscal charges, all as part of a continuing collective effort. Such measures could be implemented, above and beyond the taxpayer relief measures that already exist.

A consultation with tax professionals may be warranted to examine all available options to facilitate the resumption of normal business activities and dealings with the tax authorities, so that individuals and businesses can focus on what will matter most, thriving again. This, of course, is being done via electronic communications.