Requesting an Excise and Specialty Tax Ruling or Interpretation
This page provides details about our rulings and interpretations service in respect of the air travellers security charge, excise duties, excise taxes, the fuel charge, the luxury tax and the tax on insurance premiums.
We offer a variety of technical information services, free of charge, to assist you in understanding your obligations and in complying with the law. We provide information about:
- the air travellers security charge (ATSC) under the Air Travellers Security Charge Act
- excise duties under the Excise Act, 2001 (for cannabis, spirits, tobacco, vaping and wine products) and the Excise Act (for beer)
- excise taxes under the Excise Tax Act other than Part IX
- the fuel charge under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act
- the luxury tax under the Select Luxury Items Tax Act
- the tax on insurance premiums under Part I of the Excise Tax Act
If you have a question about how particular legislation applies to your operations, you may consult our broad range of technical publications.
Notices discuss various matters, such as details about new and existing programs, policy positions and changes to these or information on how we administer the particular legislation or any changes related to the administration of the law. There are several types of notices:
- Excise taxes and other levies notices
- Excise duty notices under the Excise Act, 2001
- Excise duty notices under the Excise Act
- Fuel charge notices
- Luxury tax notices
Memoranda discuss in detail how the legislation applies. There are two series of memoranda:
- Excise duty memoranda, which deal with excise duties under the Excise Act, 2001
- Excise taxes and other levies memoranda, which deal with excise taxes, the ATSC and the tax on insurance premiums
Excise duty circulars provide detailed technical information and guidelines on the administration of the excise duty on beer under the Excise Act.
The Excise and GST/HST News highlights recent developments in the administration of the ATSC, excise duties, excise taxes, the fuel charge, the luxury tax and the tax on insurance premiums as well as the GST/HST. All new excise publications are listed in this newsletter.
Additional technical information, including forms and prescribed rates, is available at:
- Excise taxes and other levies technical information
- Excise duties technical information
- Fuel charge technical information
- Luxury tax technical information
To be notified of new or revised technical publications through our electronic subscription service, go to Canada Revenue Agency electronic mailing lists.
General and technical enquiries
We also provide a service of answering technical enquiries. For general or technical enquiries regarding the ATSC, excise duties, excise stamps, the excise tax on certain petroleum products, fuel‑inefficient vehicles and air conditioners, the fuel charge, the luxury tax, or the tax on insurance premiums, you may write to one of the regional offices listed in Contact Information – Excise and Specialty Tax Directorate or call 1‑866‑330‑3304.
In the course of answering a technical enquiry, we may request documentation. Where you require certainty on how the legislation applies to your operations or transactions, we will advise you to request a written ruling or interpretation.
An interpretation is a written statement that sets out our view of how legislation applies to a generic fact situation. An interpretation may also set out our general understanding of certain provisions of a specific act or regulation. An interpretation is also provided where there is a clearly defined fact situation that relates to legislative provisions that have not yet become law. As such, we are not bound by the interpretations that we issue.
When you request an interpretation, you should provide sufficient information to enable us to understand the issues to be considered. Refer to the “Information to be included with requests for rulings or interpretations” section for information about what to provide with a request for an interpretation.
A ruling is a written statement that sets out our position on how the relevant provisions of the legislation apply to a clearly defined fact situation. Usually, a ruling relates to ongoing issues or transactions and does not specify a time limit. A ruling may also be given in advance of any proposed transaction and may be restricted to specific persons, transactions or time periods.
We will issue a ruling once you provide all of the relevant facts of an issue, transaction or series of transactions, and all supporting documents. Refer to the “Information to be included with requests for rulings or interpretations” section for information about what to provide with a request for a ruling.
We will not issue a ruling where the request relates to a hypothetical situation or where you do not provide sufficient facts. In such cases, we may instead provide an interpretation of the relevant provisions of the legislation in order to help you fulfill your obligations under the law.
We consider ourselves to be bound by the rulings that we issue, subject to the limitations outlined on this page.
Limitations of rulings
The validity and application of a ruling is limited by the completeness and accuracy of the information upon which it is based.
A particular ruling applies only to the requestor or to the person on whose behalf it is requested, and applies only to the fact pattern and issues covered by the ruling.
We do not issue rulings involving proposed or draft legislation, draft regulations, federal budget proposals or Notices of Ways and Means motions. In these situations, we may choose to issue an interpretation.
We are not bound by a ruling where the validity of the ruling is affected by a subsequent change to the law, our interpretation of the law, or our administrative policies. We cease to be bound as of the effective date of any such change.
When rulings are revoked or amended
When we discover that a ruling is incorrect, we may opt to revoke or amend the ruling.
When a ruling is incorrect because of an error on our part, the revocation or amendment would generally apply as of the date of the revocation or the amendment letter. However, there may be circumstances where we would consider a request to have the revocation or amendment take effect on the date of the original ruling or on another appropriate date.
When a ruling is incorrect because the requestor did not provide complete or accurate information, the revocation or amendment will apply from the date the original ruling was issued.
Circumstances where a ruling will not be issued
We do not issue a ruling where we consider that it would be inappropriate to do so. The following are examples of when a ruling is not issued:
- a transaction or event for which a ruling has been requested is the same in character as an earlier issue or a transaction completed by the requestor in a prior period, and the application of the relevant legislation to the earlier issue or transaction is under discussion with the requestor, in dispute, or under assessment or proposed assessment, but is not before the courts
- we have reason to believe that the request may be in respect of illegal activities
- the request concerns a matter in respect of which a notice of objection filed by the requestor is being considered
- the central issue involves a matter that is before the courts or, if a judgment has been issued, where an appeal to a higher court is being considered
- the request contains alternative courses of action on the part of the requestor
- the request is for a determination of the fair market value of property
- the request involves proposed or draft legislation, draft regulations, budget proposals or Notices of Ways and Means motions
- the request concerns calculating taxes, duties or charges (for example, the amount of excise duty payable)
- the ruling would require an opinion on generally accepted accounting principles or commercial practices
- the request is for a determination of fact and the circumstances are such that all of the pertinent facts cannot be established (this could include issues involving the carrying on or not of a business, the existence of a partnership, or a trust or an agency relationship)
- the request is for the interpretation of a law that we do not administer (for example, the interpretation of a foreign law)
When we decide not to issue a ruling, we will inform the requestor in writing of our reasons.
Rulings and audit
The information and transaction details provided by the requestor of a ruling, and upon which we have based the ruling, are subject to audit review. For example, a review may determine whether or not all material facts were accurately stated in the ruling request and whether or not the transaction or series of transactions was carried out as described.
When we receive a request for a ruling on an issue that is under audit, the CRA rulings officer will communicate with the CRA auditor to discuss the request.
Information to be included with requests for rulings or interpretations
Along with your request for a ruling or interpretation, you must provide all relevant documentation. Complete documentation helps us answer requests in a timely manner and ensure that, in the case of a ruling, the answer provided addresses your specific situation.
A request for a ruling should include the following:
- your name and address
- your business number (BN), if you have one
- your licence number (for example, excise duty or excise tax licence number), where applicable
- where a representative (for example, an accountant, bookkeeper, or lawyer) is acting on your behalf, written third-party authorization certifying that the representative is authorized to act on your behalf and outlining the purpose, scope and period of the authorization. Appendix A provides more information on third-party authorization
- a complete description of the facts of each issue or transaction
- a statement indicating whether the request involves any of the following:
- a matter currently under audit
- a matter for which you have filed a notice of objection
- a matter before the courts
- for each transaction covered by the ruling request, all of the following:
- a statement of its purpose
- your interpretation of the application of the relevant legislative provisions
- your interpretation of common law or Civil Code of Québec issues relevant to the request (for example, the existence of a trust or agency relationship)
- a description of the specific interpretative concern upon which the ruling request is based
- a description of significant events or transactions that took place before, or that may take place after, the events or transactions in respect of which the ruling is being requested and that may be part of a series of events or transactions that includes the events or transactions in respect of which the ruling is requested
- copies of any relevant supporting agreements or documents, together with references to, and summaries of, the specific provisions of these agreements or documents that relate to the request
- an analysis, where applicable, of authorities known to you or your representative that support your position and those that do not (for example, Canadian case law citations, published commentaries and references to jurisprudence), with comments as to why the authorities in support of your position should prevail
When a request for an interpretation goes beyond a narrow set of transactions, you should provide all information related to your situation, describing it in as much detail as possible and providing as many facts as possible.
Information that you provide in the course of a request for a ruling or interpretation is protected under the confidentiality provisions of the various legislation as well as under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. We do not release this confidential information to the public.
You may ask to discuss with CRA officials after requesting a ruling or interpretation. We encourage such discussions when the purpose is to provide new information, to clarify facts, or to correct any misunderstanding of previously provided information.
Processing requests for rulings and interpretations
Upon receipt of your request for a ruling or interpretation, we will send you an acknowledgement letter that includes a unique ruling or interpretation file case number and the name and telephone number of a CRA contact person.
We will review the request as soon as possible after receiving it. However, a ruling or interpretation may be delayed if it involves the review of an issue upon which we have not yet adopted a position, or if we are currently in the process of reconsidering our existing position. A ruling or interpretation may also be delayed if we must ask you for further information because the initial request did not include all relevant information and documentation. If a ruling is required by a certain deadline (for example, before the closing date of a contract), you must submit the request with reasonable lead time and must specify the deadline.
Providing a ruling or interpretation
We will send the ruling or interpretation to you by mail unless you have completed a third-party authorization letter. In that case, we will mail the ruling or interpretation to your authorized representative.
How to submit a ruling or interpretation request
A request for a ruling or interpretation related to the ATSC, excise duties, excise taxes, the fuel charge, the luxury tax or the tax on insurance premiums can be submitted electronically through the “Submit documents” service in the My Account, My Business Account or Represent a Client portals. These services are available to individuals, businesses and authorized representatives that have registered to use these portals.
A request can also be sent to the following address with all relevant supporting documents:
Excise and Specialty Tax Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
Place de Ville Tower A 5th fl
320 Queen Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0L5
Appendix A – Sample third-party authorization letter
A third-party authorization letter (sample below) is required where a third party is acting on your behalf. The authorization should be specific to the request for a ruling or interpretation.
Provide the name, address and telephone number of the third party. If the third party is an individual in a firm, provide both the name of the individual and that of the firm.
Refer to the “How to submit a ruling or interpretation request” section for the address to use when sending the authorization letter.
Specify the tax, duty or charge to which the authorization applies (for example, excise duty or excise tax, the fuel charge, or the luxury tax).
Indicate if the authorization applies for a specific period of time (for example, one or more reporting periods, a calendar year, a fiscal year, or a series of excise fiscal months) or on an ongoing basis.
If you wish to revoke a third-party authorization, you must inform us in writing. A request for revocation should contain all of the information that was provided with the initial request for authorization.
Example of a third-party authorization letter
Attention: Excise and Specialty Tax Directorate
For purposes of my request for a ruling or interpretation, I hereby authorize officials of the Canada Revenue Agency to provide the following person with confidential information about my operations:
[Name of third party, including trading name if applicable
Address of third party and telephone number]
This authorization applies to operations relating to my [type of] account and applies from [specify date including year] to [specify date including year].
[Signature of requestor]
[Full name of requestor]
[Address of requestor]
[CRA tax identifier (for example BN or ITN)]
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