Ross v. R. – TCC: Mixed bag of travel, home office, medical and renovation expenses properly disallowed

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Ross v. The Queen (November 6, 2014 – 2014 TCC 317) was a decision that involved a mixed bag of expenses denied to the taxpayer.

[1] This appeal is with respect to the Appellant’s 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 taxation years in which the Minister of National Revenue (the “Minister”) disallowed certain expenses which she had claimed as employment expenses and medical expenses. The Appellant also requested that she be allowed to deduct the expenses she incurred to restore a farm building.

[2] During the relevant period, the Appellant lived in Camrose, Alberta and was employed as a distance professor by the University of Maryland University College (the “University”) which is located in Adelphi, Maryland. She was both a professor and an administrator in the University’s virtual Masters of Business Administration (“MBA”) Program. According to the Appellant’s testimony, this was the first global MBA Program and the terms of her employment required not only that she teach but also that she grow the program.

[3] In performing her duties, the Appellant used teleconferencing, the internet, and emerging technologies with her students and faculty members. She was ordinarily required to carry out her duties away from the University and in different places.

During the period 2003-2006 the Minister disallowed roughly half of the employment expenses the appellant claimed. The court held that the taxpayer had not adduced sufficient evidence to support the deduction of the disallowed amounts.

Similarly the court did not accept the taxpayer’s evidence on disallowed medical expenses:

[19] The Appellant also claimed a medical expense tax credit in respect of herself and her spouse. The amount of medical expenses claimed were $19,871.32, $10,629.57, $9,205.87 and $11,819.84 in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively and the amounts of $19,355.19, $7,944.98, $7,846.37 and $11,438.52 for 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 were disallowed by the Minister.

[20] As stated earlier, the Appellant did not submit any documents to support her appeal. However, the Respondent tendered copies of some of the documents which the Appellant had previously given to the Minister. These documents showed that the Appellant had claimed as medical expenses the cost of a Chi Machine with accessories, a Viasonic LCD computer Monitor, an ergonometric pillow, Thermophore Heat Pack, biofeedback therapy, homeopathy remedies, supplements, Ayurveda treatments, Reiki treatments, Advil Cold & Sinus, facial, body massages, hand massages, neck massages, fitness classes and premiums paid to Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.

[21] The Appellant stated that in 2003 she sustained a head injury on Northwest Airlines when a heavy suitcase fell on her head. The blow to her head caused her to have severe headaches, muscular pain and endocrine dysfunction. She stated that she didn’t need medication; she needed alternative health care which alleviated her pain and enabled her to become well again within one and one half years. She continued to use fitness and alternative remedies to prevent disease and to promote her physical and mental health. This, she stated, was in accord with the Canada Health Act and the policy for Canadian health care.

[22]        According to section 3 of the Canada Health Act, the primary objective of the Canadian health care policy is to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers. However, a taxpayer can only deduct the expenses she incurred to promote and restore her physical and mental health if it is permitted by the Act. Unfortunately for the Appellant, the Act does not mirror the policy of the Canada Health Act.

Expenses to restore a farm building were also not deductible:

[47] It was her evidence that there was a farm building which her parents had built many years ago. The building was on the verge of falling down and she was able to get permission to move it. She paid to have it attached to her home and to have it restored. Her spouse used the first floor of the barn for his office and the upstairs part of the barn became part of the Appellant’s office.

[48] The Appellant was not able to tell me how much the restoration cost except that it was “$3,000 a month for x number of months to the main labourer” .

[49] Regardless of the cost, the amount spent to restore the farm building is a personal expense and it is not deductible.

The court upheld a late filing penalty:

[50] The Appellant stated that she hired DiGirolamo & Company Tax Lawyers to prepare her income tax returns. She gave them all the necessary documentation so that her 2006 return could be filed on time. However, her 2006 return was filed late.

[51] It is my view that this is an issue between the Appellant and her tax preparers and not one that I can resolve.

As a result the appeal was dismissed.