Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Several years ago, a video game notorious for violence and mature content may have saved a family in Texas. Folklore has it that three burglars broke into the family’s home, made their way through the house, and then heard a loud voice shouting, “We have you surrounded! This is the police!” The burglars turned around and took off. The voice they heard was actually a sound effect coming from the video game Grand Theft Auto, which was being played by the homeowner’s grandchildren. The burglars were apprehended and convicted shortly afterward.

Maybe some good can come out of online gaming after all. And if you were to speak to thousands of Canadians, some are earning big dollars online in various ways – including playing video games. The taxman recognizes this, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been open about its approach to identifying these folks to make sure they’re paying their share of taxes.

The economies

Story continues below advertisement

CRA has identified four different “platform economies” that it’s focusing on. A platform economy includes various economic and social activities facilitated by use of the internet and mobile apps. These platforms connect buyers and consumers with sellers and service providers. By focusing on these areas, the taxman hopes to uncover unreported income and collect significant tax dollars. Here are those areas:

Sharing economy: The sharing economy is where folks use their personal assets, such as cars or homes, to generate revenue by sharing those assets with others in return for payment. Typically, the asset owner registers with a third-party platform, such as Airbnb, CanadaStays, Uber, or Lyft. The sharing economy usually involves sharing accommodation (homes, rooms and cottages), transportation (ridesharing, bike rentals, boats, and food deliveries), and other spaces (renting gardens, desks, workspaces and laboratories).

Gig economy: The gig economy is where people provide short-term services or work on a contract or freelance basis – as opposed to a permanent employment position. These folks are generally considered by the taxman to be self-employed. The work is often co-ordinated through a third-party online resource such as Clickworker, CrowdSource or Fiverr.

Peer-to-peer economy: The peer-to-peer economy is where people sell goods or services from one person directly to another. Think: Amazon, Kijiji, eBay or Etsy. Now, selling your old hockey equipment on Kijiji for a fraction of what you paid 10 years ago is not going to result in taxes owing. But some activity in this economy is profitable for sellers.

Social-media influencers: There are a growing number of people who are earning income through social-media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitch, Facebook or Twitter. Typically, the money earned comes from advertising revenue, subscriptions, product placement or product promotion. These folks have developed reputations for their expertise or knowledge about a topic – or even a video game. They can motivate their followers to buy products or services – and get paid for this.

The audits

If you’re participating in one or more of these “economies” and aren’t reporting your income earned, you need to be aware that the taxman is using sophisticated means to identify these types of people. There’s so much available information online about the things you might be up to – from renting your home through Airbnb, to selling items on eBay, to showing up on a list of registrants with any online platform. The CRA has proven that it can gain access to lists of registrants, supporters, hosts, sellers, etc., in many cases when it suspects tax evasion.

Story continues below advertisement

CRA will even go to the lengths of checking out specific people on social media. If you’re showing pictures of yourself on Instagram with a Mercedes Benz but reported very little income on your tax return, the taxman may ask questions, or look to audit you. The CRA is looking for large discrepancies between the income on your tax return and what your public life suggests. Ted Gallivan, assistant commissioner at the CRA, has publicly said as much.

The taxman is getting pretty good at gaining a sense of someone’s revenue based on their popularity on social media. If you’re a top-tier seller, power seller or power user, you can expect CRA to check out your tax return to see whether it looks realistic.

The rules

If you’re making money online, there are two areas of tax to think about. The first is income taxes. You’re supposed to be reporting your revenue from your activities. The good news? You’ll be able to claim all types of expenses incurred for the purpose of earning your income if you’re considered self-employed. But you also need to think about GST/HST. In many cases, you may have to register for, and collect, GST/HST on your sales. Speak to a tax adviser if you’re not sure of your obligations.

Tim Cestnick, FCPA, FCA, CPA(IL), CFP, TEP, is an author, and co-founder and CEO of Our Family Office Inc. He can be reached at tim@ourfamilyoffice.ca.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies