HIS GRUB A WRITEOFF
|GAS TIME...Foot courier Wayne Scott, bottom right, and his workmates celebrate a court ruling yesterday that lets food be written off as a business expense for couriers.|
By Brad Honywill
Toronto Sun, July 25,1998
A humble Toronto foot courier and his rookie lawyer have made tax law history with a court decision requiring Revenue Canada to consider food as a business "fuel" expense. Courier Wayne (Alan) Scott, 47, and his lawyer, Daina Groskaufmanis, were popping the champagne yesterday after convincing the Federal Court of Appeal that a granola bar was as much of a business expense for a courier as gasoline is for a cabby.
"It's unbelievable -- it fundamentally changed tax law," said a giddy Groskaufmanis, who was called to the bar just last year. Michel Cleroux, spokesman for Revenue Canada, however, said the taxmen aren't changing their policies until they decide whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
The independent courier has tried to convince Revenue Canada for 16 years that he should be able to write off the extra fuel expense required in running around downtown Toronto, just as a car-driving courier can claim gasoline costs.
He didn't make any headway until Groskaufmanis, a fresh-faced lawyer with the Toronto law firm of Torkin, Manes, Cohen and Arbus, learned about his dilemma from a Toronto Sun article and offered to represent him for free.
The 6-foot-1, 165-pound runner estimates he needs approximately 4,000 calories per day of food energy to do his job -- compared to about 2,700 for the average male -- costing him an extra $11-$13 per day for food and liquids.
Revenue Canada argued that food and refreshment is a personal expense. If it becomes policy, the decision could save the courier about $500 a year in taxes on his $23,000 annual taxable income.
In their decision, all three of the appeal court judges agreed with Scott's argument. But they limited the decision to occupations where there is a business deduction allowed for fuel for the same type of business. In other words, a construction worker can't claim the extra food he eats due to his physical labor because there is no mechanical equivalent, Groskaufmanis said.
Scott said his win was also a victory for the environment. He figures he has run, biked or walked about 200,000 km over the past 12 years of delivering parcels in downtown Toronto, saving the environment from the effects of about 50,000 litres of gasoline combustion.
Fellow courier Gord MacDougall, 45, applauded the court decision as "fair." "We don't make a helluva a lot of money and you can't pack a lunch either," he noted. Paul Schnier, a Toronto tax lawyer, called the decision "significant."
"It demonstrates that people in different situations should be on an equal footing," Schnier said.
There are about 800 bicycle or foot couriers in Toronto, as well as
rickshaw drivers and other occupations that might be affected by the
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