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Social distancing includes signatures

CRA must accept forms with a digital or facsimile signature in the same manner as a wet signature.

man signing digitally

In normal times, official documents such as forms for GST or HST rebates on new home transactions require a “wet” signature – meaning the ink has to be on the form itself.

But in these days of global pandemic, getting that signature can be challenging – and perhaps dangerous. People are already taking measures such as meeting with their solicitors by teleconference, making it harder to produce and deliver a wet signature.

That’s why the CBA’s Real Property Section has written to the Canada Revenue Agency asking that the rules be relaxed for the duration.

“The CBA Section asks the CRA to issue a comfort letter or policy statement that, until further notice, it will accept these forms with a digital or facsimile signature in the same manner as a wet signature.”

When it comes to the requirement in the Income Tax Act for a statutory declaration from vendors that they are not non-residents of Canada, the Section notes that the Law Society of Ontario accepts that such declarations can be commissioned through video conference, though that authority differs from province to province. Even with virtual commissioning, lawyers must manage risks such as fraud or identity theft.

The Section suggests that in light of social distancing measures, the CRA could also issue a comfort letter or policy statement allowing that it will accept an unsworn statement of residency in the same manner as a sworn or declared statement until further notice.

“We believe that these simple steps would facilitate a more efficient closing process in a time of exigent circumstances, where people simply want to get their house with minimal hassle.”