If you come across some share certificates of companies which are no longer in business, do not assume that they are worthless.  If the circumstances are right, they may be used to obtain a tax refund.  The first thing to do is to find out when the shares became worthless, that is, when the company went out of business or declared bankruptcy.  That date determines the year in which a capital loss was incurred.  If that date is more than ten years ago, there is nothing which can be done.  The second bit of research needed is to determine if any capital gains tax was paid during that year.  The next piece of information required is what was paid for the shares in the first instance.   The period during which the Minister of National Revenue can reassess an old tax return is three years from the date of the last Notice of Assessment.  The Minister, however, has discretion to reassess for a period of up to ten years if requested to do so.  A taxpayer cannot force the Minister to reassess but we understand that a request to carry-back a loss for up to ten years will normally be accepted.

So, if you come across an old share certificate, don’t throw it away or use it as wallpaper in your bathroom until you have determined if it has value as a possible claim for a tax refund. This article contributed by J. Paul Mills, Q.C.

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