UBC’s One-Person Tax Department

Paul Farrelly has worked as UBC’s Tax Manager for the past three years, but he still finds tax queries from the community unique and challenging.

“When someone calls and asks me a question, I usually ask them two-to-three questions in return. Tax is complicated and the details matter, the words in the legislation matter.”

Faculty and staff call upon Paul as the university’s internal tax advisor. He is a CPA CA with more than 30 years of full-time tax experience, including five years with the Canada Revenue Agency’s audit and appeals divisions.

He advises on a wide range of situations that impact the university, such as:

  • Planning for and interpreting the tax implications of major projects at the university.
  • Assisting with drafting tax language in contracts with vendors to minimize tax risk for the university.
  • Facilitating tax residency certificates requested by payers in other countries to minimize or eliminate foreign withholding taxes on payments to the university.
  • Advising on all aspects related to compliance with Canada Revenue Agency policies, including taxable benefits, withholdings on payments to non-residents of Canada and tax reporting for payments to vendors, students, staff and faculty.
  • Assessing when it is appropriate for UBC to collect or pay GST and PST in a transaction.
  • Assisting with the setup of project/grant (PG) accounts to ensure UBC recovers GST appropriately on expenses.
  • Assisting with the preparation of the university’s tax returns.
  • Managing tax audits for the university.

In addition, Paul is raising the collective tax knowledge among those who manage financial operations across campus by organizing workshops. He discovered a very high level of interest from UBC employees—when his GST, PST and Income Tax workshop was over-subscribed last year, he added two additional sessions and both of them ran at full capacity too. He plans to organize additional training sessions in 2018.

Managing tax inputs/outputs and reporting on taxes can be complex—UBC runs like a municipality, with an operating budget of $1.9 billion (City of Vancouver’s operating budget is smaller at $1.4 billion), and must comply with special GST requirements for universities.

However, the complexity at UBC is what keeps Paul excited about his work. He relishes investigating all aspects of the university, such as when a faculty member makes a purchase for their research, and Paul has to learn about the research fully before providing tax advice. Rarely does he see the same situation twice after diving into the details.

“It’s sort of a bookish, academic world that I am in that is constantly changing due to new legislation, court cases and Canada Revenue Agency policies. I spend a lot of my day reading and thinking because in order to be able to answer a tax question I have to nail down the facts…then I work to apply the law.”

Paul, who is part of UBC’s Treasury department, volunteers on a working group with the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) that is helping to produce tax materials for its members. He spoke on a panel at last year’s CAUBO conference at a session titled Business Innovation and Related Tax Planning.

If you have a tax inquiry for Paul, you can reach him at paul.farrelly@ubc.ca or 604.827.2219.