Bar owners are crying foul over new regulations that force bars in Quebec to provide a receipt for customers who order alcoholic drinks.

With this new rule, which goes into effect Feb. 1, the government is trying to crack down on tax fraud, like it did with restaurants in 2011.

Revenue Quebec hopes to reap an additional $42 million a year from tax losses with the rule, which will affect 3,300 establishments in the province.

"The goal of the project is to replicate the success we achieved in the restaurant sector," said Stéphane Dion, spokesman for the provincial tax collection agency.

Quebec's minister of finance Carlos Leitao defended this measure last September, saying "tax fraud is unfair competition for bar owners who meet their tax obligations."

Stiff fines

Fines for not complying will range from $300 to $50,000 for repeat offenders.

Bar owners are unhappy about the new rules, but for more practical reasons. Some say that in low-lit and crowded bars, providing receipts to every customer will be close to impossible.

"It will be very difficult to guarantee that every customer will be issued a bill," said Jean-Marc Lavoie, a member of the bar association Corporation des propriétaires de bars, brasseries, tavernes du Québec.

Lavoie also fears the additional work that challenging fines could create.

"Are we going to have to go to court to settle a case after the owner is fined? We don't want it to get to that point," he said.

Waiters are already encumbered

Peter Sergakis, who owns 45 bars in Montreal, also thinks that enforcing the rule will be unfeasible.

"Do you think that all employees will consistently provide receipts? Some will forget. Business owners will always be subject to fines," he said.

Some bar owners also feel the new rule will create additional hassles for waitstaff, who often have their hands full with heavy trays.

While bars are obliged to issue a bill, the customer is not required to take it.

Revenue Quebec says that the goal is not to impose fines, but to reduce tax losses.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Louis-Philippe Ouimet