Can You Describe What You Do To A Stranger? Tell People What You Do!

If you have been reading my posts on The Urban Daddy, or on inTAXicating, you will know that I sometimes put on my MBA-hat and question everything about the way we do business.

One of the questions I have had for a long time has to do with how businesses choose to identify themselves to the public. We all know that keeping customers is much easier and much cheaper than getting new ones – so they say – which makes the next example even that much more puzzling to me.storefront without sign

Storefronts, in particular, have very limited space to let potential customers / clients know a whole lot about what they do, so that you will use their goods and services, yet many businesses continue to put their brand name on the store, or use an unreadable font which limits their ability to get new customers who are not walking by the store and who have the time to look in the window and walk in.

As I question this, I think back to one of the more complex collections cases that I handled while working at Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and how after years of being unable to get a cent out of this establishment, I had much different results.  This case had to do with a very large restaurant just North of Toronto which had fantastic food, very positive reviews, incredible decor, and $3,000,000.00 owing in taxes, without a single payment made to arrears in years.

The owners of this restaurant were perplexed at the spiralling debt and their bleak prospects for operating in the future because what started off as a very profitable business venture went south, quickly and at massive costs – both personal and professional.  When their debt grew, they started to cut costs, but it was the wrong costs – like having fresh food on the premises daily, reducing the variety and portion size on their menu and by running out of options at meal time.

Regular patrons became frustrated with the frozen additions or the cutting out of their favourite meal choices and as their clientele dwindled to handfuls of patrons during the day and at night, it only made matters worse.

With their personal assets fully leveraged to keep the business running, they were steps away from bankruptcy and losing everything.  They also were not paying their tax debts, but they were staying current on their filing obligations, and between the threats from previous collectors and their power being turned off all the time, they knew the end was near.  After hearing this, I thought I would need to see it myself, so I took my newly earned MBA and headed out to have a conversation with them about what they had intended to do with these debts.

But I could not find the restaurant.

It was supposed to be 15,000 square feet, and I knew the intersection quite well, but could not for the life of me find their establishment.  I called the owner and while I was circling the plaza on the corner he was frazzled about how I could not see their fantastic place, which I found to be very bizarre.

I ended up parking on the plaza on the corner and walked past a couple of stores before finally seeing what I had been circling for the better part of 20 minutes.  Their restaurant.

The outside of the building looked run-down and there was no name on the building.  I could not even tell where the front door was, and once I got to the door, I didn’t even know if it was open.  There was no sign that even said “Restaurant” or specified the type of food that was in there. There was some very hard to read script writing near the top of the building and near the door, but it looked more like graffiti than it did, a brand name.

Having been there a couple of years, locals knew about them, ate there but to an onlooker, there was no way of knowing there was a restaurant there.  I started to see a pattern emerge.

Upon sitting down with the owners I immediately suggested they perform a search on the business on the Internet (Alta Vista, I believe) and there right in front of their eyes, were people commenting about how they had made reservations but could not find the building, so did not go, or that they arrived but could not tell if the place was open, or where the front door was.  There was obvious frustration.

To me, it was common sense, that this building needed a sign that read “Italian Restaurant”, so at least people would know where they were going, or people who drove by or walked in the plaza would know there was something there.  On a more obvious scale a giant arrow pointing at the building would have been better but this was a very classy place, and that would cheapen the brand, they felt.

Needless to say, I spent 3-4 hours there, we talked about everything relating to their business, their debts – business and personal, and at the end of the day I decided to give them a couple of months to sort things out, reduce some costs, and try to attract more business which they knew they needed.

All of this effort was rewarded when they sent in a cheque for $250,000 at the end of the following month to the CRA.  By the end of the year, they had paid off $1.8 million dollars of their debt, and by the end of the next year, they were fully paid up (including penalties and interest) and business was booming.

Is it 100% a result of something I said? Probably not. Did I afford them the time to make money and pay off the debt, yes I did, but I also went through their options should they have chosen bankruptcy, a proposal, or to ignore the CRA completely and wait for their assets to seized and the directors assessed.

With all that information they were able to make an informed decision, the most obvious to me being that they improved their signage, cleaned up the outside, and put a neon sign which flashed “OPEN” on a very visible spot near the sign and near the door (with a classy arrow pointing towards the door).

But how does this apply to you and to me?

I recently took part in a challenge on LinkedIn to say what I do for a living in one sentence. I thought how hard could it be, and I wanted to check out what others had written before me. With over 300 respondents, I would have plenty of samples to review before taking the plunge, but I was shocked by what I saw.

I saw people – people I do not know – in businesses I did not know who wrote things like this;

“I solve all of your problems.”
“I get you want you need at the price you want.”
“I’m what you need.”
Even, “We’ve got you covered.”

I looked further at their business profile to see if I could tell what they did, however their business name, or description was equally as vague.

I read and read and read, almost 100 of them by now, and when I came to a comment by a lawyer, I was dumbfounded when I saw this; “I practice law.”

I immediately thought about what I would do if I came to this networking group for a professional to hire in a very specific area and I saw “I practice law” as someone’s description… Would I contact them to find out what kind of law? Or would I go to the next person.

I went to the next person.

Then the next and the next and the next.

Then I posted challenging people to go back and edit their posts. Be proud of who you are and the services you offer. Tell everyone what you do, be clear, but be brief, and if someone has more questions or wants information, they will reach out to you.

So what about my post?

Now I had a lot to live up to, because I called out the patrons of the group and if my post sucked, boy would I be the biggest hypocrite in the world.

So I posted this;

“My expertise is with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and their Collections / Enforcement division and I use this knowledge to help people and business understand taxes and pay only what they owe, on their terms.

Then I said, “please read this and if you do not know what I do, or if there is feedback – positive and negative – please provide it. I too would love the perfect pitch and I appreciate any input from this fantastic group.

So next time you are looking for a restaurant to take your family and you drive by one which only has a name and not a type of food, think about how much business they could be losing by placing their focus on themselves and not on the service or product their offer.

#Tax

Reminder: If Extreme Weather Conditions Affected your Ability to File or Pay Taxes, the CRA wants you to apply for Taxpayer Relief.

If the recent extreme weather conditions affected your ability to file or pay taxes, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) wants you to remember about the Taxpayer Relief program.

From the CRA website, Dated June 27th, 2014.

“The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, today reminded taxpayers affected by recent extreme weather conditions, as has been seen in recent days in Alberta and Ontario, that the taxpayer relief provisions of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are available to them if they are unable to meet their tax obligations.”

Corporations who are unable to file their T2 returns by the filing deadline of June 30, 2014, due to flooding or other circumstances beyond their control can apply to have interest and/or penalties waived or cancelled using Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief.

Business owners and self‑employed individuals who are unable to meet their filing and payment obligations may also be eligible for relief.  The CRA understands that natural disasters may cause great difficulties for affected taxpayers whose primary concerns during this time are their families, homes, and communities.

The taxpayer relief provisions provide a balanced approach to assist taxpayers in resolving tax issues that arise due to circumstances beyond their control.   Under these provisions, taxpayers can apply to the CRA to have interest and/or penalties waived or cancelled in situations where they are unable to file a tax return and/or make payments on time because of a natural disaster, such as tornadoes, floods, landslides, hurricanes, or forest fires, or as a result of other extraordinary circumstances.

The CRA will consider these requests on a case-by-case basis and during the time it takes for the CRA to review the application, it is likely that there will be notices sent to the taxpayer / organizations which have a penalty / interest balance.  It is always recommended where possible to pay these amounts owing as soon as possible as doing so stops the interest from continuing to accumulate on the balance.

Paying off the penalty and interest balance does NOT impact the decision made by the Taxpayer Relief group.

Also keep in mind that it can take the CRA upwards of 9 months to complete a review under the Taxpayer Relief program and that full relief of penalties and / or interest are not guaranteed.

If the initial request is denied, the CRA will send a letter indicating why, and what information is missing.  Taxpayers have another opportunity to apply for relief before considering whether a 3rd review – judicial review – is required.

 

For all your tax needs, contact inTAXicating at info@intaxicating.ca.

CRA Press Release: London Restaurateur Fined $43,070 for Tax Evasion

I cannot stress enough the importance of opening mail from the government, all governments, especially the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  Of more importance, if the CRA is looking for information, or tax returns, or if the notices are getting progressively more threatening, it’s a very good sign that you may need to speak to a professional to determine how to best proceed.

The CRA regularly issues press releases regarding tax evasion, and they have a link on their website related to convictions, here; http://www.cra.gc.ca/convictions.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced today that on July 2, 2014, Jamil Barakat and 1441126 Ontario Inc. both of London, Ontario, were sentenced in the Ontario Court of Justice in London to a fine of $43,070.  On November 8, 2013, Barakat and 1441126 Ontario Inc. pleaded guilty, in the same court, to two counts of income tax evasion each.  1441126 Ontario Inc. also pleaded guilty to three counts of evading GST/HST. The fine represents 100% of the total taxes evaded. The fine has since been paid in full.

A CRA investigation revealed that 1441126 Ontario Inc., operating as Barakat Restaurant, failed to report $259,624 in taxable income on its 2007 and 2008 returns, which resulted in the evasion of $27,054 in federal corporate taxes. The corporation also understated its net GST payable for three quarterly periods in 2007, thereby evading an additional $2,976 in GST. The investigation also revealed that Jamil Barakat, in his role as director of 1441126 Ontario Inc., failed to report on his 2007 and 2008 personal tax returns $51,678 he appropriated from the restaurant.  By doing so Barakat evaded an additional $13,040 in federal income taxes.

The preceding information was obtained from the court records.

When individuals are convicted of income tax and GST/HST evasion, they must still repay the full amount of taxes owing, plus interest and any civil penalties that may be assessed by the CRA.  In addition, the court may fine them up to 200% of the taxes evaded and impose a jail term of up to five years.

If you have ever made a tax mistake or omission, the CRA is offering you a second chance to make things right through its Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP). If you make a valid disclosure before you become aware that the CRA is taking action against you, you may only have to pay the taxes owing plus interest.  More information on the VDP can be found on the CRA’s website at http://www.cra.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures.

For a free 15-minute consultation, call or email inTAXicating Tax Services at info@intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com.  We can be reached at 416.833.1581.

 

The Elevator Pitch! How Important Is It?

The elevator pitch, otherwise known as your ability to tell someone what you do for a living in 15-20 seconds without leaving out any critical details.

Wikipedia calls it this; “An elevator pitchelevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.”

The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride of around 30 seconds.

The term originates from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator where after the brief pitch, the other party is interested in learning more. thus continuing the conversation after the elevator ride or through en exchange of a business card or smart phone details.

As a tax consultant, I thought I had the perfect elevator pitch that went something like this; “I help people who have problems with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  I worked in the CRA for over 10-years – pretty much out of university – and worked my way up through the collections division until leaving for the private sector.”

I found it to be too long, and open for interruption so much that I would add details, such as that I completed 3-years of my accounting (CGA) designation and a 3-year MBA before leaving, or that I spent a significant part of my time at the CRA training the staff, handling the most complex accounts in the office and helping improve processes.

Then it became an elevator pitch for a 65-story building ride… To the top and all the way back down to the bottom.

Then I found an article in Forbes magazine which provided 6 alternatives to the elevator pitch so I tried them out to see if they worked better for me.  The list is below:

1. The One-word pitch – for me, it is “TAX”.  Then I watch their eyes gloss over.

2. The Question pitch – “Have you ever had (or have clients who had) problems with the Canada Revenue Agency (or Revenu Quebec, or the IRS, or WSIB, or the CRTC?)

3. The Rhyming pitch – Could not even try this.

4. The Subject line pitch – like sending an email to someone – mine would read something like “Former CRA collections officer helping people with CRA problems.”

5. The Story form pitch – I have thousands of stories… Literally.  I usually break into one of these after my introduction.

6. The Twitter or 140 character or less pitch #WhatIAmAllAbout.   I like this because it’s like using Twitter except that you really cannot tell someone that you “hashtag” Help People.  But it does give you the opportunity to state your case in a brief number of words.

So practice your pitch – no matter which method you choose – and practice them out on people to see if it gets across the message you want it to.  If not, maybe you would benefit from a different pitch or by adding or removing information to your existing pitch.

As for me… “I’m a former CRA officer who knows the CRA collections process, policy and procedures better than they do.  I help people with a variety of tax issues including but not limited to negotiation, payment arrangements, liens, RTP’s assessments, and getting them current and out of debt.  If there is a CRA issue, I have already seen it, and I know how to fix the problem.”

#x-taxer

Others make promises.  I fix problems.

If the conversation continues I explain my services are for individuals, businesses, and professional organizations who cannot proceed further with a client due to their tax issues – ie/ getting a bank loan, renewing a mortgage, confirmation of actual amounts owing before filing for bankruptcy, wage garnishments on employees, or cleaning up past tax issues for separation agreements or divorce.

#inTAXicating

Free consultation.

info@intaxicating.ca

416.833.1581

 

 

 

Unfortunately… Business is Booming!

Business is booming!

BOOM

I’m of two minds as I write this post.

First off, I am very excited that business is booming!  Emails never stop coming in, social media questions, posts, inquiries roll in, and my phone does not stop ringing, but on the other hand I’m a bit disturbed that business is booming because it means that there are a lot of people in tax trouble with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and they ALL need my help.

With that in mind, here are the 13 things about my tax solution business – and any other business offering tax services – that you need to know so that you can make an informed choice.

13. If you have a Revenue Canada collections problem, would it not make the most sense to take advice from a former Revenue Canada Collector?  Someone who collected taxes, knows the ins and outs of the policy, procedures and legislation?  How about if that person also served as a resource office whose job it was to prepare accounts for assessments and produce them to the Department of Justice?  And what if that person also led teams and managed staff and projects in Collections?  Then you would have the best possibly option representing your interests.  Welcome to inTAXicating.  That is what we do!

12.  Accountants are awesome, and they are busy and you hire them to do accounting work, so they may not have the time to spend on the phone with the CRA negotiating your arrangement or trying to remove a garnishment.  Or, they may get to a point where the CRA refuses to budge and you have no bank account to use.  That is simply not acceptable!

11.   I worked for the CRA for almost 11-years, and I started as an entry-level collector, worked my way up through collections and along the way I led teams, trained staff, and handled some of the most complex files in the Tax Office. I was the resource officer for 5-years, and the Employee of the Year in 2002.  I was their go-to guy, and I still am. I’ll tell you like it is, and I’ll tell the CRA like it is.

10.   If you have a tax / collections / CRA question, you can and should ask it here.  I can tell you what the CRA is doing, and most importantly what they are going to be doing in the near future.  Email me or send it through social media, and I’ll answer it personally.

9. Respect. Given… and Earned. I treat you with respect and I treat the CRA with respect, because nobody wants to work with a representative who calls them “taxman”.  Trust me.  Talk about starting a relationship off on the wrong foot…

8. I do not prepare tax returns. I will not recommend you go bankrupt, and I do not pretend to have an office of “former CRA agents” armed at your disposal.  What I do have is a wonderful relationship with the best tax lawyer in Toronto, the best mortgage broker, CA’s, bookkeepers, financial planner, trustee plus my actual network of former colleagues at the CRA at your disposal.

7. You can hire me for an hour-long meeting after which I will give you a written report of our discussion along with my recommended course of action and the CRA’s probable plan of action. I will also tell you if you can handle it, and at what point you need to circle back to me.

6. I will not take you on as a client if you do not need my services.  I have a reputation to uphold.

5. You can take advantage of my fixed fee service for the entire length of the tax problem(s) so that you have the piece of mind your matters are being dealt with and that when we speak that you are not on the clock. Questions need to be asked and answered, and resolving your tax problem is the only priority, not padding your bill.

4. Areas of expertise include; Collections, Enforcement, Liens, Director’s Liability assessments, S160 assessments, RTP’s, debt management, negotiation and not just limited to the CRA. I’ve fixed tax problems relating to Revenu Quebec, the IRS, Workers Comp (WSIB) and the CRTC.

3. My website sucks! Yes, it does because I’ve been too busy to provide the content to the web developer for correcting. I’m okay with it too, but I will be changing it, soon.   My thought is that it’s better to have an adequate static website and spend my time solving tax problems, than spend millions of dollars a month on advertising then having to increase my fees so that you can pay my bills.

2. Some of the terms used to describe me and the services I perform are; x-taxer, priceless, unbelievable, compassionate, and informative, just to list a few descriptions of me and my business.  I care.

1. I’m really good at what I do. I know the CRA better than they do, and I certainly know what the collectors can and cannot do.  I fix tax problems and I enjoy it.  I am passionate about tax.  You might say I’m slightly inTAXicated.

 

So whether you just received a tax notice that you are not 100% sure about, or if you have a long history of being in Collections at the CRA, I can help you understand what you need to do.  I can navigate you through a Director’s Liability assessment where I have saved firms hundred of thousands of dollars, or negotiate the removal of a lien so you can finalize a house sale or divorce.  I can have your tax returns re-filed with correct figures to reduce balances, or bring your payroll up-to-date.

Two weeks ago a phone question resulted in a corporation not having to pay a $350,000 liability due to statute of limitations, and last week an hour long meeting uncovered 10 plus years of fraud being committed on a business by their CA.

inTAXicating

http://www.intaxicating.ca

416.833.1581

info@intaxicating.ca

@intaxicating

http://www.facebook.com/intaxicating

logo

Toronto-based but Canada-wide!

Deductions, Deductions, Where Fore Art Thou Deductions?

For those of you who prefer to wait until the last-minute to do your taxes – remember the deadline is May 5th, 2014 this year only – you might be just now looking for items to deduct in order to reduce an amount owing, or just because you have to get that information and now you are wondering if they are deductible.

Or, maybe your tax return has been completed for you and now you are holding the draft of that return and before you sign it – which tells the CRA that you agree with the information in it, so you cannot say I didn’t know what was being filed! – and you want to make sure your accountant / tax preparer did their job and notified you of all the eligible deductions you are entitled to, then this post will be quite useful to you!

The big question: What you can deduct?

When preparing your tax return there are many deductions and tax credits you may be eligible to claim in order to reduce the amount of tax you must pay, if they apply to you.

Any eligible deductions are reported on lines 205 to 485 of your personal tax return.  More specifically, deductions from income and tax credits are reported on lines 205 to 485 and these lines are deducted from line 150 to give you your net income amount (line 236).

Here is a line index from the Canada Revenue Agency website listing the deduction and for more information you will need to follow the link and read the details.

Lines 244 – 260 are deducted from line 236 to give you your taxable income amount (line 260).

Lines 300 – 378 are non-refundable tax credits and reduce your federal tax. However, if the total of these credits is more than your federal tax, you will not get a refund for the difference. Remember to claim the corresponding provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credits to which you are entitled on your provincial or territorial Form 428.

Lines 405 – 485 are your federal and provincial or territorial taxes payable, your federal and provincial or territorial tax credits and your refund or balance owing amounts. The federal and provincial or territorial tax credits reduce your tax payable. If the total of these credits is more than your total tax, you could get a refund for the difference. Claim all available provincial or territorial tax credits on your provincial or territorial form which may be applicable to you.

Complete the provincial or territorial tax and credit forms for the province or territory where you resided on December 31, 2013.

Hope this help!

 

Happy deducting!

 

#inTAXicating

#tax

Be Proactive: 6 Easy Steps to Reduce Taxes for the 2014 Tax Year… in 2014.

I know, I know.

You have not yet filed your 2013 personal income tax returns here in Canada and already some former Canada Revenue Agency Collections Expert (me) is pushing you to think about your 2014 personal income tax filing.

Well, of course I am.  We are 3-months into 2014 and any time is the right time to help taxpayers save on taxes for the current — and future — years.

Here are 6 quick ideas to get you thinking about ways to save taxes in 2014 starting today!

1. Reduce tax deductions at source.

As I have mentioned before, a tax refund is a sign of poor tax planning equivalent to loaning the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) your hard-earned income for a year only to get it back after filing your tax return, interest-free.  An easy strategy to minimize or eliminate taxes owing for 2014, is to complete CRA Form T1213, “Request to Reduce Tax Deductions at Source.”

The purpose of this form is to ask the CRA for reduced tax deductions at source for any deductions or non-refundable tax credits that are not part of the Form TD1, Personal Tax Credits Return. In order to complete this form, all income tax returns that are due have to be filed and amounts paid in full before sending this to the CRA.

In addition the request to reduce deductions through Form T1213 must be made each year, and the CRA will respond within 6-weeks time to advise if the request has been approved or denied.  Once approved, the CRA letter should be handed over to the payroll department who will then reduce the amount of taxes withheld at source. Deductions and credits which will be claimed upon the filing of the 2014 personal income tax return such as RRSP contributions (other than those made through payroll deduction), support payments or child-care expenses should be accounted for.

By planning ahead, you get your “refund” throughout 2014 and they can use that saving to set up and contribute to a RRSP, RESP, TFSA or other long-term investment vehicles aimed at deferring tax.

2. File on time.

Everything.  Always.  This way you do not start the tax year paying back debt, or penalty and interest, for missing a filing deadline by a day or more.  The CRA offers an online installment reminder service whereby you will get an email notifying you that your installments are due.  Use that, set key dates in your calendar or have your accountant notify you in advance.  Just do not miss filing deadlines.

3. Donate funds “in-kind

Consider donating appreciated publicly-traded shares, mutual funds or segregated funds “in-kind” to a registered charity or foundation throughout the year, and not just at year end in order to claim a deduction.  The tax receipt received for these types of donations are equal to the fair market value of the shares or funds donated, and the payment of taxes on any accrued capital gains are avoided.

4. Clear up all balances owing (with the CRA and elsewhere)

Along the lines of point number 2, if at all possible, clear up any amounts owing to the CRA as quickly as possible.  You save money by not paying interest which the CRA compounds daily at a rate around 10%, plus the reduction in stress is well worth it.  Also take into consideration that a debt with the CRA can harm your credit or business relationships, whereas a consolidation loan paying back a bank improves your credit.  Same outcome, but different treatment.

5. Consider Income – splitting loans.

As of January 1st, 2014, the prescribed rate has dropped back down to 1% 1. In a typical income-splitting loan strategy, a high-income spouse (or partner) loans funds at the prescribed rate to his or her lower-income spouse. The investment returns minus the tax-deductible interest on the spousal loan can then be taxed in the lower spouse’s hands. The advantage of advancing a loan when the prescribed rate is low is that under the tax rules, clients need only use the prescribed rate in effect at the time the loan was originally extended to avoid the income being attributed back to the higher income spouse so if the loan is establish during the first quarter of 2014, when the prescribed rate is 1%, they can then use that rate for the duration of the loan, which could be unlimited if there is no fixed term and it’s simply a demand loan.

6. Find a great accountant and investment planner who care about you and your family.

One of the most common questions I get asked is how to know if your accountant or investment adviser are meeting your needs, and the way I answer that is to ask you when the last time you spoke to their professionals about you.  When was the last conversation you had with them about you, your family, your work, dreams, goals, aspirations, and about the kids, any side business you have or want, or even about how you get to work or who pays the mortgage of private school tuition for the kids.

If you have never had this conversation then you must be 100% on top of all new legislative changes to be sure you are taking advantage of all deductions and tax credits available and when you hand over your file at tax time, be comfortable knowing that what you are getting is a tax return.  No more, no less.

A  good accountant and a good investment adviser take the time to know you and advise you, send you suggestions, recommendations and tips on ways to save money, invest, reduce taxes, and can help guide your financial future.  You should want to call your financial professionals when you are looking to make a decision that could impact your finances and don’t be alarmed if they don’t know the answer right away.  A well researched answer is much more valuable than an off the cuff opinion.

 

These 6 things should help you get moving in the right direction in 2014 and as always, should you have any questions, concerns or comments, all you need to do is send me an email to info@intaxicating.ca or comment on a blog post here, or at http://www.intaxicating.ca and an answer will be coming your way.

If you wish to inquire about our services. you may do so via the above email address or by call 416.833.1581 and let us guide you through your tax problem, right to its resolution.

inTAXicating.  Where experience counts!