Are There Really “Red Flags” At the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Are there “Red Flags” at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

How not to get noticed for the wrong things, this Tax Season.

One of the most commonly asked questions of me is about being “flagged” by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and how to avoid getting flagged, or, what gets your flagged.

I hate to break everyone’s bubble, however, there are no red flags!

For the majority of Canadians who file their taxes year-in, year-out, and who make remittances, make their payments, open businesses, close businesses, make money, lose money, and everything in between, your tax account is just a record of transactions, conversations and payments received and made.  Even for those Canadians who should be doing the above and don’t or who fall behind and catch-up on one mass filing, their accounts have a bit more information due to CRA research, however, No flags.

For those engaged in criminal behaviour, however, there are no “flags”, because you are being investigated criminally and whether you know it or not, the CRA knows you and is watching your activities and comparing that to what you file.  Your tax account is known because it is being actively worked by someone.  There are words or phrases placed in your permanent diary which tell anyone who reviews your account what you are up to, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve been red flagged.

So why do people talk about flags?

They’re actually talking about stuations like some described below which catch the attention of the screeners on a case-by-case basis, and could result in them being audited outside of their normal audit review period.

1) When you get your tax returns completed and filed for the year, and there are issues, possibly mistakes, which the CRA catches and in anticipation of getting the solution, have a hard time getting a hold of you.

2) You are suddenly self-employed and you are not sure what to claim, or how much you are entitled to, or you claim things or amounts different from your industry standard.   The CRA compiles industry profiles which they use to assign you a “SIC Code” and they compare your returns with the Industry Standard to ensure you fall in line.

3) The dreaded “Net Worth Assessment”.  If you appear to the CRA to be unable to afford the lifestyle that you are currently living in, then the CRA can, and will, issue a Net Worth Assessment and force you to prove that you are not hiding income.  Yes, this can be a challenge, especially in light of the assessments being done from tax centres outside of the Greater Toronto Area who cannot fathom a million dollar house and a $75,000 income.  They don’t take too kindly to the concept of being being helped by family or personal wealth.  Just be warned that a tax return showing $1.00 of income for the year and an address in a wealthy neighbourhood is cause for further questioning.

4) Big changes from year-to-year.  If there are major changes in your income or expenses whether personal or business-related, are going to draw the attention of the CRA.  The CRA wants to make sure that you have not made a mistake, or worse, that you have bought into a tax scheme.  Expect questions, so get proof ready!

There are some tax situations that are just automatically looked at closer – each the year the CRA with the help of the Department of Finance choose a sector of industry to look at in closer depth usually because something has been detected in previous years or because there is a lot of cash floating around these business, such as construction, or dentists, doctors, IT consultants…

Home office deductions for example are frequently looked into as this is often a common problem for taxpayers claiming the home office in order to use deductions without actually utilizing their home as their office.

Even if you honestly never ever use your company vehicle for personal use, it will take some hard doing to prove to the CRA that this is true. Just driving back and forth to work in the business vehicle is classed as personal use. Your best protection here is to keep very detailed records concerning the business vehicles.

6) Renting for income:  Do not assume that rental losses are going to be accepted at face value by the CRA.  While the CRA will give you some grace time to start generating a profit from your rental business, it will still be watched with a close eye based on your industry, location and address(es).

7) Who prepares your return matters!

The CRA is starting to follow the IRS and taking a long hard look at tax accountants and tax preparers to see if there is a pattern among certain firms / indivuduals who either claim deductions they are not allowed to claim on your behalf, or who are missing certain expenses or deductions.  The CRA’s hope here is to weed out the bad apples, and educate the current crop to ensure they take advantage of the deductions and tax credits available to each client.

Should be a valuable change to the Canadian tax filing scheme.

But at the end of the day, doing it right, and on time, is the best way to stay out of the CRA’s bad books.

If, however, you have any questions, concerns or comments, please feel free to reach out to me at any time, at worlans@intaxicating.ca.

 

Milowe Brost, Convicted of Theft and Fraud. Ordered to pay $390,878 in Evaded Taxes to CRA.

Milowe Brost, recently convicted of theft and fraud ordered to pay $390,878 in evaded taxes.

Another example of how a Ponzi scheme can result in a long-prison sentence and huge fine.

Unfortunately, the “victims” here are the people who took part in this scheme because they still owe taxes plus gross negligence penalties (50%) plus the CRA and the Courts have long considered people who partake in these scams and schemes to have done so knowingly and with full understanding they they are illegal.

 

Money Mentors’ Advice for 2014 Taxes

I came across this article relating to Canadian Tax Filing for 2014, and thought it was worth a share.  The article can be read via the link below.

Money Mentors’ Advice for 2014 Taxes.

This article outlines how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, http://www.cra.gc.ca, can be used to keep up to date on any changes for 2014, and for 2015, which could help Canadians save money.

Money Mentors list themselves as being “the only Alberta-based, not-for-profit credit counselling agency.”   What I like about this article is that this firm also believes that credit counselling, money coaching, retirement planning, tax saving and community financial literacy are essential to contributing to a healthier financial future for all Canadians.  

Read the article, but as an outline, the topics covered include;

1) RRSP’s and TFSA’s

2) Charitable Donations

3) Medical Expenses 

4) Public Transit

5) Child’s Art/Fitness Amount

6) Childcare Expenses

7) Job-Hunting Expenses

8) First Homes

9) Students 

Enjoy, and please do not forget to get your Canadian Tax Return filed and paid – if at all possible – by April 30th!

If you have any tax-related questions, specifically relating to collection matters with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you can reach out for a free consult with us via email at intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com, or to me, Warren Orlans, at worlans@intaxicating.ca.  We can also be reached on the phone or by text at 416.833.1581.

Please be patient as we are swamped and it may take some time for you to get a response.  Feel free to follow up and bug us in the same manner as the CRA bugs you.  We’re okay with that.

Also feel free to get more information about us at http://www.intaxicating.ca.

Not All Tax Information Found on the Internet is true! Are you shocked?!?

Did you know that not all the tax information and suggestions you find on the Internet are true?

Of course you knew that!

I’ve joked with everyone from my children, to family, friends, employers, employees and even director’s and CEO’s of huge organizations that tax information “must be true!  It’s on the Internet”, no matter how absurd it might appear to be.

We all know, or should know to take everything we read with a grain of salt… and that fact-checking is critical when trying to decide if information is legitimate, completely made up, or aimed to scare you.

Sources

As we scroll through pages and pages of information, reading about situations and stories about how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers tax law here in Canada it is easy to lose sight of goal, which is to get a better understanding of what is acceptable and what is not regarding so many aspects of taxation.  The best indicator of how close to the truth an article is can be determined by the sources cited in that piece.

An article about the CRA with a link to the CRA website (which backs up the facts) is the best indicator that the author knows their stuff.

If, however, you come across an article which has no references, no supporting links to the originating source, or links from a website titled something like “I_want_to_stop_the_CRA.org” then you can be assured the information is not going to be accurate, it is not going to help you, and more likely it was written to scare you, or present a horror story to get you to contact them to help you.

Don’t waste your time on those… Ever!

When a prominent tax lawyer wanted everyone to stop looking for solutions on the Internet it was presented that the CRA could find out you have a tax problem by sneaking into your house, taking your computer, breaking in to it, and seeing that you have been looking for tax help online.

GASP.

Well, guess what?

If the CRA has to come and seize your computer, they already know you have a tax problem!  They cannot seize your computer unless it’s part of a criminal investigation.

The true intention of these ads is not to warn you about a new power that the CRA has secretly acquired, but rather this firm doesn’t want you seeing that there are options available for you online to fix the problem yourself.  So they scare you away from the Internet so you won’t find helpful tips and solutions at firms like this one, inTAXicating.

Better to hire them then get advice from a real former CRA Collection employee to help get you back on track.

In a capitalistic marketplace I don’t blame them, but I am concerned.  Tax is confusing, especially when a tax problem suddenly arises and the CRA is pressuring you to fix it quickly in one of their 3 ways:

1) Pay it

2) File up-to-date and watch the balance go away, or,

3) Go bankrupt.

How can you be expected to make that sudden choice which has significant short and long-term implications on you, your business, your family and your life, without having the facts, all the facts, and not just the facts the CRA wants you to have, or that you believe they are telling you.

That’s where I come in, specifically, this blog, this business and this business model.

I want you to know the truth.

I want you to be able to make an informed decision whether that decision is made via information found on this blog, or on my website, or through an email to me.  I want you to be able to understand the CRA and their collection, enforcement, audit, filing process and administrative process as well as I do.

I want you to understand the corporate culture there and that very infrequently is there an agent on the other side of the phone with your picture on a dart board in their cubicle.

I want you to know your options, your best next steps and that your long-term plan of action will not only help you resolve your tax situation but also keep you and the CRA happy.

I want you to know that in situations where I feel that you cannot do this alone, that I can help you, and will help you, make matters right, and I want you to know that a tax problem does not occur overnight and resolving them can take a long-time.

I have the knowledge and understanding that no-one else can claim to possess about the CRA collections policies and process and I don’t say that to boast, but rather to inform.  I don’t profess to have an “army” of “real” CRA staff with me, nor do I pretend that background is in any area other than where it shows on my web-site, blog, and on my LinkedIn profile.  Collections, collection, collections.

I’m also not going top pretend that a background in Appeals or Audit is going to help you better than a back ground in Collections.  To each their own.

I write my blog posts myself and where possible I cite everything I can to the CRA website so that you can be comfortable knowing that information you read on my social media platforms are sourced from the people who want you to pay your taxes and question your deductions and filing deadlines.

I don’t write my posts in order to scare anyone or to force them to use my services, because quite frankly, I want everyone to be able to navigate the Canadian tax system without ever having problems and running afoul of the CRA and in a perfect world, one day I’ll be able to provide a users guide to the CRA to allow people to file, re-file and pay without incurring penalties and / or interest and where the CRA understands why people can’t, won’t or are unable to do so and then have the CRA deal with them in an understanding manner.

But for now, we have to take it one day at a time, and one situation at a time.

The best day to start fixing tax problems is today.  There are always solutions and there are always options.  In deciding what you want to do, you need to make sure you are getting the right information and from the right sources.  Be wary of what you read on the Internet because it can make you want to close your blinds, change you name and hide from the CRA when all they want you to do is to close an account or file a nil return.

Get the facts!

inTAXicating Tax Services offers a free 15-minute consultation to determine how to best proceed with a tax situation.

From there if’s decided that a written plan of action is needed, I can produce one for you.

If from that, a decision is made to engage inTAXicating to represent you in your dealings with the CRA, then we determine if the hourly or fixed plan works best for you.

You don’t have to worry about opening those brown envelopes.  Help is here!

http://www.intaxicating.ca

http://www.intaxicating.wordpress.com

info@intaxicating.ca

Should you pay your children to do chores?

This is such a great topic, and one in which I have spent a lot of time discussing with my wife over the years.  Last week, I was interviewed by the Globe and Mail on this very topic and the article can be found here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/should-you-pay-your-kids-to-do-chores/article23076370/

I have included the article below, so please have a read of the pro-side and the con-side and let me know your thoughts.  I’m curious as to what other families do regarding money, specifically teaching children about the value of money.

The article:

Final_wrk1+(2)

The phrase “the value of a dollar” is misleading. The truth is, there are so many values contained in a buck it’s hard to count them all. It’s these values we are trying to impart when we give kids an allowance – that money has to be earned, that not every desire can be instantly gratified, that it’s important to give to those in need. Perhaps the biggest point of contention is whether to pay kids to do chores. Dan Lieber argues against it in his new book, The Opposite of Spoiled. Parents don’t get paid for housework, so neither should children, according to Lieber. But a strong case can be made for the other side of the debate as well. We asked parents on each end of the debate to explain their allowance philosophy.

NOT TIED TO CHORES

Kids should do chores to help the household and learn to take care of themselves, not to pocket cash. “Let’s fast-forward to when your child goes to college. Is he going to want to be paid to take out the trash and keep his room neat?” says Kristan Leatherman, co-author of Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats.

Lori McGrath, Vancouver-based blogger of The Write Mama

Kid’s age 6

Allowance $3 per week: $2 goes into his wallet, $1 goes into a piggy bank.

The lesson “I want him to learn how to be independent with money. I want him to feel empowered about it, and to learn how to make good decisions about money.”

Why it’s not tied to chores “He does have chores, but [the allowance] is just to teach him financial responsibility. We don’t want it to be an emotional thing – ‘You’re being a good boy, here’s money.’ We want it to teach him about making his own decisions and saving for things.”

Warren Orlans, Toronto-based tax consultant @ inTAXicating and blogger @UrbanDaddyBlog

Kids’ ages 10, 8, 5

Allowance $5, $4, $2 per week, respectively.

The lesson “The value of money. Money is not something you throw away, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. You can do without money. You don’t have to buy everything you see. But if you see something you want, you can save up and purchase it.”

Why it’s not tied to chores “The kids have to do chores as part of being members of the household. … I’m a big sports fan, and there’s nothing worse than having a player on your team who’s only in it for the contract.” But if Orlans has to clean up after the kids after two warnings, he makes them buy back the items, whether socks or comic books, from their allowance.

Denise Schipani Huntington, NewYork-based author

Kids’ ages 12 and 10

Allowance $12 and $10 per month, respectively.

The lesson “That money has worth. And it has consequences.”

Why it’s not tied to chores “The very idea of that turns me off completely. None of us [in the family] pay each other for doing what needs doing. But they get an allowance so that they can decide what they want to do with money. We presented it more as a way to help them understand how money works.”

TIED TO CHORES

Paying kids to do chores teaches them about working for what they want. “Having the feeling that the money comes from your effort appears to be related to the notion that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that you’re not entitled to any money,” says Lewis Mandell, an economist and financial literacy educator.

Tibetha Kemble, Edmonton-based consultant in First Nations relations

Kid’s age 6

Allowance $10 after a full slate of chores is completed, usually every two weeks.

The lesson “That there is a direct connection between doing work and getting something for it … and that things are expensive and if you save up your allowance you can afford to buy it – that it’s not just about immediate gratification.”

Why it’s tied to chores “It was really the only way that we could tie money to something without it seeming arbitrary or punitive or behaviour-related.”

Jen Kern, Toronto-based events and business development director

Kids’ ages 6, 3

Allowance No allowance for the three-year-old. Older son has a chore chart with various amounts (25 cents for making his bed, for example) with a weekly maximum of $7. His parents match whatever he saves.

The lesson “That money isn’t free … linking savings to that was really important. Neither my husband nor I were ever taught that, and as result we were really crappy with money for a lot of our late-teens, early 20s. We’re trying to explain to him that if he puts his money away, it will be there when he needs it. He’s saved $85 already.”

Why it’s tied to chores “There was going to be no free ride.”

 

Danielle Riddel, Calgary-based real estate assistant

Kid’s age 14

Allowance $70 per month ($10 has to go into savings)

The lesson “Nowadays I feel like kids get money all the time for everything. I want her to learn that you can’t have everything as soon as you want it. You have to work for it. You have to save for it.”

Why it’s tied to chores “She doesn’t get allowance for cleaning her room or taking care of the dog. She gets it for doing all the floors in the house and cleaning three bathrooms. I wanted her to have money because I want her to learn to spend and how to save money, but I didn’t want to just give it to her.”

Thoughts?

Comments?

2014 Canadian Tax Filing Calendar. Important Deadlines Coming Up In 2015.

I receive a lot of queries surrounding the key Canadian Tax Filing Dates and Deadlines which impacts Individuals and Businesses, so I gathered that information and while not exhaustive, it highlights key dates and deadlines for you to remember and mark on your calendar for the next couple of months.

Remember being late results in penalties and interest and penalties incurred year over year increase in percentage.  For example, a regular non-filer who became a late filer was paying a late filing penalty of 62% by his 5th year of late filing.CRA Logo

2015 Canadian Tax Dates and Deadlines for the 2014 Taxation Year.

For Individuals:

On or before April 30th, 2015 (a Thursday) is the Personal Income Tax return deadline.

Self-Employed (you or spouse/common-law partner):

If you or your spouse or common-law partner carried on a business in 2014 (other than a business whose expenditures are primarily in connection with a tax shelter), the deadline to file your 2014 income tax and benefit return is midnight on June 15th, 2015.

*** However, if you have a balance owing for 2014, you still have to pay it on or before April 30, 2015.

Deceased:

If you are the legal representative – executor, administrator, or liquidator – of the estate of an individual who died in 2014, you may have to file a return for 2014 for that individual.

Information relating to those filing requirements can be found on the CRA website; Guide T4011, Preparing Returns for Deceased Persons,

Additional information can be found here: Information Sheet RC4111, What to do following a death.

The due date for the final return will depend on the date of death and whether or not the deceased or his or her spouse or common-law partner carried on a business in 2014.

Of note, if  you received income in 2014 for a person who died in 2013 or earlier, do not file an individual return for 2014 for that income on behalf of that person.  You likely will have to file a T3 Trust Income Tax and Information Return for the estate.

RRSP Contributions:

March 2nd, 2015 is the deadline for contributing to an RRSP and to have that contribution count towards your 2014 tax year.

If you suspect you might owe taxes, making a RRSP contribution should help lessen the burden, and in some cases will turn your liability into a credit.

Employee / Nanny Filing Deadline for providing a T4:

In all instances, you have to file your T4 information return (T4’s plus T4 Summary) on or before the last day of February following the calendar year that the information return applies to.

If the due date falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a public holiday, your return is due the next business day, so for 2015, they are due March 2nd, 2015 as February 28th falls on a Saturday.

The CRA considers your return to be filed on time if they receive it or it is postmarked on or before the due date.  If you fail to file it on time, the CRA will likely assess a penalty.

If you have more than one payroll program account, you will have to file a separate information return for each account.

If you need to file early due to bankruptcy or if your business stops operating, you are required to file within 30 days from the date your business ends.

If the owner of a business dies, the T4 slips and T4 Summary have to be filed within 90 days from the date of death.

You must file information returns by Internet if you file more than 50 information returns (slips) for a calendar year. More information is available at the CRA website, here: Filing Information Returns Electronically (T4/T5 and other types of returns).

General filing information:

* Please keep in mind that if the deadline falls on a weekend or public holiday, for federal income tax purposes, your return is filed on time if it is received or it is postmarked on the next business day.

As well, you should note the difference in “received” dates the CRA adheres to.  The CRA considers something to have been received by a taxpayer once the CRA sends that item out to a known address they have on file.  On the other hand, the CRA does not consider your paperwork or payments as being received until the CRA actually has said cheque or return in hand and stamps it with their postmark.  Mailing something on February 28th which is due February 28th is likely going to result in a penalty for late filing.

* In cases where an individual dies, the final income tax return must generally be filed on or before the regular filing deadline for the year OR six months after the date of death of the individual – whichever is later.

* There will be no income inclusion for an operating cost benefit if an employee fully reimburses the employer for all operating expenses, including GST/HST and PST, relating to the personal use of the automobile within 45 days after the end of the calendar year.

* An employee who has received a low-interest loan from an employer during any part of the year is deemed to have received a taxable employment benefit that is calculated as interest at the CRA’s prescribed rate for the period during which the loan was outstanding. The amount of the benefit is reduced by any interest actually paid on the loan within 30 days of the end of the calendar year.

* Where a family member has loaned funds to another family member or to a family trust, the income attribution rules may not apply on the related investment income where interest on the loan is charged at a rate at least equal to the prescribed rate that was in effect when the loan was made and where interest on the loan is paid by January 30 of the following year.

* In the case of a general corporation, the due date for the balance owing for a taxation year is generally the last day of the second month following the end of the year. In addition, provided certain conditions are met, the due date for the balance owing for CCPCs is the last day of the third month following the end of the taxation year.

* Corporations are required to pay monthly tax installments during the year if their total taxes payable (which is specifically defined) for the current or preceding taxation year is more than $3,000.

* In cases where the taxation year-end of the corporation is the last day of the month, installment payments are due on or before the last day of each month or each quarter. Where the taxation year-end of the corporation does not fall on the last day of the month, the first installment is due one month or quarter less a day from the first day of the corporation’s taxation year-end. Subsequent installments are due on the same day of each of the following months or quarters.

* CCPCs may pay quarterly installments if the following conditions are met:

  • The corporation’s taxable income, and that of any associated corporations, for the current or previous year does not exceed $500,000;
  • The corporation claimed the small business deduction in computing its tax payable for the taxation year or for the preceding taxation year;
  • The corporation’s taxable capital employed in Canada, and that of any associated corporations, does not exceed $10 million in the year or in the preceding taxation year; and
  • Throughout the 12 months ending at the last installment payment date, the corporation made all tax remittances and filings under the Income Tax Act, Employment Insurance Act, Canada Pension Plan or GST/HST section of the Excise Tax Act on time.

* The due date of a GST/HST return is determined by the reporting period. If the reporting period is monthly or quarterly, the GST/HST return must be filed and any amount owing must be remitted no later than one month after the end of the reporting period. If there is an annual reporting period, the GST/HST return must be filed and any amount owing must be remitted no later than three months after the end of the fiscal year. Please note that an individual with business income for income tax purposes, who is also an annual filer with a December 31 fiscal year-end, must file their GST/HST return by June 15 and pay their net GST/HST owing by April 30 to avoid penalties and interest.

* Information returns that include T4, T4A, T4A-NR and T5 must be filed on or before the last day of February in each year and shall be in respect of the preceding calendar year.

* An NR4 Information Return must be filed on or before the last day of March or in the case of an estate or trust, no later than 90 days after the end of the estate’s or trust’s tax year. An NR4 Information Return must be filed in respect of payments such as interest, dividends, royalties or pensions made to non-residents in the preceding calendar year.

* In cases where all members of the partnership are individuals (including trusts), the T5013 is due no later than March 31 of the calendar year following the year in which the partnership’s fiscal period ended. In cases where all members of the partnership are corporations, the T5013 is due no later than five months from the end of the partnership’s fiscal period. In all other cases, the T5013 is due on or before the earlier of (i) the day that is five months after the end of the fiscal period, and (ii) the last day of March in the calendar year immediately following the calendar year in which the fiscal period ended or with which the end of the fiscal period coincides.

 

Good news if you are ready to get filing, because the 2014 General Income Tax and Benefit packages are available at post offices as of early February, and the first day you can use NETFILE was February 9th, 2015.

Thursday Thirteen Tax Tips: 13 Important Considerations Before Hiring Tax Representation

Trying to decide if it is time to hire a tax representative is a difficult decision and if made incorrectly, can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars plus add significant amounts of stress and reputational damage to you and / or your business.

With so many people and organizations on the Internet promising to do so much for you, how do you know who to trust and more importantly, how can you tell if the specific tax matter you have is something they have experience (and success) handling?

Well, I’m going to give you some tips, so feel free to share them, about how I would go about finding a tax expert for my situation and what important questions you need answered before you hand over your hard-earned money, Social Insurance Number (SIN) and / or Business Number (BN).

The first thing that you must be comfortable doing is asking questions and if you do not understand the answer or if it seems like the response you get is part of a sales pitch, then think twice and get another quote.  It’s okay.  Anyone offering these services will either expect that you have spoken to more than one person, or will be confident that their expertise is what you need and know that you will come back.

Do they offer a free consultation?  It’s helpful if you do not know exactly how much trouble you are in, if at all, and having a few minutes to ask will put your mind at ease and help build a relationship for the future if it’s necessary.

During a 15-minute free consultation I usually do not know how many other tax representatives they have spoken to, if any.  As a result, I have to be clear, honest and set the price based on the amount of work involved, only.  It works for me, and it works for my clients.

keep-calm-youre-hired

Once I begin working with clients I get to hear what others promised, or wanted to charge, and often times I am surprised both by the recommended course of actions and the price quoted / charged.I thought it might be a good idea to expand on this topic and provide the 13 IMPORTANT considerations to look for before hiring tax representation:

13) Knowledge – Does this person or organization have significant knowledge in the area you need?

12) Experience – Knowledge is great to help you understand more, however, is their knowledge based on books they studied in school, or was it gained through hands-on experience?  If you are lucky, you can get both.

11) Fit – Can you work with them? Are they able to explain in a manner that you actually understand what happened, and what the next steps are.

10) Advertising – Odds are good that if they are spending a lot of money on advertising, they are going to have to charge you more in order to re-coup the costs.  A lot of advertising doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best, it just means they value advertising, or need clients..

9)  Social Media Presence – Taking into consideration that people do NOT advertise they have a tax problem online, it can be difficult to see if your prospective tax representation is worth your hard-earned dollars.  A good way to check up on a prospective hire is to have a look at their followers and who they follow.  It may seem great that a firm will have 5000 followers, however, followers can be bought, so a Canadian firm with 3000 followers from, say, Turkey might be a tip-off that something is not right.  Also look at their posts and comments via mainstream media.  Are they commenting on articles to educate or does everything they publish and promote look like it has been written by a marketing firm aimed at trying to get you to hire them.

8) Flexibility – Are they flexible in their pricing, or are they so set in their fees that they will not, or can not, recommend someone else or reduce their fees to assist.

7) Promises – Do they promise to save you money through reviews of your tax filings or do they take the easy way out and recommend bankruptcy, or a proposal?

6) Fear Mongers – If you notice that the tone of everything coming from a prospective firm / representative seems like they are trying to scare you, they are, and that’s a good sign to proceed with caution.  If they tell stories of the CRA hiding in your bushes, reading your emails or coming to arrest you, you should think twice.

5) What is their catch? – You know what you need, but what do they want, or what do they want from you?  There might be additional things relating to your tax issues that you did not know about and would benefit you, but if it’s not necessary and they won’t back away from it – like a financial analysis – then be concerned that they just want to put you though a cookie-cutter program instead of working towards solving your problem(s).

4) Do they play nice with others? – Blog posts aside, are they active in community networking groups (like on Linked In) and are they contributing to the discussions or do they have their own agenda and are just posting articles aimed at the wrong crowd – ie/ pitching their services to individuals in a group full of tax lawyers.

3) Sticks and Stones – How do they  refer to the Canada Revenue Agency?  Do they call the CRA the “Taxman”?  Do they have other negative nicknames?  I can tell you with the experience that 10-plus years of working for the CRA has afforded me that the CRA HATES that and do you really want your representation to start your negotiations off on the wrong foot?

2) Which Way is Up – Does their projected course of action come with terms, such as; “I think, this will work” or “I can try this…” or does the word “maybe” come up a lot?  The good part of that language is that it is a sign that they want to try a course of action and they expect the outcome to be positive or they have no clue what to do and after they run you through their cookie-cutter service, they hope you will be in a better situation.

1) You are Smarter – If you finish your conversation and get the feeling that once all is said and done you will be in a much better place both mentally and financially and you are armed with enough information and understanding of what got you there in the first place and that you can and are able to identify and address all future issues, then you might just be in the right place!

Good luck!

 

Warren

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