“New” CRA Powers are Not so New after all! Unless…

Recent radio advertising and newspaper or online articles would have you believe that the CRA has been ramping up staff in order to break down your door in the middle of the night and arrest you for tax fraud.

Deep down inside you knew that you should have opened a BN number and GST/HST account for your child\s lemonade stand because even though they were significantly under the $30,000 sales threshold, if registered, you could have claimed the Input Tax Credits – but you didn’t and the CRA wants their money!

You also know that if you had a question, the CRA call centre were going to mislead you, or lie to you so that you would be forced to pay even more money.

You also know that you might need help for a tax accountant, tax lawyer, tax broker, tax solutions firm, or tax audit specialist… but you cannot choose because the different names must mean they do different things and you don’t know which category you fall into, and … the CRA are so coming to get you… now!

(Is that rustling in the bushes in front of my house?)

spyingWell all of these new powers and the threats that they are going to break-down your door and arrest you on the spot are not really true.

You only have to fear the CRA breaking down your door (really the RCMP, but I’m sure the CRA would be there somewhere along the way) if you have done something wrong.  Very wrong.  Criminally wrong.

You should be concerned if the CRA knows you’ve done something criminally wrong, or have been involved in terrorist financing or activity because they’ll pass that along to the police.

The Canada Revenue Agency gained the little-noticed new authority, which does not require a judicial warrant, through an amendment tucked into the government’s most recent budget bill.

Previously, confidentiality provisions in the law prevented the CRA from handing information about suspected wrongdoing, on its own initiative, to law enforcement.

The exception was information that pointed to tax-related crimes.

The new provisions apply to offences including breaking and entering, vehicle theft, arson, corruption and kidnapping and in return, the CRA can now receive information from local authorities about any offence with a minimum prison term, or one with a maximum sentence of 14 years.

The list of offences is broad and is a significant shift in confidentiality policy allowing the CRA to pass along information to law authorities without a court-ordered warrant, even when the alleged crime(s) have nothing to do with taxes.

Interim procedures for administering the new powers were issued to all CRA employees in June 2016 not too long after the legislation received royal assent.

The intended use of this new tool, is that an exchange should occur when an employee gathers information in the course of their regular duties.

This information exchange was intended to be one-way and would be closely controlled through a set of strict criteria.

As an aside, it would have been nice to know who might be carrying on criminal activity, when I was working at the CRA and went to visit a business to determine why they stopped filing GST returns, only to learn that they were conducting illegal activities and was physically threatened before getting the heck out of there.

The following day the RCMP showed up, cleaned out the place and arrested the operators.

I never did get my outstanding GST returns, however, which could have been prosecuted as a criminal offense (but was not).

All potential referrals to police will be vetted by the agency’s criminal investigations personnel and must be approved by the assistant commissioner of the department’s compliance programs branch, CRA has reported.

The key points to remember are this;

  1. If you happen to have partaken in a criminal activity, you might not want to disclose that to the CRA collector.
  2. Make sure to stay compliant!  File up to date and don’t give the CRA reasons for looking for stuff.
  3. Take all of the tax-related advertising with a grain of salt.  Their intention is to scare you and force you to drop a ton of cash at their business.  Instead, I recommend you do your research, ask questions and get the solution that fits your tax problem.
  4. If you’re not sure… Ask.  Then use your judgement.

 

Tax Freedom Day, 2017. Working For Ourselves Now… Theoretically.

June 9, 2017 is Tax Freedom Day!

What is Tax Freedom Day?

Does it really exist?

What might it mean to me?

In their annual report, the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank added up all forms of taxation — from income and sales taxes, to more hidden costs such as gasoline taxes, carbon taxes, tobacco and alcohol taxes, municipal property taxes, payroll taxes and even CPP and EI premiums — to come up with a figure for the overall tax burden for Canadian families, and this year, they have determined that the average Canadian family with two or more people will earn $108,674 and pay 43.4% in taxes.

Based on the Fraser Institute math, 100% of income earned thus far in 2017 has been gobbled up by government in taxes, and only now are you working for yourself until the end of the year.

Last year, in 2016, it came a day earlier, on June 8th and because of variances in all types of taxes in different provinces, Tax Freedom Day differs across the country, ranging from May 21st in Alberta to June 25th in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the reasons for the extra day is to account for the fact that Canadians’ tax bill has risen, on average, by $1,126 this year, according to the Fraser Institute. Of that increase, $542, came from higher income taxes, but sales taxes (up $311) and other energy-related taxes (up $204) also took a bigger bite while liquor, tobacco, amusement, and other excise taxes, payroll and health taxes, and import duties all decreased.

The Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, however, disputes the math behind the annual Fraser Institute report, because the Fraser Institutes uses “average” tax rates instead of median tax rates.

To come up with its “average” tax rates, the Fraser Institute simply adds up the amount of cash income earned by a taxpayer, and then divides that by the number of people. It then takes “outliers” and excludes those extremes from the calculations.

The Broadbent Institute said that skews the numbers in a certain way, and a better way than the average would be to use the median — the exact mid-point between the top and bottom and the rationale behind this surrounds the fact that the average income of Canada will always be higher than the median because of the small number of very high-income earners in Canada, which skews the average income amount higher.

Adding up only federal and provincial income taxes, the “average” Canadian in prime working years (between 25 – 54 years of age) earned $62,600 last year, and paid $12,000 in taxes, or around 19%, according to tax filings. Using the Broadbent method of calculation, the median for that group earned $50,500 last year and paid $7,000, or 14%, in income taxes.

Another main difference is that the figures used by Fraser Institute report doesn’t just include income taxes. It tabulates all sorts of fees that taxpayers don’t directly pay, such as payroll taxes and resource royalties that companies pay when they extract things like oil, minerals and timber.

It also only considers what it calls “cash income” on the other side of the ledger. That excludes employee benefits, investment income from pension plans and other forms of cash income.

The Fraser report also takes into consideration indirect costs like payroll taxes and other taxes which businesses pay in their calculations because even though businesses pay these taxes directly, the cost of business taxation is passed on to Canadians.

So now that we’re working for ourselves, let’s push all levels of government to treat our tax dollars more wisely, and let’s earn as much as possible (while continuing to pay our taxes on time!)

How We Help: GST/HST, Deemed Trust, s.160 Assessment and T2’s

A couple of months ago, I received a call from a senior law partner at one of Toronto’s top law firms asking me if I could help out a client of theirs with a messy tax problem because their firm was just too expensive for the couple.

I was told there was a balance owing to the CRA for GST/HST, and that the firm was essentially bankrupt, they feel they don’t owe the money and the CRA was threatening to raise a Deemed Trust followed by a s.160 assessment.

All over $30,000 owing to the CRA.

Sounds simple enough…

Confirm the amounts, then figure out if the balance is actually owing, tie up loose ends then make arrangements between the client and the CRA to resolve both matters.

I connected with the couple, got their side of the story, then met their wonderful accountant and got her side of the story.  I took all of that information, and had a nice long chat with the Collector at the CRA.

Here is the CRA’s side;

The couple owned a business, which accumulated debt through the filing of GST/HST but never paying it.  They also failed to file T2 returns.

The company had at one point in time sought financing and ended up pledging their inventory in return.  When the business began to slow down, the lender took the assets, and sold them to pay back the money they had lent to the business.

There was a shortfall.

The CRA did not like this at all.

With money owing to the CRA, they used their Deemed Trust provision and raised a s.160 non-arms length assessment against the lender for taking the inventory and disposing of it without paying the CRA.

The CRA were just waiting for the corporations director to file for bankruptcy before they actioned the s.160 because that would survive the bankruptcy and would result in the CRA getting paid on all fronts.

But logic sold me that a business which was struggling would not have significant amounts of GST/HST owing in its final years.

Something did not seem right.

I called back the CRA Collections office who, quite frankly, was extremely unhappy about having to answer additional questions about the origin of the debts… Again.

I had asked her to go through the last 3-years worth of filed GST/HST returns and give me verbal figures for Total Sales, GST Collected, and Input Tax Credits.

She started.  The first year was fine.

The second year was fine.

The third year, she started, “Total Sales were $25,000”, “GST Collected was $1,500” and ITC’s were …

… she paused…

“No ITC’s, eh?” was my response.

“No.  No ITC’s”, she said, completely puzzled.

“So I don’t expect there to be any ITC’s on any of the returns going forward, is that accurate?” I asked.

“No ITC’s on any of the returns going forward… That’s so unusual”, was her response.

We re-filed the last 6 GST/HST returns to include the ITC’s.  They went through a desk audit quickly because of the notes indicating someone missed ITC’s, and upon posting knocked down the balance owing considerably.

The s.160 assessment was cancelled and the remaining, much smaller balance was paid in full.

I introduced them to one of the fantastic accountants in my network who quickly completed the T2’s for them.

Everyone left happy.

That’s how we help!  Knowing the ins and outs of the CRA’s collections department and even think that something might have posted incorrectly, 4-years ago.

inTAXicating by Goldhar!

 

 

How do I correct or dispute inaccuracies on my credit file?


I get lots of questions related to Credit Bureaus and items which show up well after they have been paid or which do not belong on there at all.

Having worked for Equifax many, many years ago right after I started working for the CRA and they release all the temporary staff for an 11-month period due to budget cuts, I can proudly say that Equifax makes it very easy to communicate with them regarding any such issues.

It’s all laid out on their website, but I provided a summary here:

Complete and submit a Consumer Credit Report Update Form to Equifax.

It is necessary to specify what information is incorrect or what information does not belong to you.

Equifax will verify that information afterwards as part of their investigation.

You will need to include photocopies of all necessary documents and identification to update your personal Credit Report (Ex: receipts, legal documents, 2 photocopies of pieces of valid identification, including proof of current address)

Fax the request to them at:

Fax: (514) 355-8502

Your request will be processed within 10 to 15 business days. After this period has elapsed, a confirmation letter will be sent to your mailing address.

OR

By Mail:

Equifax Canada Co.
Consumer Relations Department
P.O. Box 190, Station Jean-Talon,
Montreal, Quebec H1S 2Z2

Your request will be processed within 15 to 20 business days . After this period has elapsed, a confirmation letter will be sent to your mailing address.

Equifax will verify the necessary information and mail you a confirmation.

 

Could it be any easier than that?!?

 

If You Can’t Beat Them or Join Them, Copy Them! Tax Law Firm Copies inTAXicating Winning Tax Solution Model

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.biz name official

 

If you are fighting a losing battle, find your most successful competitor and do what they do!

If you are one of the many people who have paid tens of thousands of dollars to a prominent tax lawyer because they told you a lawyer was absolutely required to save you from the “taxman,” you are going to be really disappointed to learn the firm itself no longer feels that way.

As a result of a drawn-out and very public dispute with the Law Society of Upper Canada over their retention of client retainer fees to keep them from the reach of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), DioGuardi Tax Law has been forced to reinvent themselves into our firm, inTAXicating, by saying when people owe tax to the Canada Revenue Agency, a lawyer is no longer the most effective choice for ending the problem.

Oops.

From their press release, Philippe DioGuardi is reported to have said “People who owe tax are vulnerable to the Canada Revenue Agency’s aggressive collection tactics. They need fast and affordable ways to fix their tax trouble before the CRA comes after them with bank and wage garnishments or liens against their home and other property.”

Something I have been saying for the past 10 years!

In an effort to possibly save their business, the press release goes on to explain that hiring lawyers for CRA collections matters is time-consuming (read: expensive for clients) and slow: “They know what I know about fighting the CRA. And because they’re not lawyers, they can work more quickly to end people’s tax debt trouble for less than a lawyer would charge. Frankly, when the trouble is that you owe tax, you don’t need the hassle of hiring a lawyer to fix it.”

Unfortunately, the aggressive negotiation tactics DioGuardi’s firm is known for and which the CRA despises are still at the centre of their campaign.  They also boast a network of resources to assist people who need help with financing, and to slide people into bankruptcy when they cannot get financing.

DioGuardi’s previous radio advertising warned Canadians against searching for Tax Solutions on the Internet (so you will not find answers or firms like inTAXicating) and against so-called Tax Solutions firms, which are really Bankruptcy firms offering to “help” you with your tax debt by plunging you into bankruptcy after drawing out your tax file to incur more fees.

So inTAXicating now has a little competition … kind of … in the field of tax solutions and assistance with CRA issues.  You can either choose 17 years of tax experience – 11 of which were spent recently working in and managing CRA collections – or you can choose a firm which used to believe only lawyers can solve tax problems, but now tells you lawyers are not needed to solve tax problems, and oh, hey, they also used to work somewhere in the CRA 25 years ago.

Once this model wears out, watch for them to morph into Tax “Brokers” so they can do the work, and get paid after the fact, all in an effort to “protect” your money from the “Tax Man”.  It’s all the same everything, just dressed up in different clothing.

For us, nothing has changed.

If you have a tax question, issue, lien, or concern with the CRA, or RST, or need help regarding an audit or Taxpayer Relief, or just want to ask a tax question, then send an email to info@intaxicating.ca and you will have your answers.  If you need to hire us, we’ll tell you.  If you can handle it yourself but need a little guidance, we will tell you.

Our reputation is as important as your reputation.

inTAXicating Tax Services.  Canada’s only Tax Solution option!

Find us also at Goldhar Tax Solutions, or http://www.goldhartaxsolutions.ca

Find us on Facebook, Twitter and check out our credentials on LinkedIn.  Our blog is always at http://www.intaxicating.wordpress.com

 

Why Your Tax Representation Matters

Every couple of days I receive a call from a taxpayer or corporation regarding huge sums of money they have paid to other so-called “tax solution” firms, without any apparent movement or resolution of their file.  Usually these stories involve secrecy and the requirement for additional funds in order to bring the file to a close.

Would you go to a dentist who treated you like that?

Or have your vehicle repaired at a shop where you were not even sure they had any mechanics there?

When dealing with tax-related matters there should be no secrecy.  There should be questioning whether work was done or not and there certainly should not be doubt that the job was not completed.

Unfortunately this happens more and more.

The representation you chose, when under fire by, not just by the CRA, but all areas of government, like the WSIB, RST, or CRTC, is far more important than you could possibly imagine.  Especially in light of the fact that the CRA, for example, keeps a permanent diary record of your conversations and their attempts to resolve your tax file.  They also carry forward an account summary every 6-months, so in the instance where an account has been transferred to another collector, that new collector will know within minutes how the CRA wants to treat you and / or your representative.

Lie to them.

Break promises.

Call them names, like the “taxman”.

It’s all there and its used against you… Forever.

Case in point:

A couple of years ago I met a couple of directors of a corporation who booked a 2-hour meeting with me for only $500 plus HST. They had come with the intention of having me assist them in negotiation with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) who were in the process of raising a Director’s Liability Assessment against them the unpaid debts of the Corporation they operated.  They could not afford to pay the balance in full and were worried the CRA would take their house.

These directors had also heard about a way to reduce penalties and / or interest and they wanted more information.

They had already met with 2 other tax solution firms and one of them had fed the CRA with a sob story which the CRA did not buy, and after failing to return calls, and have any meaningful conversation with the CRA, disappeared with their money.  The CRA kept trying to reach this representative and the directors had no idea how quickly the collections efforts had progressed and how upset the CRA had beceome.

The second firm charged them a lot of money, then set out to make a payment arrangement with the CRA, even accusing these directors of “fudging” their records in order to show less income than they actually had.

They were frustrated, had spent a lot of money and had now incurred the wrath of the CRA.

Then we sat down together to talk, and after only a few questions and a review of the notices they brought with them, I notified them of the statute of limitations the CRA must follow when raising a Director’s Liability Assessment under s.227.1 of the Income Tax Act and S323.1 of the Excise Tax Act, which was 2 years from the date the corporation ceased to operate or the date the director officially resigned from the corporation.

They said the business closed 3 years ago, and that their accountant had officially closed the corporation with the government.

We talked about the Taxpayer Relief Program and about key language to use when speaking to the CRA in order to begin to change the permanent diary record they keep on the corporation and the directors.

The meeting concluded.

I immediately pulled a corporate profile report, checked that against the date of the assessments the CRA were raising and found them to be beyond that limit.

I used the signed authorization forms to contact the CRA, and that 5-minute conversation resolved the account… Forever.

I provided the directors with a report of the meeting, including the information we discussed, the CRA’s actions to date, their likely next steps, plus recommendations about how to deal properly with the CRA going forward, and I explained to them that there was no need for a payment arrangement because the account had a zero balance.

Luck?

No.

Additional fees?

No.

Were they happy… You could say that.  After they wiped away the tears and finished squeezing the life out of me, they talked about the relief they felt knowing this matter was finally behind them, and how they had other tax matters they wanted me to handle for them.

If representative #1 or representative #2 knew anything about collections or looked beyond their huge payout, they could have helped these directors with this assessment, with the 9-month-long audit that followed or the issues with WSIB, and the CRTC so that these directors owed nothing and their files were closed and in good order.

Does representation matter?

You bet it does!

#inTAXicating

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