Canada Revenue Agency Offering to Close Dormant GST Accounts

[109/365] Taxation.
Taxation. (Photo credit: kardboard604)

I came across an interesting article on the H&R Block blog site regarding the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and their upcoming strategy regarding dormant GST accounts.  The original article can be found right here.  Having spent almost 11-years working for the CRA – almost 2 of those years dedicated to GST, I am very familiar with the problem the CRA faces by having many GST accounts open and unaccounted for.  When the CRA is unsure as to whether the account is open, active and not filing, or open, inactive and never used can often be difficult to determine is the phone number and address on file at the time of registration are no longer applicable.

As many of you are already aware, not filing GST returns is a criminal offence under the Excise Tax Act for which the CRA can, and will prosecute taxpayers.  When the CRA moves to action on these accounts their intention is in their approach so if they suspect the file was opened in error, or can be sure it is not required then they will call, or have a field officer drop by the residence or business to ask about the account.  If, however, they have reason to believe that the account is open and just not-filing, maybe as a result of a telephone conversation, then they approach this completely differently.

In this case, the CRA will begin to collect information for their permanent diary and see how the story differs from the information provided by the taxpayer.  Once they notice a difference, they move in with a Demand to File, which is an indication that they intend to prosecute.

The CRA understand that taxpayers register GST accounts then move and fail to update their address with the CRA (HUGE mistake!) at which point the CRA needs to determine if the account is inactive or a non-filer.  If this is you, or someone you know, it’s best to take care of this right now.

A common example would be this; a taxpayer opened a business which operated as a sole proprietorship (SoleProp) for 18-months until it incorporated.  The new corporation (NewCorp) registered a GST account and began to make its quarterly installments, while the SoleProp no longer had any income attached to it, but instead of closing it, the owner filed nil returns for the next 3-years.

This is an example of an account the CRA would happily close over the phone because the trail is clear and both are current.

Normally, you need to complete a RC145 Form (used to be a GST11)– Request to Close Business Number Program Accounts in order to close your GST account, however under this program, the CRA will close the account if you give them permission over the phone.

Whether the account is closed or not, you still have to file all your outstanding GST/HST returns and pay any amounts owing up until the day your business ends because closing your account does not exempt you from paying any GST owed back to the CRA.  In addition, if you have business assets and shut down the operation, the assets are deemed disposed of at Fair Market Value (FMV) on the day you stopped operating so you will need to calculate the GST on the value of your assets, too.  You will also want to make sure that you capture any bad debts on that final GST return if you have not previously.

If you sell to a purchaser who is a GST registrant and who continues to operate the business, you can jointly file a Form GST44, Election Concerning the Acquisition of a Business or Part of a Business, so the purchaser does not have to collect and you do not have to pay GST.

The important thing to remember about the GST is that once you open an account it remains open until you take action to close it.  If you have a dormant GST account and the CRA is calling you, it will save you time to answer the phone and provide permission to close it.  If you fail to close it and the CRA is unable to get in touch with you, they can enforce collection actions against you and raise director’s liability to hold you personally liable to corporate debts, as well as the previously mentioned criminal prosecution.  Stopping this kind of action can be difficult once the CRA has determined that you are hiding something from them.

Do not wait for the CRA to come collecting their returns or their GST, but if you are already embroiled into a battle with the CRA over notional assessments or GST amounts owing, or worse if you have received a Demand to File notice from the CRA that they are intending to assess you as a director of the corporation and are seeking a due diligence defence, you need professional help right away.

I can help!

Just visit http://www.intaxicating.ca and see how Intaxicating Tax Services can assist you in all your CRA matters.  Passionate about Tax.  Passionate about helping people.

info@intaxicating.ca

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Canadian Live-in Caregiver Program Services: Why using Service Canada’s Contract makes sense

With Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program under attack again as a result of RBC’s announced plan to lay off Canadian employees and hire employees overseas, it’s important to understand that this program also has the Canadian Live-in Caregiver Program (LICP) as a part of it, and that program is essential to working Canadian parents who need to hire a Live-in Caregiver (nanny) from overseas for cost efficient reasons.  The LICP provides opportunity for parents to sponsor and bring trained, educated nannies from overseas, who live in their homes and work for them at a wage very close to the minimum wage.

At the outset, many feel that these nannies are being taken advantage of, however, I see it differently.  Yes, there are employers who ask their employees to work long hours, and do tasks which are outside of the normal requrements of the program, but there are also opportunities for these nannies to speak up and have this addressed, and the outcome is that the employer is banned from using the program.  Times have changed and thankfully this government has also changed the program to make it harder for employers to scam the system and also more difficult for employees to scam their employers.  Of course, there are exceptions…

One big way that employers and employees can start this relationship on the right foot is by following the rules of the LICP, and making sure that the employer and the employee know exactly what they are required to be doing during their time in the program and also to make sure that the employee and employer are also moving forward with plan for once the program ends so that the employee is making smart decisions about their future and the employer is able to assist and know where they stand regarding their caregiver.

At Intaxicating Tax Solutions, we are on the leading edge around requirements and changes to this program as we offer assistance at every stage of the process – from deciding whether to sponsor a nanny through this program, or hiring a live-out caregiver already in Canada, to the setting up and payroll account with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), networking, course suggestions for caregivers and dispute resolution surrounding tasks, requirements and working hours.  Our website is www.intaxicating.ca and you can find plenty of materials written by us around the program on the web.

With all that being said, I thought it might be useful to post the link to Service Canada‘s Live-In Caregiver contract.

The best way to get a working arrangement off on the right foot is by making sure that the employer and employee are both clear around requirements and what happens if these requirements need to be adjusted.  As a contract is a requiremt of the program for sponsoring a live-in caregiver, those hiring live-out caregivers and those nannies who are living in, but not through a formal program like the LICP, also benefit from having a formal contract in place to keep requirements clear.

The contact forms the basis of a legal agreement between employer and employee as to what is expected and agreed upon by both sides and is used in case of disagreement to support the previously agreed upon terms.  Before employment begins both parties have to agree to all the work arrangements in the contract which should outline every detail from hours worked, to amounts renumerated to specific tasks and vacation pay.  It’s like going to get a job anywhere else in the world, where you sign the contact before your employer agrees to hire you and having a formalized contract as part of this program helps prevent employers from taking advantage of nannies and allows nannies to understand what they are getting into to before they agree to start work.

Too often I hear and read about employers who think their live-in nannies are on call 24/7 at their disposal to take care of them and their kids, and their house and their pets…  I also hear and read in parenting groups about employers placing curfews on their nannies, or making them address you as Mr. or Mrs. like they are a servant. Most of it is not allowed and some of it is just not right. If you accepted a job working at a top law firm, or in the warehouse of WalMart would you allow for them to treat you like that?  I suspect that answer is no.

Now that the contract is part of the application process – prospective nannies who come to apply to the program here, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/work/caregiver/apply-how.asp, now understand that there are tight guidelines governing their requirements and rights, as well as the employers.  Nannies MUST sign a written contract with their future employer, and the employer must also sign the contact which is them submitted together with the positive Labour Market Opinion (LMO).

The positive LMO is issued to the employer by the government after a lengthy review of the submitted documents where the information is verified, a phone interview is conducted, and if everything checks out, the employer is deemed to be a suitable employer who has followed all the government requirements and regulations for the LICP.  Employers must also provide to the government their payroll BN number with the CRA, and have available suitable space in their home for a nanny to live, and prove that they have children in need of caring for and the financial capabilities to support a nanny.

The contract must be the same employment contract submitted to HRSDC/SC by your employer, unless you provide an explanation of any changes (for example, a new start date).

The written employment contract will ensure there is a fair working arrangement between you and your employer. The employment contract must demonstrate that the Live-in Caregiver Program requirements are met by including a description of:

•mandatory employer-paid benefits, including:

◦transportation to Canada from your country of permanent residence or the country of habitual residence to the location of work in Canada

◦medical insurance coverage provided from the date of your arrival until you are eligible for provincial health insurance

◦workplace safety insurance coverage for the duration of the employment

◦all recruitment fees, including any amount payable to a third-party recruiter or agents hired by the employer that would otherwise have been charged to you

•job duties

•hours of work

•wages

•accommodation arrangements (including room and board)

•holiday and sick leave entitlements

•termination and resignation terms

The contract the government is expecting to see does not have to look exactly like the one provided for in the link – that one is merely a template – but it must contain all the information and clauses indicated as mandatory and the use of an alternate contract format may cause delays to the processing of the LMO application as HRSDC and Service Canada officers will need to determine if the contract complies with LCP requirements.  A copy of that contract can be found here.

Before you jump into hiring an employee through the Canadian Live-in Caregiver program, or someone already in Canada, make sure that you have all the requirements covered and that you and your employer are on the same page.  If you would like further information or have questions, please feel free to post them in the comment section, or contact us at info@intaxicatingtaxservices.ca.  You can find details around our T4/T4 summary services, our payroll services or our consultation services on our website or by contacting us.

Tax Strategy: Rental income from US must be reported

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service
Logo of the Internal Revenue Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across an interesting article from the Montreal Gazette which covers a couple of interesting issues, and one of keen interest to Canadians as to whether to declare a vacation home in Florida, and if not, what the consequences are.

Did you know that you are required to report it to the IRS on a form 1040 and as well to the CRA, and that it is a credit on the Canadian side?

Read on!

Tax Strategy: Rental income from U.S. must be reported.

Learn How to Lodge a Service-Related Complaint with the CRA

[109/365] Taxation.
Taxation. (Photo credit: kardboard604)
Have you ever had an issue with the Canada Revenue Agency which was so upsetting that you wanted to complain but did not know how?  Well, once you finish reading this post you will know how to do that, when you can do that and what you need to do that.

The first think you will want to do is to follow this link, to the CRA website and read their brief section on service-related complaints.  If everything looks good, then download this form, the RC159 fill it in, and send the completed form, together with supporting documentation and any authorization forms, separately from other tax forms to the CRA.

You can fax your form and supporting documentation to 1.866.388.7371 from Canada or the US or 1.819.536.0701 from outside Canada and the US, or you can mail them to the following address:

CRA – Service Complaints Supporting documentation
National Intake Centre
P.O. Box 8000
Shawinigan-Sud QC. G9N 0A6
CANADA

Make sure to include all relevant documentation that you feel may be helpful in reviewing your complaint or feedback.

This is a service complaint;

A service complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the service, quality, or timeliness of the work performed by the CRA which could include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • undue delays;
  • poor or misleading information;
  • staff behaviour; or
  • mistakes, which could potentially result to a misunderstanding or omission.

This is not a service complaint;

If your service complaint does not relate to a service matter, other options are available, for example:

  • normal delays in the processing of your income tax returns – see Service Standards or for more information on what you can expect from the CRA.
  • dispute an assessment, determination, or decision – see Complaints and disputes.
  • disagreements related to the Income Tax Act – the CRA is responsible for administering tax legislation, not amending it. If you have a complaint about the Income Tax Act or other tax legislation matters, contact the Department of Finance Canada.

Additional information can be found by reading Booklet RC4420, Information on CRA – Service Complaints.

What keeps me busy during the day…

I like taxation, and I have worked in the industry for over 17 years, and no, I am not a CA / CMA / CGA… Yet.  I did not wake up one day deciding this was my passion, but after almost 11 years at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), I certainly have learned a thing or two about Canadian taxation, and in the private sector afterwards I learned a thing or two about US tax, the MRQ and I had the opportunity to manage staff on a permanent basis and test out those MBA skills I worked so hard to learn.

Now I get to help people solve their tax problems and that is what makes me happy.

Here is a little biography about myself and my work-experience;

I graduated from University here in Toronto with a specialized honours degree in Public Policy and Administration.  The economy was in a downturn so I began to sell promotional items which I would customize for clients, such as; Pens, mugs, sports uniforms, etc. and I did that for just over a year-and-a-half until I applied to the CRA at the suggestion of a friend.  Seven months, later and I was settling in for my first day of training.  I will never forget the horror of walking through the office and seeing one fellow sleeping at his desk and another doing the crossword…  Little did I know what would come next.  The CRA, or maybe all governments, are unique in many ways.  They have goals, they have mandates and they have unions.  The fact that someone was resting had no bearing on the amount of work they accomplished, or how much they knew.  I certainly learned that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover.

11 months in to a job working in Collections, I was part of the most recent hiring group which was let go due to budget issues, however we were entitled to write entry exams allowing us to be re-ranked for potential re-hire.  I wrote all the exams, completed the interview and was ranked 1st, meaning if the CRA decided to hire anyone from that list, they would have to offer me a position first, and sure enough they did.

The next 10 years was a giant blur of exams, coffee breaks, crosswords and discussion about the amount of work which needed to get done vs. the amount of work allowable under the union guidelines.  For the most part this was never an issue.  During my time there I moved from an entry-level collector to a field officer and then to a resource officer and I touched a lot of areas during my time there including; compliance, GST/HST, Taxpayer relief (then fairness), Director’s Liability, Audit, Training and Learning, and so much more.  I also completed 3 years of accounting towards a CGA/CMA and my MBA degree.  I took 2 parental leaves and I worked with management to set up a collections conference and a mentoring program which I ran for 2 years.  I also performed a ton of training for all of the new hires and the rest of the staff.  I found I had an ability to take legislation and break it down into English and explain it to everyone, which helped with training and resolving complex issues.

I found treating staff as resources got the most of them and I was afforded many opportunities to manage teams within my areas.  I also found that by picking up the phone and speaking to the so-called debtors, that I could get across to people who owed the CRA money and explain what steps the CRA would be taking and use that to discuss what was in their best interests and what was in the best interests of the CRA.  As a result, I closed a lot of files without having to take any legal or enforcement actions other than talking to them.   “How would you like to resolve this?” was / and still is, a very acceptable opening line.  No accusations, and no blaming.  When I needed to flex my muscles to get something done, I certainly did just that and when push came to shove if I needed something done that was being delayed I found ways to get it done faster, or I learned it myself and taught others how to do it.

I was awarded the CRA Employee of the Year one year for my work in the office and my extracurricular work (volunteering and course-work) and as you could expect, I was quickly realizing that I was wearing out my welcome there.  I needed a change.

So just before 11 years at the CRA, I threw my resume online and I was hired by the world’s largest transfer agent to run their investor tax reporting department which I happily did for 4 years.  In this role, I learned about investor slips, T4’s, T5’s, T3’s, T5008’s, and the US forms, W8’s, W9’s, 1099B’s, and got my feet wet with Cost Basis and FATCA.  I also had a brief dive into Qualified Intermediaries, but thankfully that nightmare was moved off to compliance and legal.

While working there, I was plucked away for an opportunity as an AVP at a bank which afforded me an opportunity to dive deep into FATCA and the mutual fund side of tax reporting; Contribution receipts, T3’s, and the like.

When that opportunity ended, I was asked to work as a consultant, leading FATCA for the bank, but from somewhere down near Dallas, Texas but I decided to remain here in Toronto and I’m glad that I did.

In case you were not aware, there was a recent study published – which for the life of me I cannot find right now – which revealed that 55% of all bankruptcies in Canada were due to the Canada Revenue Agency (amounts owing / collection / enforcement actions).  That tells me that there a LOT of Canadians with tax problems and many who have tax problems but don’t know they have tax problems because they never open the brown CRA envelopes.

Now, on to my current role:

As the Managing Director of a professional tax firm committed to helping Canadians who have tax problems resolve their matters with the CRA, I have the opportunity to do what I like doing the most – helping others.  In doing this, I also help the CRA resolve some of their most complex accounts and I help people get their debt in order and their tax accounts current and up-to-date.  The management team are incredibly knowledgable about the industry and my colleagues, peers and staff are second to none.  It’s a good fit all around.

Since I have taken over this role, I have met with, and spoken to, many Canadians across the country about their tax problems and together we have worked to help them become debt-free and resolve their CRA problems so they can go back to being able to sleep at night.  I am happy to help you or someone you know.

It’s amazing what all that CRA knowledge in so many different areas can do to move a file forward.

Beware of Fraudulent Communications! The CRA Does NOT Randomly Request Personal Information.

Canada Revenue Agency
Canada Revenue Agency (Photo credit: John Bristowe)

The CRA issued a warning, as the periodically have to do, to make sure that citizens are aware of some scams being committed via email, phone and mail whereby someone is pretending to be the CRA and they are asking for personal information such as a credit card number, social insurance number (SIN), bank information or passport information.

As in EVERY other situation, if someone, anyone asks you for this information, you should NOT be providing it.

If the CRA wants to contact you for information they already know all this information and will not be asking you for it.  Even worse is the fact that the fraudsters are arguing that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or benefit payment.

Again, the CRA knows this information and if you are eligible for a program or benefit, they will either enroll you in it automatically or they will send you a letter asking you to call the CRA general enquiries line.

Another common scam refers the person to a Web site resembling the CRA’s Web site where the person is asked to verify their identity by entering  personal information.

Again, this is not true.  The CRA website is http://www.cra.gc.ca where the “gc” stands for “government Canada” and the “ca” represents that the website is Canadian.  If the fraudster persists, please hang up and call the general enquiries line to confirm or call the RCMP (details below).

So just to confirm, and this is from the CRA website;

The CRA does not do the following:

  • The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email.
  • The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The CRA will continue to post notifications of fraudulent communications as they become aware of them and encourages you to check their Web site should you have concerns.

Examples You will find examples of a fraudulent letter, emails, and online refund forms from the CRA’s website in the links provided.  Notice how shoddy and unprofessional the request are.  As per telephone calls, the CRA will occasionally leave messages for taxpayers on their answering machines, including a callback number, and a request for the taxpayer to have their SIN handy when they call, however, it is important to note that not all telephone messages claiming to be from the CRA are genuine.  If you have any doubt and wish to verify the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, agent name, or location. you should contact the CRA directly by using the numbers on our Telephone numbers page.  For business-related calls, contact 1-800-959-5525 and for individual concerns, contact 1-800-959-8281.

If you have responded to a fraudulent communication and have become a victim of fraud, please contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by email at info@antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.

Be careful when giving out personal information to anyone regardless of where they claim to work.  The CRA won’t get offended.  They’ll try again a different way if necessary.

Interesting: CRA Employee Fired over Video Game About His Job

Not CRA-Approved
This child will now never create a video-game about her CRA job!

I was a little caught aback when I saw that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) fired an employee over a video game that he had created based on his job.  Getting fired from the CRA is not easy task – as I used to tell people when I worked at the CRA, you could stand on your bosses desk and pee on his / her papers and not come close to getting fired.  I had to do some research and ask around to get more details in order to see what really happened to cause this termination. My immediate reaction to this article – before reading it and researching for more details, as that I would have thought that someone with this kind of wit and abilities should not be fired from the CRA, but rather, promoted in the CRA, right into the IT or marketing departments where his skills could be used to help the CRA make peace with the general public. Then again, I’m not often surprised by the decisions made by the CRA.The video game this employee made, was not solely based on his job, but rather, on the disdain of his job – which makes a pretty big difference. in my opinion.  In case you would like to locate the game and check it out, the developer’s name is David S. Gallant and the name of his game is “I Get This Call Every Day”.  Based on details of his location and that he would be receiving calls every day which are similar, I came to the conclusion that he worked in the call centre somewhere out near the Toronto West TSO.

In the game, users listen to a customer call and are given options for how they can respond to the inquiry.  The game prompts the user to respond to the calls, and having never seen the game I cannot be 100% sure, but I understand that there are common responses and some shall we say are a little less than professional, such as the often cited snarky response like “I’m not your buddy, sir” which is intended to rile up callers instead of helping them with their problems and moving on to the next call.

While it’s true that the CRA are not your buddies, I can honestly saw in the 11-years I spent at the CRA and the 7 years since dealing with call services agents on the phone, I am more concerned when an employee is unable to navigate their system (because they are new or not adequately trained) so they cannot provide me information I require or are unwilling to, but I have never, ever had an agent be rude to me even in the slightest – for which I give the CRA top marks because within the CRA everyone knows the call centre is like a prison because the agents are handcuffed to the phones and have no opportunities to wander from their desks as say, collections or audit staff would.   Advancement opportunities are also quite limited, but the training these guys get is top-notch and I have personally hired staff from the call centres for private sector work because of their knowledge and they customer service skills.

Mr. Gallant was quoted as saying that; “I felt the need to express myself, and despite the fact that I could’ve lost my job for it, I still wanted to ensure that I got my art out there and I made it available to people.”

The Minister of National Revenue, Gail Shea, however failed to see the humour in the situation.  “The minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable,” a statement released from her office.  The CRA will now proceed with the common practice of conducting a full investigation into the access of Mr. Gallant to ensure no confidential information was compromised, and no illegal activities took place while Mr. Gallant was employed there.

While I personally witnessed much more severe acts which should have resulted in termination, the CRA does not like to get embarrassed, and that is probably what they feel this was.  Unfortunately, unless the game clearly identifies Mr. Gallant and his position at the CRA, then this is another circumstance of someone from within the CRA outing an employee and getting them punished which happens a lot in bureaucracies, especially in the CRA which I can attest to.

If anyone has seen the game or played it, I would love for them to comment with their feedback in order to add additional facts to my post, or email me at realurbandaddy@gmail.com with your thoughts and I can keep them anonymous and add the facts at the bottom of this post.