“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.

 

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CRA Announces Conviction: Seeking Victim Impact Statements by April 20th.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced that James Harvey Cameron, from Calgary, was criminally convicted on March 28th of creating and operating a fraudulent RRSP scheme.

According to court documents, from 2002 to 2006, Cameron was the master-mind behind a fraudulent RRSP scheme through which he diverted $2.5 million of investors’ funds for his own use. He also failed to report the money as taxable income, evading federal taxes totalling $673,871.

The CRA considers these offenses serious, and the courts found Cameron guilty of tax evasion and fraud.

A date for a sentencing hearing has yet to be set, but is likely to take place between April 24 and May 12, 2017.

The CRA is encouraging victims of Cameron’s fraud who wish to appear at the sentencing hearing to seek restitution or make a victim impact statement to contact the Public Prosecution Service of Canada at 403-299-3978 by April 20th.

Your Questions Answered About The CRA’s Informant Leads (Snitch) Line

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has employed the Informant Leads Line, or “Snitch Line” for a very long time, and with incredible results.Snitch line

The snitch line has been so successful that the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) have constantly reduced their investigations workforce because they get more detailed information through tipsters than they would if they had employees trying to locate this information on their own.

Who uses this line?

The majority of calls to the Snitch line still come from ex-wives (and some ex-husbands), former business partners and neighbours who have been confided in and either felt compelled to notify the government of the fraud being committed or who were hurt, harmed or cheated by the person who has been committing the fraud.

The line is used to ”get even”, or have someone “pay their fair share”.

How private is the line?

It is important to know should you decide to call the Canada Revenue Agency’s Informant Leads Line that the CRA takes your privacy VERY seriously and they will never notify the person(s) / organization(s) that you call on that it was you who called their line.

The CRA will cite their “Privacy Notice”, meaning that they regularly collect personal information under the authority of the Income Tax Act (ITA) and the Excise Tax Act (ETA) and they will use that information as the justification for following up on information provided by callers to the Informant Leads Line to determine if there is an element of non-compliance with tax legislation, and if applicable provided to the corresponding compliance program for appropriate enforcement action.

Does this just go to the CRA?

Information provided on this line may also be referred to the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) or Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), in the event that the lead relates to one of the programs they administer.

Does it impact me?

The information provided is voluntary and will not affect any dealings you may have with the Government of Canada / Revenue Canada.

 

Here are some answers to the most common questions asked of me, relating to the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Informant Leads / Snitch Line, starting with:

1) When should I call the CRA’s Informant Leads Line:

When there is “Tax Evasion”, which is an illegal practice where a person or business avoids paying taxes or reduces their taxes by misrepresenting their activities.

2) How can I report tax evasion?

Over the Internet (I have linked the CRA page and provided it here in case you’re nervous about clicking the link)

Link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/nvstgtns/lds/menu-eng.html#ntrnt

By phone, mail or fax

Phone: 1-866-809-6841 (toll free)

Fax: 1-888-724-4829 (toll free)

Office hours: 8:15 am. to 5:45 pm. (Eastern Time).

Mailing address:

National Leads Centre
Business Intelligence & Quality Assurance Division
Canada Revenue Agency
200 Town Centre Court Scarborough ON M1P 4Y3

3) Some examples of tax evasion are:

  • Not reporting all income
  • Claiming deductions for expenses that were not incurred or are not legally deductible
  • Claiming false GST/HST tax credits
  • Failing to remit source deductions
  • Providing false information on marital status or children to obtain benefits and credits

4) What happens to the information provided to the CRA?

The CRA diarizes everything and determines if they need to take immediate enforcement action or if they need additional information before moving forward. Either way, you will never be notified as to whether or whether not the CRA took action as they are prohibited from doing so under section 241 of the ITA and section 295 of the ETA.

5) Does the CRA pay for the information I provide?

No. The CRA does not pay for information received from informants who call the Snitch line.

The CRA does now have the Offshore Tax Informant Program (OTIP) which offers financial awards to individuals with information about major cases of international tax non-compliance resulting in more than $100,000 of additional federal tax being assessed and collected.

For more information, please visit the OTIP website, including how to make a submission.

6) What do I get for reporting tax fraud?

Well, besides feeling great, you are helping to ensure that all Canadian taxpayers are paying their fair share of taxes and this benefits all Canadians. The CRA will tell you that if everyone pays what they owe taxes might go down… I’m not holding my breath, but you never know.

7) Will the CRA ever reveal who provided the information to them?

Never!  However, you can provide them with consent to release your identity, should you want that person(s) / organization(s) to know. The CRA has a legal obligation not to disclose the identity of informants, any information that might disclose an informant’s identity or even information that might reveal the existence of an informant is removed, even in the case where an Access to Information request is made.

8) How can you send information by email?

You can submit general informant information to the CRA using their secure Internet portal. If you want to provide supporting documentation you are best to mail or fax it.

9) Does the CRA really look at EVERY lead, and take them seriously?

YES.

10) If I submit a lead, then want to revoke it, is there a way to do that?

NO.

11) What stops someone from phoning in a fake lead?

Well, before the CRA is able to take any action, they require more information that just “My ex has a job working for cash.” The CRA would need some or all of the information listed below to help them prioritize the severity of the tax evasion and let them know if they need to get more information or if they can get working on it right away.

Helpful information includes:

  • Names and contact information for the person(s) / organization(s) you suspect
  • Address of business / Taxpayer, phone numbers, email, etc.
  • Social insurance number (SIN) / business number (BN)
  • Date of birth
  • Spouse’s name
  • Business name – the registered name and / or the operating as name
  • Names of shareholders if a corporation is involved
  • Any related companies
  • Type of fraud you suspect:

     

    • Income tax (personal – T1 or corporate – T2)
    • Provincial tax (PST)
    • GST/HST
    • Non-filing
    • Fraudulent refunds
    • Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)
    • Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
  • Details of your observations
  • Documents: have you seen these documents? Do you know where they’re kept?
  • Does the person deal in cash only? Do you know what they do with the cash?
  • Net worth information, such as assets, including those outside Canada (cash, name and address of banks, house, land, cottage, vehicles, boats, etc.)
  • Liabilities (loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.)
  • Personal expenditures (food, housing, trips, restaurants, hobbies, etc.)
  • Your name and phone number (this is optional)

The CRA will ask you if they can contact you if they require more information. That is up to you.

If at any point, the CRA determines this information is incorrect, fabricated or provided to them for the purposes of committing fraud, not only will they indicate the details on your permanent diary record, but they will also take actions against you.

Once you have submitted a lead to the CRA, it’s good to have an understanding of the fines and/or penalties which can be levied upon the individual / organization, as they can be as high as 200% of the taxes which were attempted to have been evaded.

In addition, the CRA publishes the results of its prosecution activities on its Convictions Web page.

Concerned that someone will call the CRA on you?

If you have found yourself to be in violation of any of these requirements and are worried that the CRA will find out, or that someone will call the snitch line on you, you should contact us at inTAXicating, and we can begin to discuss the steps to help you which may or may not include the CRA’s Voluntary Disclosure Program.

info@intaxicating.ca

http://www.intaxicating.ca

Remember:

It is ALWAYS better to get to the CRA before they get to you!

CRA employees steal $300,000 in refunds from Canadian Taxpayers

The Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) credibility is reeling after an Access to Information (ATIP) Probe revealed that 2 senior employees in the Debt Management division were found to have been stealing from Canadian Taxpayers.

This massive fraud was detected in 2008 and had been going on for almost 8 years in both cases, which shows that it was very detailed and well thought out because no one knew about it for such a significant period of time.

At the time this fraud was brought to light, there was a belief that it further implicated the lack of quality management inside the CRA – that it’s just not up to par with the responsibilities they are required to perform.  With access to people SIN numbers, and the ability to move billions of dollars annually, the current crop of team leaders, managers and all of senior management are shown yet again to lack the competency to properly manage staff and protect the interests of Canadian taxpayers.

What makes this fraud even more appalling is that while uncovered in 2008, the CRA kept news of it from going public for more than a year, until the facts were released through a request under access-to-information law.

In the one case, a veteran male CRA employee routed approximately $300,000 generated from illegitimate returns into his bank accounts. In the other case, a veteran female employee defrauded the Canadian public of approximately $100,000 through manipulating their systems into issuing refunds and payments to accounts she had set up and controlled for this purpose.

On September 16th, 2009, the CRA refused to name the fraudsters or reveal whether they were fired or charged and convicted, saying that to identify them would violate “privacy laws”.  The CRA also refuse to confirm or deny that any or all of the stolen monies were recovered after the fraud was discovered in 2008.  CRA spokeswoman Caitlin Workman did, however, reveal that “They no longer work here,” she said.  She also dismissed the notion that this fraud would erode the publics’ credibility in the CRA and that these two individuals actions an anomaly, “We have close to 45,000 employees here, and they deal with millions of tax and benefit files on a daily basis. And here we are talking about two individuals.  Yes, we take it very seriously, but it should also be put in perspective.”  Ms. Workman said internal fraud of this magnitude is very infrequent, “I don’t have any numbers for you but they are very rare.”

The Crime

The male employee took more than $300,000 by routing bogus refunds and related Canada Child Tax Benefit and GST credit payments to his personal accounts, the ATIP documents revealed.  “For the last eight years, at least, he had filed tax returns and claimed [benefits and credits] for individuals he did not know,” the Internal Audit investigation revealed.  “Based on the information gained and the list of social insurance numbers found at his workstation, it is reasonable to believe that [he] may have had a role to play in the issuance of illegitimate refunds on more than 50 accounts.”

The female CRA employee, prepared and filed hundreds of illegitimate returns, ensuring the tax refunds and goods and services tax credits were routed to her own bank accounts.

This was made public through access-to-information requests made by researcher Ken Rubin.

An important note is that anyone is entitled to make an ATIP request into their own personal tax information at any time.

Internally, this fraud was brought to light after other CRA employees became suspicious when they tried to verify some of the claims and could not reach the taxpayers in question.  The ATIP request found internal documents stating; “After reviewing the motor vehicle records and conducting credit bureau checks … [a staffer] was unable to determine the whereabouts of the taxpayers involved and could not establish whether or not they actually existed.”

Where it appears that CRA management failed the Canadian public the most is that the internal investigation turned up that both employees had made thousands of unauthorized searches into taxpayers’ accounts, including gaining access to their own files, and members of their family.

Unauthorized access is the most severe offense at the CRA, a current employee who did not want to be named stated that, “We are required every year to sign a document stating that we will not access information that does not directly relate to our work-load and for every account we enter, we are required to fully diarize the reasons for accessing it.  We are told that if we access information that we should not be accessing, we will have our access suspended immediately pending investigation and if found guilty, suspended or fired”.  There is no way that “thousands” of an authorized accesses should have been allowed.  It just goes to show that management let down the Canadian public by not knowing what employees are doing on a daily basis, or for allowing these accesses to occur without punishment.

It might come down to the fact that these (now former) employees were part of the “old boys network” and that their transgression were tolerated until it was brought to the attention of someone senior at the CRA who would not let it occur anymore.  The contact at the CRA stated that there are others who have been suspected of carrying out similar frauds who still are employed by the CRA including putting themselves on the payroll of companies they are auditing, or by accessing information of friends, colleagues or even staff their manage.

The bottom line here is this… Your information is safe at the CRA, and the CRA employees take privacy and security extremely seriously. There are significant consequences relating to access to information which can result in suspension or termination.  Every time there is a breach, the CRA immediately steps up and puts plans and procedures in place to make sure it never happens again.

So before you start bitching about the CRA, and about taxes – which is your right – make sure you take care of your own backyard and file your taxes on time, pay your taxes, and don’t carry a balance owing at the CRA.