Ottawa estimates corporations dodged up to $11.4 billion in 2014 tax payments

Very interesting article published on June 18th, 2019 via the Canadian Press, regarding what appears to be Canadian Corporations avoiding the payment of $11.4 billion dollars in taxes owing to the CRA.

My initial reaction to that headline was likely similar to what others who saw this headline probably felt – that corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes, that corporations get all these tax breaks and that the government allows corporations to not pay taxes.

But before I would be able to properly comment on this, I would have to read the article a few times to figure out what the actual story is.

According to the article, the issues are these;
“Corporations avoided paying Ottawa between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion in taxes in 2014″, according to a new federal report created by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which estimated these figures.

The report estimates the “tax gap”, or the difference between what is owed to the government and what was collected by the CRA — for small and medium enterprises is between $2.7 billion and $3.5 billion and for large corporations, between $6.7 billion and $7.9 billion.

“The corporate figures bring the total estimated 2014 tax gap from a series of studies by a dedicated CRA unit to between $21.8 billion and $26 billion — or 10.6% to 12.6% of revenues — not including funds recovered or lost due to audits.”

By not including funds recovered or lost during audits, and not going into detail as to what “audit” specifically means, it could represent the amount of taxes assessed during an audit (where the CRA found additional taxes owing), or lost (where the CRA had assessed a corporation, only to find out during an audit that the assessment was inaccurate or invalid, and thus reversed, revised or reduced).

Taking a closer look at the figures, might be a huge shock to anyone who feels that corporations get it easy in Canada.

In 2014, Corporate tax filers reported approximately $298 billion in taxable income and $40.9 billion in total federal tax payable. Even though they made up only about 1% of the 2.1 million corporate tax filers, large corporations reported about 52% of the total corporate taxable income and contributed about 54% of the federal tax.

More than half the taxes collected in this country come from large corporations!

After being fed data which explained that the corporate tax gap for 2014 was between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion, then the government goes on to mention that the “total” estimated 2014 tax gap is $21.8 billion and $26 billion, meaning between $12.4 billion and $14.6 billion is taxes owed by individuals who are not paying their taxes…

Then the government explains that after the audits, which were left out of the equation, are finalized, the corporate tax gap will actually be reduced by between 31-40% for small enterprises and between 64-75% for large corporations, which means overall, the corporate tax gap for 2014 is actually somewhere between $3.3 billion and $5.3 billion and not $9.4 billion to $11.4 billion.

Clear, right?

So that means the actual tax gap, taking into consideration the post-audit figures that the CRA anticipates, is actually between $15.7 billion to $19.9 billion, and of those taxes owing, most of it is owing from individual Canadians who are not paying.

Meanwhile, large corporations pay 54% of the total taxes paid to this country to fund services, roads, healthcare, and the many benefits that we have all come to appreciate.

Why is this article geared towards corporations? Shouldn’t it be thanking the corporations and pointing fingers at the Canadians who are not paying their fair share? Why was it positioned this way?

Since that answer could be anything, ranging from inaccurate reporting to political manoeuvring, then the only question that remains from this article surrounds what constitutes “taxes owing”? Is that figure based on amounts reported by Canadians who just never paid the taxes, or does that figure include assessed amounts owing that the CRA created, and which may or may not be owing? If it’s the latter then it’s highly likely that the tax gap is even smaller.

NOTE

Ask me one day to tell the story about the notional assessments that I raised while working at the CRA at the request of my team leader to “get the attention” of the business… It got the attention of more than the business! It got the attention of the Minister of Finance. Lesson learned.

So, to conclude, there is a tax gap. There will always be a tax gap because not every Canadian has the ability to pay their taxes in full and on time, each and every year. As well, not every Canadian files their taxes on time, or are required to file on time, which means the full picture will never be forthcoming because of all the moving parts.

The timing and content of this article leads me to believe that the Federal government and the CRA going to come after corporations.  They shouldn’t, based on the actual figures, but corporations do not vote in elections – people do.

What the true intent of this article is, however, is very unclear to me.

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Winnipeg insulation company to pay nearly $500K in fines and back taxes for tax evasion

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced on their website that a Winnipeg-based insulation company has been fined after underreporting its taxable income by more than $1 million.

The CRA’s Investigators found irregularities in the books and records of Thermo Applicators Inc., such as, that the company’s president included personal expenses in the company’s books, including construction costs for a cabin near Kenora, Ont. and a vacation home in Mexico, as well as a fly-in fishing trip. None of these are eligible tax deductions.

Thermo pleaded guilty in Manitoba provincial court on May 21 to two counts of making false or deceptive statements in the 2009-14 tax years. The court found $1,139,000 million in taxable income went unreported, in addition to the claiming of ineligible expenses.

As a result, the company is being ordered to pay $190,142 in income tax and $47,611 of sales tax that should have been withheld. In addition to paying the taxes, the company was fined $237,753.

Once penalties and interest are added to the debt dating back to 2009 the balance will shoot up well over $500,000.

This conviction is a clear reminder that failing to declare income and claiming false expenses can be very costly should the CRA perform and audit and find it.

Keep good records, report all income and claim eligible expenses.

Gifting Scheme Conviction. Be Careful With Your Hard Earned Money!

A Coaldale, Alberta man has been arrested for fraud after allegedly being one of the central figures in a so-called “gifting” scheme which has taken in about 500 individuals across the province of Alberta.

Gifting schemes have been under the microscope at the Canada Revenue Agency for over a decade, and in all cases, the CRA have rejected these schemes, and denied the donation receipts of the contributors.

While these cases play out in Tax Court, the participants are left to fend for themselves, often accruing penalties and interest which far exceed the amount of their contribution or their tax benefit.

In this specific scheme, Steele Cameron Tolman, 57, was charged with fraud over $5,000 and possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000. He is scheduled to appear in court in Lethbridge on May 17 to answer LPS charges he is a “main presenter” or “promoter” of a gifting circle fraud which began in September 2018.

These schemes – and this scheme specifically – operate under false pretences, whereby people are recruited by telling them that if they contribute $5,000 they will eventually receive $40,000 with no risk.

The fraud occurs when that $5,000 is used to payout the $40,000 to one of the earlier members which means new members must be recruited in order to continue paying out members.

If this scheme was promoted out of a parking lot, and some guy’s back of their van, they are going to say this scheme was completely ridiculous, however, this was promoted by friends and family who received the $40,000 payout which added additional legitimacy to the scheme.

The fraud is criminal in nature because the recruitment of new members occurs under the false pretense of “no risk. Those who participated and received their $40,000, are in receipt of the proceeds of crime, which is illegal, and those who received their payouts must declare that income to the Canada Revenue Agency.

What is truly amazing is that people who participate in schemes and scams like these can claim that they did so thinking it was legal, and have used that argument in conversations with the police and the CRA.

If you give someone $5,000 and they give you back $40,000 – which seems too good to be true… Means it is too good to be true.

Much in the same way that someone donating $1,000 to a “charity” and receives a tax receipt for a donation of $2500.  It’s illegal, and you’re going to get caught and the penalties and interest will far exceed the amount of benefit received.

Be careful with your hard earned money. There are no fast and easy ways to make a buck. Don’t fall for scams and schemes and get left with a tax debt, or worse.

A Tax Joke? Taxes are Not a joke!

I don’t normally posts jokes.  Taxes are not funny.

But this was sent to me, and it made me laugh as a former employee of the CRA responsible to collections, compliance and a variety of other responsibilities.

Here it is;

A local Canadian bar, You Moose Be Joking, was so sure that its bartenders – Bob and Doug McKenzie – were the strongest men in the Yukon, that they offered a standing $1000 bet to anyone who dared to take them up on their challenge.

Each bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and then they would each hand their lemon to a patron, and if that patron could squeeze just one more drop of lemon juice out of that lemon, they would win the money.

Over the years, many people, and a couple of Moose had tried, but failed.  That list includes: weightlifters, longshoremen, radiologists, race-car drivers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, students, and even duct cleaners. 

Nobody could squeeze one single drop out of the lemons.

Then one cold, windy day, a scrawny, pale, tired looking man walked into the bar, and with a very faint almost unassuming voice, he went over to the bar, pushed up his thick, dirty glasses, and meekly said; “I’d like to try the lemon bet.”

The bar went silent, as everyone looked at the man, and sized up his chances of succeeding at this challenge.

Once the laughter died down, the bartender said, “OK.  Let’s do it!”  He gathered the other bartender, and they each grabbed a lemon, and squeezed them until their faces went red, and not a single drop was left in the fruit.

They each handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to this man, and without any effort, he squeezed the lemons – one in each hand – until drops of lemon juice poured out of his hands, down his wrists and onto the floor.

The crowd fell silent.

Then, after realizing that he had succeeded at this challenge, the crowd erupted, gathered up the man and put him on their shoulders.

“Drinks are on me!” The man said.

“How did you do that?”, the bartenders queried.  “Are you a lumberjack?  Or a weight-lifter?  How did you do that?”

The man smirked and said; “I’m great at getting blood from a stone!  I work for Revenue Canada.”

 

Groan.

Member of Nova Scotia First Nation charged with evading $2.2 million in taxes

The Canada Revenue Agency have announced that they have charged a member of Nova Scotia’s Millbrook First Nation with evading $2.2 million in GST/HST.

The CRA charged Lisa L. Marshall who was the operator of the Traditional Trading Post, a convenience store, located on the Cole Harbour reserve of the Millbrook First Nation using the Excise Tax Act with wilfully evading or attempting to evade compliance with that Act.

The CRA alleges that between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2015, the store failed to collect or remit $2,284,144.72 in Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) related to the sale of tobacco products to non-Aboriginals.

The agency says people who fail to remit tax owing are liable not only for the full amount, but also to penalties and interest, and if convicted, the court can levy a fine of up to 200% of the tax evaded and also impose a prison term of up to 5 years.

The moral of the story here, is that if you are required to charge, collect and remit GST or HST, you should.  The CRA treats Trust Funds – money taken by registrants and held in trust until they are remitted to the Crown – very seriously, and those who misuse Trust Funds are dealt with swiftly and to the full extent of the law allowed to be used by the CRA.

 

CRA Hires New Chief Service Officer. (It wasn’t me, but it should have been me!)

On November 1st, 2018, the CRA announced that as a result of complaints from the public related to “significant service delays”, they have launched a national consultation tour and on this tour will be promoting the appointment of a new Chief Service Officer (CSO).

That position should have been mine, but they never asked, so instead of helping the masses while working at the CRA, I’ll have to continue helping Taxpayers as inTAXicating.

While noting the introduction of a “new suite of services … leading to real results for Canadians”, or a return to the service that the CRA used to give Taxpayers, the CRA is admitting that it has a long way to go in the eyes of Canadians when it comes to providing anything related to “Customer Service”.

In March of 2018, the CRA appointed its first CSO, Mireille Laroche who happens to be a bilingual career public servant with a background in and who previously worked at the Department of Finance.

So much for the CSO helping Taxpayers with Collections issues related to the CRA because for that to happen, the CSO would need actual time working in, you know, Collections.

That being said, the CSO be classified as an Assistant Commissioner of the Service, Innovation and Integration Branch, as well as Chief Data Officer.

The Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, has visited a number of remote locations over the past year to discuss service issues promising solutions, but none have come from the CRA.

Stated “improvements” coming from the CRA include; the opening of the Northern Service Centres in territorial capitals, an enhancement of the CRA’s digital services, and the implementation of a new call centre platform because the one they currently use doesn’t meet the needs of Canadians.

A CRA spokeperson stated that, “these service enhancements will address many of the frustrations Canadians have experienced when they interact with the CRA [and] while they will be of significant benefit to Canadians, they are really just the beginning of the CRA’s client-focused approach to service.”

To that statement, I disagree!  I think the public wants to be able to sit down with their Collections representative face-to-face and that the CRA’s insistence of moving collections files to these “hubs” has created additional confusion, unnecessary stress and assessment which would have been resolved in person previously.

In addition to launching both online and in-person public consultations, the CRA is holding a series of “design jams,” which, according to the CRA spokesperson, is “a collaborative brainstorming activity used to solve design problems. It is part of the ‘design thinking toolkit.’ Design jams produce prototypes, pitches, or proposals; it is the equivalent of a ‘hackathon’ but for designers. The focus is on stakeholder and participant empowerment. Rapid ideation is done with all stakeholders involved.”

Time will tell if there will be actual changes being made to the way the CRA interacts with Taxpayers, or if this is just another way for the Federal Liberal government to spend taxpayer money while touting all the “progress” that has been / will be made.

BC Tracking Condo Purchasers

Effective September 18th, 2018, the Ministry of Finance in the province of British Columbia (Canada) has introduced a new version of their property transfer tax return which asks for additional information which could be used by the Ministry of Finance, or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to track condo flippers, or those individuals or businesses who purchase condos and rent them out.

The property tax transfer (PTT) return requires that individuals with a “significant interest” in a corporation or trust that acquires property must be identified, with some exceptions.

If, the purchase is made through a corporation or trust, this new legislation will require property developers to collect a database of pre-sale buyers and remit that list to the BC Government.

The change in the regulations have been implemented to reduce the opportunity for tax evasion and / or money laundering, which are believed to have contributed to the skyrocketing house prices in the province.

The New PTT Return will likely require information on all beneficiaries of certain trusts and corporate interest holders including their name, contact information, tax identifiers (SIN, ITN, BN), and citizenship.

The draft legislation titled the Land Owner Transparency Act is still in the consulting stage and the BC government has stated that the results of the consultations do not affect the new PTT return which came into effect September 17, 2018.

These changes pose real threats to the highly speculative pre-sale condo market in BC, and if successful, will likely be implemented in other large urban centres, such as Toronto, Montreal and then across the country.

In recent years, pre-sale buyers have made out like bandits, securing pre-sale contracts with no proof of funds, without having financing in place, or the ability to secure financing and in many cases these buyers have absolutely no intention of closing upon completion of the condo, instead, flipping the contract to other buyers at a profit, without paying the tax on the gain.

The CRA frowns on buyers who flip condo contracts once a profit has been realized and have cracked down on this process, albeit, not enough, and not just on those who have been taking part.  The CRA has also assessed buyers who have legitimately sold their units and who have met all of the requirements for ownership, however it’s much easier for the CRA to determine everyone is guilty than to have to pull the legitimate from the pile of illegitimate.

These contract flippers have been successful because there is no title registration through BC land titles which means the best that the CRA can do is take the developer to court in order to obtain the list of pre-sale buyers who have flipped their contract, or go to court and seek information through a Requirement for Information, but the CRA must have evidence to support their claim that buyers have flipped condo contracts without declaring the capital gain.

All in all, this is just another area where the CRA is tightening up regulations thanks to the BC Ministry of Finance, and we will soon see this process come to an end.  In the meantime, there will be a whole bunch of taxpayers who will be assessed by the CRA, and there will be a 50% Gross Negligence penalty attached to that assessment.

Taxpayers who have been assessed by the CRA and who have done nothing wrong, should contact inTAXicating Tax Services at info@intaxicating.ca, and discuss our strategy for assisting taxpayers.