The Elevator Pitch! How Important Is It?

The elevator pitch, otherwise known as your ability to tell someone what you do for a living in 15-20 seconds without leaving out any critical details.

Wikipedia calls it this; “An elevator pitchelevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.”

The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride of around 30 seconds.

The term originates from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator where after the brief pitch, the other party is interested in learning more. thus continuing the conversation after the elevator ride or through en exchange of a business card or smart phone details.

As a tax consultant, I thought I had the perfect elevator pitch that went something like this; “I help people who have problems with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  I worked in the CRA for over 10-years – pretty much out of university – and worked my way up through the collections division until leaving for the private sector.”

I found it to be too long, and open for interruption so much that I would add details, such as that I completed 3-years of my accounting (CGA) designation and a 3-year MBA before leaving, or that I spent a significant part of my time at the CRA training the staff, handling the most complex accounts in the office and helping improve processes.

Then it became an elevator pitch for a 65-story building ride… To the top and all the way back down to the bottom.

Then I found an article in Forbes magazine which provided 6 alternatives to the elevator pitch so I tried them out to see if they worked better for me.  The list is below:

1. The One-word pitch – for me, it is “TAX”.  Then I watch their eyes gloss over.

2. The Question pitch – “Have you ever had (or have clients who had) problems with the Canada Revenue Agency (or Revenu Quebec, or the IRS, or WSIB, or the CRTC?)

3. The Rhyming pitch – Could not even try this.

4. The Subject line pitch – like sending an email to someone – mine would read something like “Former CRA collections officer helping people with CRA problems.”

5. The Story form pitch – I have thousands of stories… Literally.  I usually break into one of these after my introduction.

6. The Twitter or 140 character or less pitch #WhatIAmAllAbout.   I like this because it’s like using Twitter except that you really cannot tell someone that you “hashtag” Help People.  But it does give you the opportunity to state your case in a brief number of words.

So practice your pitch – no matter which method you choose – and practice them out on people to see if it gets across the message you want it to.  If not, maybe you would benefit from a different pitch or by adding or removing information to your existing pitch.

As for me… “I’m a former CRA officer who knows the CRA collections process, policy and procedures better than they do.  I help people with a variety of tax issues including but not limited to negotiation, payment arrangements, liens, RTP’s assessments, and getting them current and out of debt.  If there is a CRA issue, I have already seen it, and I know how to fix the problem.”

#x-taxer

Others make promises.  I fix problems.

If the conversation continues I explain my services are for individuals, businesses, and professional organizations who cannot proceed further with a client due to their tax issues – ie/ getting a bank loan, renewing a mortgage, confirmation of actual amounts owing before filing for bankruptcy, wage garnishments on employees, or cleaning up past tax issues for separation agreements or divorce.

#inTAXicating

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info@intaxicating.ca

416.833.1581

 

 

 

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On the Fence about FATCA? Canada and U.S. Sign Intergovernmental Agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

Ever since  I caught wind of  the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, back in 2010, FATCA has been near the top of my radar.  For those of you who are unaware what FATCA is, The Foreign Account Tax dept of financeCompliance Act (FATCA) requires citizens of the United States (present, past, those with citizenship who do not live there, those who worked there a specific number of day, and those who received “accidental” citizenship through birth), to report their financial assets held outside of the United States to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  If providing that information means that the IRS would be taxing you and you have been trying to hide these assets, FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report your information to the IRS.  The intent of FATCA was to combat offshore tax evasion and to recoup federal tax revenues.   FATCA is a portion of the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.

As the tax manager at Computershare Investor Services and the Assistant Vice President of Tax for CitiGroup (CitiFund Services) I got to know FATCA very intimately and at one point or another became the Canadian lead on information dissemination and compliance.  After almost 11-years of interpreting legislation at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deciphering this text came second nature and thus taking the FATCA regulations and translating them into English was not a difficult task, but more something that I had to do in order to teach myself the requirements so I could pass along that knowledge to my employers and to my clients.

The interesting thing about FATCA from a Canadian side was that with over a million “US Persons” here in Canada (probably much more now) I don’t believe the IRS understood that the majority of them were paying taxes in Canada and since the Canadian tax rate is higher than the US rate, there was some hesitation on the Canadian side to provide all this data to the IRS for no net gain.  Other countries rushed to sign intergovernmental agreements with the IRS to meet deadlines which have now been pushed out again as a result of the July 2014 start date for FATCA, but Canada did not.

The Canadian government was hesitant to force Canadian financial institutions to provide the very detailed information on Canadian citizens for fear that they would be double taxed, something the Canada-US Treaty strove to avoid.   In addition, the Canadian side wanted the Canada Revenue Agency included so that information could pass through secure channels and potential breaches of security and privacy could be avoided.  There was even talk that Canada refused to sign an agreement with the IRS, instead forcing the IRS to seek their own tax cheats from their own side of the border.

Then something changed.

The IRS began ramping up their search for US Persons via every mean possible – whether it was checking Facebook accounts to see where people are born, cross-checking it with school records – or by allowing people who had no previous knowledge of FATCA some amnesty when catching up on their delinquent tax returns, but then hammering them on their filing of the Report of Foreign and Financial Assets to the tune of $10,000 per late return – with no maximum.

People became scared, and when scared you have two choices to make.  Either flee or fight.  In this case it’s either comply or pray.

Those who chose to file had to wade through unclear rules and regulations and a lot of unclear information floating around on the Internet.  Is there penalty, is there not?  Will I be charges criminally, or will the IRS understand that I was not aware of my obligations.  Do I have to file 3-years of past-due returns or 10 years?  When are FBAR’s due?  Should this cost me $10,000 or $100,000?

Many questioned the over-reach on the US side while others commented that as an US citizen, the requirements were there and you should have known.

But with all that being said, on February 5th, 2014, Canada and United States announced that they have reach an agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The intergovernmental agreement lays out the details of how the US will be using FATCA to track down the Canadian financial activities of US persons to make sure they are paying required taxes to the IRS.

Under the terms of the agreement Canadian financial institutions will send some of the information they collect on their US clientele to the Canada Revenue Agency and the CRA will transmit the information to the IRS.

The agreement can be read in it’s entirety on the Canadian Department of Finance website.

My take from reading the release is that the Canadian government realized their hands were tied, however they were not going to allow the IRS to demand information which violates Canadian privacy laws and thus allowed the IRS to pursue their legitimate tax-base with the assistance of the CRA much in the same way the CRA and IRS work together to collect tax debts – through information sharing and not the actual collecting of debts for the other country.

Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, the Minister of National Revenue said; “This is strictly a tax information-sharing agreement. This agreement will not impose any U.S. taxes or penalties on U.S. citizens or U.S. residents holding accounts in Canada. The CRA does not collect the U.S. tax liability of a Canadian citizen if the individual was a Canadian citizen at the time the liability arose. This includes dual Canada-U.S. citizens. That will not change under this agreement.”

Changes to the FATCA legislation under this agreement include, but are not limited to;

  • Certain accounts are exempt from FATCA and will not be reportable, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), and others yet to be released.
  • Smaller deposit-taking institutions, such as credit unions, with assets of less than $175 million will be exempt from FATCA compliance.
  • The 30 percent FATCA withholding tax will not apply to clients of Canadian financial institutions, and can apply to a Canadian financial institution only if the financial institution is in significant and long-term non-compliance with its obligations under the agreement.

This intergovernmental agreement is only the beginning.  Recent G-8 and G-20 commitments agreed upon in September 2013, intended to fight tax evasion globally and to improve tax fairness, provide for an automatic exchange of tax information as the new global standard.  This agreement signaled an intention to begin exchanging information automatically on tax matters among G-20 members by the end of 2015.

So like it or not, FATCA is just the beginning of a world-wide crack down on tax evasion.

Still on the fence?

inTAXicating Tax Services works with several Canadian tax-preparation firms who specialize in US taxes, and FATCA compliance.  If you wish to get caught up, please feel free to reach out to us at info@intaxicating.ca.  If, you have further questions and wish to discuss your requirements, you can email, or call us at 416.833.1581.  If you wish to comment, you may do so below.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Intaxicating Tax Services.

Is there anything scarier than taxes?!?

Possibly the taxing authorities and some of the people that work there…

Death and Taxes
Death and Taxes (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Boo!

We’re not afraid of Halloween, taxes OR the government!

#IntaxicatingTaxServices

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.

Canada
Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

A very compelling article about the impact of FATCA. Worth the read, especially if you are a US person living in Canada.

U.S. Persons Abroad - Members of a Unique Tax, Form and Penalty Club

Almost all people (“Homelander Elite Corp” members excepted)  agree that FATCA is bad.

To be specfiic:

Everybody understands that FATCA is damaging to U.S. persons abroad.

Some understand that FATCA will result in GATCA which will damage the economy of the Homeland.

Few understand how FATCA is damaging the economies of other sovereign nations.

I came across this interesting post at the Isaac Brock Society:

View original post 660 more words

Ramping up for FATCA: Americans living in Canada

In case you have just starting to catch wind of FATCA and you are wondering if you are going to get caught up in its web, you might find this post very useful.  I have gone to the Internal Revenue service (IRS) website and pulled out their passages on American’s living in Canada and the expectations on how they will be handled under FATCA – coming globally January 1st, 2013.

The IRS has clearly stated that “All persons born in the United States are US citizens.  This is the case regardless of the tax or immigration status of a persons parents.  Furthermore, a person born outside the United States may also be a US citizen at birth if at least one parent is a US citizen and has lived in the United States for a period of time.”

This is the link to that information from the IRS website; http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=244868,00.html

If you are of the belief that as an American living in Canada that you do not need to file a US tax return because you do not generate any US source income in any way, that is also incorrect;  “The IRS reminds you to report your worldwide income on your US tax return and lists the possible consequences of hiding income overseas.”

More information on consequences of hiding income overseas (including Canada) in this link.  I have broken out some key facts below; http://www.irs.gov/businesses/article/0,,id=180946,00.html

As a US citizen living in Canada, the rules for filing income, estate and gift tax returns and for paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are living in the US or not.

Not reporting income from foreign (including Canadian) sources may be a crime.  The IRS and its international partners (including the CRA) are pursuing those who hide income or assets offshore to evade taxes.  Specially trained IRS examiners focus on aggressive international tax planning, including the abusive use of entities and structures established in foreign jurisdictions.  The goal is to ensure US citizens and residents are accurately reporting their income and paying the correct tax. 

In addition to reporting your worldwide income, you must also report on your US tax return whether you have any foreign (Canadian or international) bank or investment accounts.  The Bank Secrecy Act requires you to file a Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), if:

  • You have financial interest in, signature authority, or other authority over one or more accounts in a foreign country, and
  • The aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.

More information on foreign financial account reporting requirements is in News Release FS-2007-15, Foreign Financial Accounts Reporting Requirements and Publication 4261, Do You have a Foreign Financial Account?

This link below outlines the filing expectations for US Citizens and resident aliens abroad.  You have until June 15th to file your US tax returns each year:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=97324,00.html

Most common question I have been asked:

“I am a U.S. citizen who moved to Canada to live and work there as a Canadian permanent resident, do I pay both U.S. and Canadian Taxes?

Answer: As a U. S. citizen living in Canada you:

Are required to file annual U.S. income tax returns and may be required to file certain information returns if applicable (e.g. Form 8891, U.S. Information Return for Beneficiaries of Certain Canadian Registered Retirement Plans; Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts; TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)).

You must report your worldwide income on your US income tax return if you meet the minimum income filing requirements for your filing status and age.

You must contact the Canadian Government to determine whether you must file a Canadian tax return and pay Canadian taxes – unless you are already filing tax returns here in Canada, then this step is obvious.

You may be able to elect to exclude some or all of your foreign earned income, if certain requirements are met, or to claim a foreign tax credit if Canadian income taxes are paid.

Behind on your filing to the IRS, are you?

The IRS began an open-ended offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP) in January 2012, on the heels of strong interest in the 2011 and 2009 programs, which may end at any time.  The intent of this program is to offer people with undisclosed income from offshore accounts another opportunity to get current with their US tax returns.  The 2012 OVDP has a higher penalty rate than the previous program but offers clear benefits to encourage taxpayers to disclose foreign accounts now rather than risk detection by the IRS and possible criminal prosecution.

Rumour has it that in September, the IRS will be releasing some new documents (besides the final regulations) aimed at helping Canadians file their US tax returns up to date – the IRS wants the most recent 3 years and 6 years of FBAR information from Canadians.

My thoughts here are that the IRS thinks all Americans living in Canada are not paying taxes so that anyone with over $1500 owing will still be penalized.  Once these US persons provide proof of their filing of Canadian tax returns at a higher rate, then the best the IRS can get from these residents if valid certifications and by adding them to the database, another potential income source to track.

FAQ Offshore voluntary disclosure program:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=256774,00.html

So if after all this you are unsure if you need to file you might want to seek out an accountant or lawyer which a strong US presence to advise you.  Remember if you are a US person and you let your bank know, they are required under FATCA to notify the IRS.

At the very least you should preapare your US tax returns for the previous 3 years and include the Canadian taxes paid under “foreign tax paid” to see where you fall under FATCA.  Then take them to an accountant with a strong knowledge of US tax in order for them to ensure the US return is correct and have them advise you on where they feel you fall under FATCA.  From there… It’s up to you.

There is no hiding from FATCA, so prepare for now and prepare for the future before the IRS gets to you first.