How To Prevent Being Scammed By A Fake-CRA Call…

Here is the best way to avoid being scammed by a fake CRA caller.

Hang up.

Especially if they start raising their voice, threatening you, or tell you anyone is going to arrest you, seize stuff, or take your children.

Online, check for the return email address. It’s usually not a legitimate government email address which would normally end in “.gc.ca” or if it’s the CRA (they’re not supposed to / allowed to email you), would be cra.gc.ca or @cra-adrc.gc.ca.

If you’re not sure, don’t buy into the threats.

Hang up.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Auditor Convicted of Corruption

CRA LogoI came across a news article this morning that a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) auditor from Montreal was convicted on Friday June 12th on charges of corruption for attempting to extort $90,000 from a restaurant owner in lieu of a $600,000 audit assessment.

Upon seeing the article, I went to see if I knew any of the people involved, which I did not, and it brought back my memory of the only time I was offered a bribe while working at the CRA, which I obviously declined.

I was the Resource and Complex Case Officer in a Collections unit here in Toronto and one of my accounts involved a gentleman who had a habit of opening and closing companies over a 27-year period.

He would never file, the auditors would assess his balance, he would bankrupt the company and the next day he would open a new one. He even used the same bank, but would open and close accounts over-and-over again.

It was quite funny given that he denied everything, even his $1 / year income but with a $5-million dollar house all paid off, it took me one phone call to put everything together.

He was a nice guy… Honestly. His house was built by him and his kids, on land his father bought 45-years ago, and the assessments the CRA were charging him with – prompting him to bankrupt the companies – was not even related to the business he was in.

He didn’t know why they were assessing him. He was afraid the CRA was going to put him in jail.

The CRA thought he was a criminal and kept on top of him.

One giant misunderstanding, which was quickly resolved after I taught him how to file HST returns.

But when I first met him and presented him with a list of companies that he had opened and closed year-after-year, he said this to me;

“I’m connected to the mob.”

I said to him, “Okay. That’s not my business. What is my business is finding out why you keep doing this and what the CRA can do to help you.”

He said, “If you can make this balance go away, I’ll give you Toronto Maple Leaf tickets.”

After I stopped laughing, I said to him, “Are you kidding me? I’m a huge hockey fan, and I love the Leafs, but if I were to even consider a bribe that would result in me losing my job, going to jail, and not being able to see my children, it would have to be for a hell of a lot more than Leafs tickets, and to be honest, if you have THAT much cash, you’re better off paying your debts and never falling behind on filing or paying again.”

He replied; “I was just kidding.”

I said, “Of course you were.”

I mentioned it to my Manager who, after reviewing the file, suggested I run this by the Special Investigations unit. I spoke to SI and they knew of this gentleman and that he has been suggesting his ties over the years in hopes of having the CRA back off, and only when I explained the reasoning behind the debt did the SI manager mention that he was told this many years ago but didn’t believe it to be true.

I wonder what happened to that guy…

I hope he stayed compliant!

Back to this case.

This case relates to an auditor named Francesco Fazio who, in 2005, was auditing a restaurant named “La Belle Place.” and after completing the audit, told owner Stamatis Argiroudis that he would owe $600,000 in taxes based on Fazio’s estimate of unreported revenue, according to a Montreal Gazette report.

According to testimony from the trial, Fazio told the owner that a more favourable estimate could be made for $90,000.

The owner refused to pay the money and probably words were spoken and the file was transferred to another CRA auditor. The auditor said the owner mentioned connections to organized crime, however the judge presiding over the case did not believe this to be true and ruled against the auditor.

In this day and again of recording devices in our phones and the CRA snitch line, it’s important to be careful what you say, and to whom you say it. Same goes for using social media. Be careful what you say about people and businesses when it’s not true.

I hope the CRA conducts an investigation into all the companies that this audit has audited to see if there is a recurring pattern or if this was a once-off situation.

CRA Reminder! This Monday, June 15th 2015, is the Deadline for Self-Employed Individuals to File their 2014 Income Tax and Benefit Return!

inTAXicating and The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would like to remind those taxpayers who are self-employed individuals (and their spouses or common-law partners) that the 2015 personal tax (T1) tax filing deadline is midnight on Monday, June 15, 2015.

If you had an outstanding balance for 2014, it would have had to be paid to the CRA on or before May 5th 2015, which is different from the normal April 30th deadline as a result of that extension granted by the CRA this year.

If you miss the deadline, you might be liable for a late-filing penalty (cumulative if you have been filing late in multiple consecutive years), and / or a late-filing penalty on amounts owing which applies to returns received after the June 15, 2015 deadline.

The CRA suggests you file electronically, using NETFILE , which allows you to file your individual income tax and benefit return over the Internet quickly and easily.  For a list of software and web service options, including those that are free for everyone, go to http://www.netfile.gc.ca/software.

If you have a balance owing, you can make your payment using your financial institution’s telephone or Internet banking service. For more information about online payments, go to http://www.cra.gc.ca/payments or contact your financial institution, or search through the blog posts at inTAXicating.wordpress.com for a post on how to make payments to the CRA.

You can also pay using the pre-authorized debit online service offered through the CRA’s “My Account” feature. The pre-authorized debit allows you to:

  • Set up a payment to be made from your bank account to the CRA on a pre-set date
  • pay an overdue amount
  • make instalment payment

You can also make your payment using the CRA’s “My Payment” service. My Payment lets you make one or more payments in one simple online transaction.  You can use this service if you have access to online banking at a participating financial institution.

You can also sign up for direct deposit to receive your refund in your account at your Canadian financial institution-no more waiting for a cheque to arrive in the mail, however as I have mentioned in many previous posts, signing up for this service provides the CRA with your banking information which is the first place they will try to seize if you ever have a balance owing to them.

Save time – go online!

The CRA’s online services make it faster and easier to handle your business’s tax matters. You, your employee, or your representative can file, pay, and access detailed information about your tax accounts-all online, all at your fingertips. To learn more about the CRA’s electronic services for businesses, go to http://www.cra.gc.ca/businessonline.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your taxes or a letter / notice you have received from the CRA, drop us an email at info@intaxicating.ca or intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com.  Take advantage of our free consultation.

Thursday Thirteen Tax Tips: 13 Important Considerations Before Hiring Tax Representation

Trying to decide if it is time to hire a tax representative is a difficult decision and if made incorrectly, can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars plus add significant amounts of stress and reputational damage to you and / or your business.

With so many people and organizations on the Internet promising to do so much for you, how do you know who to trust and more importantly, how can you tell if the specific tax matter you have is something they have experience (and success) handling?

Well, I’m going to give you some tips, so feel free to share them, about how I would go about finding a tax expert for my situation and what important questions you need answered before you hand over your hard-earned money, Social Insurance Number (SIN) and / or Business Number (BN).

The first thing that you must be comfortable doing is asking questions and if you do not understand the answer or if it seems like the response you get is part of a sales pitch, then think twice and get another quote.  It’s okay.  Anyone offering these services will either expect that you have spoken to more than one person, or will be confident that their expertise is what you need and know that you will come back.

Do they offer a free consultation?  It’s helpful if you do not know exactly how much trouble you are in, if at all, and having a few minutes to ask will put your mind at ease and help build a relationship for the future if it’s necessary.

During a 15-minute free consultation I usually do not know how many other tax representatives they have spoken to, if any.  As a result, I have to be clear, honest and set the price based on the amount of work involved, only.  It works for me, and it works for my clients.

keep-calm-youre-hired

Once I begin working with clients I get to hear what others promised, or wanted to charge, and often times I am surprised both by the recommended course of actions and the price quoted / charged.I thought it might be a good idea to expand on this topic and provide the 13 IMPORTANT considerations to look for before hiring tax representation:

13) Knowledge – Does this person or organization have significant knowledge in the area you need?

12) Experience – Knowledge is great to help you understand more, however, is their knowledge based on books they studied in school, or was it gained through hands-on experience?  If you are lucky, you can get both.

11) Fit – Can you work with them? Are they able to explain in a manner that you actually understand what happened, and what the next steps are.

10) Advertising – Odds are good that if they are spending a lot of money on advertising, they are going to have to charge you more in order to re-coup the costs.  A lot of advertising doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best, it just means they value advertising, or need clients..

9)  Social Media Presence – Taking into consideration that people do NOT advertise they have a tax problem online, it can be difficult to see if your prospective tax representation is worth your hard-earned dollars.  A good way to check up on a prospective hire is to have a look at their followers and who they follow.  It may seem great that a firm will have 5000 followers, however, followers can be bought, so a Canadian firm with 3000 followers from, say, Turkey might be a tip-off that something is not right.  Also look at their posts and comments via mainstream media.  Are they commenting on articles to educate or does everything they publish and promote look like it has been written by a marketing firm aimed at trying to get you to hire them.

8) Flexibility – Are they flexible in their pricing, or are they so set in their fees that they will not, or can not, recommend someone else or reduce their fees to assist.

7) Promises – Do they promise to save you money through reviews of your tax filings or do they take the easy way out and recommend bankruptcy, or a proposal?

6) Fear Mongers – If you notice that the tone of everything coming from a prospective firm / representative seems like they are trying to scare you, they are, and that’s a good sign to proceed with caution.  If they tell stories of the CRA hiding in your bushes, reading your emails or coming to arrest you, you should think twice.

5) What is their catch? – You know what you need, but what do they want, or what do they want from you?  There might be additional things relating to your tax issues that you did not know about and would benefit you, but if it’s not necessary and they won’t back away from it – like a financial analysis – then be concerned that they just want to put you though a cookie-cutter program instead of working towards solving your problem(s).

4) Do they play nice with others? – Blog posts aside, are they active in community networking groups (like on Linked In) and are they contributing to the discussions or do they have their own agenda and are just posting articles aimed at the wrong crowd – ie/ pitching their services to individuals in a group full of tax lawyers.

3) Sticks and Stones – How do they  refer to the Canada Revenue Agency?  Do they call the CRA the “Taxman”?  Do they have other negative nicknames?  I can tell you with the experience that 10-plus years of working for the CRA has afforded me that the CRA HATES that and do you really want your representation to start your negotiations off on the wrong foot?

2) Which Way is Up – Does their projected course of action come with terms, such as; “I think, this will work” or “I can try this…” or does the word “maybe” come up a lot?  The good part of that language is that it is a sign that they want to try a course of action and they expect the outcome to be positive or they have no clue what to do and after they run you through their cookie-cutter service, they hope you will be in a better situation.

1) You are Smarter – If you finish your conversation and get the feeling that once all is said and done you will be in a much better place both mentally and financially and you are armed with enough information and understanding of what got you there in the first place and that you can and are able to identify and address all future issues, then you might just be in the right place!

Good luck!

 

Warren

Congratulations to inTAXicating for finishing 2nd in the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards!

I recently received word that this blog, inTAXicating, finished 2nd in the Legal / Professional category of the Canadian Blog Awards.2013 Canadian Blog Awards

The Canadian Blog Awards is an annual event on the Canadian Blogosphere in which Canadian Bloggers and Blog Readers vote to decide which blog is the best – either overall or within a category.

This year (2013), the Canadian Blog Awards are being operated by Jonathan Kleiman, a Toronto Small Claims Court Lawyer and Toronto Business Lawyer.

The first Canadian Blog Awards were held in 2004, by Robert McClelland of MyBlahg.  He hosted the awards for 2005 and 2006 before handing them over to a coalition of bloggers and business owners keen on recognizing Canadian blogging talent.

Aside from being thrilled at the nomination, I am excited and content with the 2nd place finish because it means that not only is there plenty of room for improvement, but that people understand that in order to help themselves save taxes, or fix tax troubles, they need to read online to see what the experts are recommending.

With the CRA moving more and more online in everything they do, it only makes sense that you, the taxpayer, keeps up to speed as well, or at the very least, read and learn from people who were on the inside… For a long time… And who grew up in that space, trained the staff in that space and led staff in that space.

Thank you for voting for this blog and for dropping by for tips, suggestions and recommendations on how to best handle your tax questions or tax problems.

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Make sure to visit http://www.intaxicating.ca but what you really want to do, is contact us at info@intaxicating.ca or by phone at 416.833.1581 to have your questions answered or to have your tax problems solved.

#x-taxer

inTAXicating: Nominated for the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards

I just learned that inTAXicating has been nominated for the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards – under the law category.Canadian Blog Awards badge

If you would to see the other blogs nominated in the other categories or if you would like to vote for inTAXicating, you can follow the link here; http://cdnba.wordpress.com/

Voting ends February 22nd, 2014.

The Canadian Blog Awards are a great way to recognize Canadian blogging talent. By taking the time to read other Canadian blogs and through your voting you are supporting Canadian writers.

I checked out many of the other nominated blogs and voted in each and every category as a way to give back.

Thank you in advance and please keep reading, commenting and asking questions!  Also don’t forget to visit my webpage at http://www.intaxicating.ca for help with all your tax concerns.

The Rickey Henderson Effect: The Value of a Wink.

The Rickey Henderson Effect: The Value of a Wink.

I hope you are able to, and take the time to, read this post on the importance of acknowledging others – in business and in life.

In this specific article linked above, the author describes how as a young child, Rickey Henderson – then an outfielder with the New York Yankees – winked at him as he was leaving the baseball field in between innings.  That wink alone led the author to become a huge fan of Henderson’s and the author detailed how his mother purchased Henderson products and how he influenced his friends to purchase products and the net effect of that wink was money in Henderson’s pocket (he receives a share of items purchased in his name or his likeness).

Fast forward to 2014, and the author comments on the importance of a wink, or 😉 in social media and how it can also have the same impact on people.

I completely agree.

The most effective way to interact with people is to, well, interact with people.  Saying hello, nodding, winking, waving, or in today’s cyber-society with a wink, or a smiley face or even by personalizing emails through the adding of terms like; “Hope you are well”, “Warm Regards” or “All the best”.  These little additions tell the person on the other side that they are being acknowledged and by taking the time to do that you have an ally.

To that point, a personal story.

I had been working at the Toronto North Tax Office of the Canada Revenue Agency for 2 1/2 years and had become accustomed to putting my head down as I walked through the building as others do.  I have always been great with faces but terrible at remembering names, and it was easier to pretend there was no one there or that I was distracted so I didn’t have to say hello or remember a name.

Then one morning as I left the subway and walked towards the office, someone walked by me and said, “Good morning Warren!”,

Much to my surprise – and I am nowhere near shy or introverted – I looked up, did not recognize the face, but said hello back and then out of my mouth came this; “I’m sorry.  Normally I am great with faces but I cannot remember where I know you from.”

He responded; “I’m Mark.  You trained us last week on Director’s Liability.  Great class.  I learned a lot.”

It was that moment when I decided that I needed to acknowledge people too.  Stop walking with my head down.  Stop looking busy.  I needed to learn people’s names and a fact or two about them to show them I care and help bring the office closer.

From that morning on, I saw and addressed each and every person I came across by their name (or what I suspected was their name).  If I called them by the wrong name, they would just correct me, right.  🙂

For the next 9 years, I became that guy at the CRA.  The guy who knew “everyone”.  The guy people came to with questions, and for advice.  The guy who liked the people he worked with because he took the time to get to know them and as I moved into leadership roles, I was best able to get the most out of all my staff because I knew their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.  I wanted what was best for the CRA, but also best for the employees and if there was a dispute, there was that trust that I was not going to steer them wrong and it would benefit them in the end.

I took the time to wink.  Just like Rickey Henderson did, and it paid off exponentially.

Today, take the time to say hello to people you would not normally talk to.  Not too long, but just enough to let them know you care.  Or send an email that is a little less impersonal and a little more warm.

You will feel great and so will they!

😉