7 Ways the Tax Man is Watching You: MoneySense.ca

When I saw this headline in Money Sense.ca I immediately felt upset that this article was going to be a bunch of made-up, fear-mongering, scare tactics along the lines of something that would come from an advertising campaign from a certain tax law / brokerage firm.

They popularized the calling of the CRA the “tax man” and since we all know the CRA hates that, its worth noting that it a confrontational relationship with the CRA is what they are all about.

Some people need that.

Most don’t.

Then, upon reading the list, I noticed that each and every one of the 7 items has a quote from… Dioguardi, and once the shock and surprise wore off, I shook my head and wanted to set the record straight, as far as I see it.

Not really...
The CRA is watching you!

The link to the original article is here;
http://www.moneysense.ca/save/taxes/cra-watching/

So let’s look at these items in a bit more depth;

1. Social media. Sure. If you make it public, and you have a unique name, the CRA can see what you’re posting. It doesn’t mean that if you have $40K in reported income and buy a $100K boat that they are going to assess you. If you are in collections and the CRA’s collections officers are trying to get you to pay, and all of a sudden a boat shows up on their radar, they will do their research and determine who owns it, how it was purchased and if it belongs to someone who owes the CRA taxes, then you have better have a good explanation as to why you didn’t disclose it.

2. Kijiji, eBay, etc. Yes, if you are selling items online as a way to earn an income it is income that you should declare and pay taxes on. The CRA have in the past requested and received information from eBay related to their top sellers. If, however, you are doing this as a business, it would have made sense to have engaged an accountant or tax professional to ensure that you are not only reporting correctly, but that you are claiming all eligible deductions and expenses – like a home office – to offset the income earned. A business is a business.

3. Credit card slips – yes, however only if it’s through an audit and the auditor has requested it directly from you. I suppose if you were under criminal investigation, or were in collections for a long time, the advanced collection techniques might include requesting this information, but the collections staff are not able to do anything with it. Auditors can assess with it. Collections cannot. Very misleading point here!

4. Bank accounts and investments – All financial institutions are required to provide year-end tax slips to taxpayers indicating their position during the year and in each and every case, a copy is sent to the CRA. They already have this information. They’re not watching anyone. The slips the bank sends is matched to the slips the taxpayer files. No slip, then the CRA asks for it (maybe you lost or forgot it) and then if it’s not accounted for, the CRA will raise an assessment.

If a taxpayer is in collections and the CRA wanted to know information about a bank or investment they have the ability to use a Request for Information, to ask for information and a Requirement for Information to ensure they get the information. Both processes are complicated and the CRA must prove that they were denied the information or that they need it urgently in order to raise an assessment.

5. This section is a bit vague and underwhelming. First, the CRA checks the sales records much faster than they did years ago – but they take that information then send out a questionnaire to the taxpayer to complete which is the supporting document they use to assess. They see you sold, but you let them know if there is cause for digging deeper.

On the rent side,, what catches the most number of people is when a renter pays rent in cash and the landlord and the landlord does not provide receipts and neither reports in… until there is an issue, and the renter declares rent paid. The CRA checks the landlord to see if they declared the rental income and when they have not… Assessment. The CRA is, again, not watching people in this case. They come across these assessments because of breakdowns in rental agreements.

6. Income and pensions. This list should have stopped at 5. This is not a case where CRA watches anyone. It’s about reporting and discrepancies.

7. Mystery diners – I’m not even going to comment on this than to say that it’s so over the top it’s unbelievable.

I will add, that while working at the CRA, I did attend restaurants as a representative of the Crown, however I disclosed my reason for being there and it was only in situations where restaurant owners had payroll debts over $300,000, and suddenly reduced their payroll from 15 full-time employees to 2 full-time employees. I just needed to check and see if they really did cut staff, or if they just started paying the other 13 cash under the table, to avoid having to deduct and remit the CPP, EI and tax. In each and every case, upon entering the restaurant, I would count the number of employees – when I saw more than 10, I would take the owner aside, explain this was not legal, then request a payroll audit and be done, until the audit assessment came into collections.

So to conclude, the most accurate part of this article is, “always give full and complete disclosure”.

The “tax man” is not watching you, unless you are in collections, under investigation, or trying to “game” the system.

If you have questions, concerns or comments, and want the truth about your situation, send us an email to info@intaxicating.,ca and we can have that discussion.

Advertisements

What Do Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Floyd Mayweather Have in Common?

What Do Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Floyd Mayweather have in common aside from being top atheletes in their respective sports, and extreme wealth?

Tax Troubles!

Ronaldo and Messi with the Spanish Tax Authroity, and Mayweather with the IRS, which just goes to show you that no matter how much money you have, or don’t have, you still have to report income, file on time and pay your taxes!

In Ronaldo’s case, the Spanish Hacienda tax authority believes Ronaldo failed to pay €14.7 million in taxes pertaining to income earned on his “image rights” between 2011 and 2014.  The belief is that he used (and still uses) a shell company in the British Virgin Islands and Ireland, to hide at least €78m in image rights.

Ronaldo’s camp claim that he has fulfilled all his tax obligations, maintaining that the majority of his image-rights income is earned abroad and therefore not liable for Spanish tax.

How does Ronaldo’s situation differ from Lionel Messi’s tax case?
Barcelona star Lionel Messi and his father Jorge were found guilty of tax fraud in July 2016 after it was found they had hidden image-rights income from the Spanish authorities. Messi was fined €3.6m and sentenced to 21 months in prison (which was suspended) for defrauding €4.1m between 2007-09.

The Messi family had previously paid over at least €10m in back taxes and charges, long before their case made it to court.

In Messi’s case, the court determined there was a total failure to fill his tax obligations on image rights income.

A huge concern stemming from the The Supreme Court’s judgement in the Messi surrounded the role that Messi’s tax and financial advisors played and how both parties were not indicted as part of the prosecution since they there was evidence that they advised the player on how to evade taxes.

In Spain, a  guilty verdict for an aggravated tax crime means a mandatory jail time of two to six years, while conviction of the lesser offence brings a suspended sentence.  If Ronaldo admits to the details in front of the judge within two months after being accused, and pays over the amounts allegedly defrauded, his punishment could be reduced.

Messi’s 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud was reduced to a €252,000 fine, while his father’s 15-month prison sentence was reduced to a €180,000 fine.

These fines are in addition to the re-payment of the taxes originally owing plus any penalties and interest accrued to the balance.

Floyd Mayweather, and his estimated net worth of $340 million is in trouble with the IRS and has apparently filed a petition asking for a temporary reprieve from unpaid taxes from 2015 until after his fight with Conor McGregor in August.

Apparently, while he has substantial assets, those assets are restricted and primarily illiquid. The upcoming fight against McGregor, however, would provide Mayweather with enough liquid cash to pay the IRS debt from 2015 in full.

Mayweather, made $220 million alone from his 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao. It is unclear how much he owes the IRS in taxes.  Given a 15-month lapse since the 2015 tax due date, Mayweather would owe 7.5% in penalties plus accruing interest on top of what he was already scheduled to pay.

Forbes estimated Mayweather’s net worth at $340 million in January.

 

So the moral of the story is this;

Not everyone wants to pay their taxes, and some will go to great lengths to reduce or avoid paying taxes. If that is something that you feel you must do, you have to be prepared for the consequences of your actions when and if the government comes back to you.

File on time.

Pay on time.

Don’t pay the government more than you should.

If you need help because you’re carrying a balance with the CRA and you want to discuss options, contact us today!

http://www.intaxicating.ca

@inTAXicating

info@intaxicating.ca

416.833.1581

 

Changes to the CRA’s RC59 Business Authorization Form

The Canada Revenue Agency has announced to tax preparers and representatives that if they wish to have online access to a business client’s tax information after May 15, 2017 they will have to complete the authorization request in the Represent a Client section on the CRA web site.

In order to do this, tax representatives have to log into Represent a Client and select “Review and update” from the Welcome page.  They then select “Authorization request” at the bottom of the “Manage clients” tab and follow the instructions.

Once the request is complete, tax representatives will need to print the signature page for their client to sign. Once it is signed, a scanned copy of the document may be sent to the CRA using its submit documents feature.

Using this method will allow tax professionals to gain access to their business clients’ information in five days or less instead of the 15 days it currently takes with form RC59.

If, however, you still prefer your current process, you can still use form RC59 to request access to your business clients’ information by telephone or mail.

And if you need to have authorization in less that 5 days, you should reach out to us here at inTAXicating, because with almost 11-years’ experience working in the CRA’s Collections department, we know how to get that authorization in the hands of someone in minutes!

Follow us on Twitter @inTAXicating.

Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/intaxicating

Follow us at our website; http://www.intaxicating.ca

Send us an email: info@intaxicating.ca

Or leave us a comment anywhere else!

Expected Changes to CRA’s VDP: Preview

On June 9th, 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched a 60-day online consultation with Canadians on the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP), in which the CRA is seeking input from the public to ensure that the program is more “responsive, innovative and fairer for all Canadians”.

One of the key asks by the CRA is this question; “We are asking you – when should the VDP apply? Should it apply only to those who knowingly choose to not pay their taxes or also to those who make mistakes on their returns?”

Based on that question, many organizations have been putting out materials stating that the CRA is changing the program and that it is already been decided, however that is not the case, yet, as the consultation period has not even ended.

What Is Voluntary Disclosure?

The Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) gives Canadian taxpayers a chance to change a tax return they have previously filed or file a return that should have filed and by making these changes through the VDP, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may give relief from prosecution and penalties.

By applying to the CRA under the VDP, a Canadian taxpayer might only pay the taxes owing plus interest.

The disclosure MUST meet all four of the following conditions to be valid;
1. A penalty would apply
2. It is voluntary, which means it is made before the CRA takes any compliance action against you
3. the information is at least one year overdue
4. it includes all the relevant information – meaning it is full and complete.

Anyone can use the VDP, including individuals, businesses, employers, payers, trusts and estates, whether a resident or a non-resident of Canada.

Why Changes to the VDP?

When the CRA found out that there were Canadian taxpayers hiding money offshore, they began to consider whether the current VDP was fair for all Canadians. Should a taxpayer who forgets to include an income source be granted the same relief as a taxpayer hiding money overseas and failing to disclose that income in order to reduce the amount of taxes they would have to pay in Canada?

The answer clearly is no, it’s not fair, and the CRA wants to change the program to make it easier for actual errors and omissions to be fixed, while making it much more difficult to allow tax evaders to utilize the program to avoid prosecution.

The most meaningful change expected in the VDP is the introduction of a two-track system:
1) the General Program, and
2) the Limited Program.

The Limited Program would limit the availability of the program in certain circumstances or where there is a “major non-compliance” as such relief for penalty and partial interest relief could be seen as “overly generous.”
Under the General Program, taxpayers who qualify for the VDP will not be charged penalties or referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure, and may be entitled to partial relief for any interest in respect of assessments preceding the three most recent years of returns required to be filed.

Whereas under the Limited Program, applications that disclose “major non-compliance” will not receive the same level of relief as they would under the current VDP. Taxpayers will not be referred for criminal prosecution and will not be charged a gross negligence penalty with respect to the disclosure, however, other penalties will be charged as applicable such as a late filing penalty, a failure to remit penalty, an instalment penalty or an omission penalty. Additionally, no interest relief will be provided.

What Might Constitute “Major Non-Compliance?”

Major non-compliance might look like this:
• Taxpayers who undertook active efforts to avoid detection through the use of offshore vehicles or other means
• Large dollar amounts being disclosed
• Multiple years of non-compliance
• A sophisticated taxpayer, or use of sophisticated tax avoidance techniques under the advice of a sophisticated professional, and
• The disclosure is made the CRA has released information aimed at cracking down on taxpayers failing to disclose all their income

The determination of whether an application should be processed under the Limited Program will be made on a case by case basis.

Other Considerations
While determining the status of an application to the VDP, the CRA will also consider;
• If they will require payment in full of the estimated taxes owing as a condition of acceptance
• If transfer pricing cases and applications from corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million qualify
• If applications that disclose income from the proceeds of crime will be allowed access to the program

The CRA will continue to cancel VDP applications if they learn that the disclosure was not full and complete, or if was intentionally inaccurate.

The release of the changes to the CRA’s VDP will be announced in the fall, and the above is speculation as to what the new program will look like. If you, or anyone you know has failed to fully or accurately disclosure income, it’s best for them to speak to a professional now, especially before there are changes to the program which might disqualify them.
At inTAXicating, we are always available to discuss the CRA’s VDP and you can find us at http://www.intaxicating.ca, or send us an email to info@inTAXicating.ca.

Happy Canada Day! Don’t Forget About Taxation!

Happy Canada Day, Canada.  You don’t look a day over 150-years-old!

Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

There are so many things to be thankful of this Canada Day, beginning with Tim Horton’s and hockey and ending with socialized medicine and peace.  But in between there is a whole lot of taxation.  Taxes you pay which go to build new arenas, which pay for medicine, which support the troops who keep us safe, and fund programs which integrates youth of all backgrounds, races, religions and income levels together in order to keep violence as low as possible.

These are the taxes we cannot avoid paying – unless we stop spending – and they are the consumption taxes (GST/HST), gas tax, liquor tax, and many more, and there are taxes on wealth, like personal income tax, as well as Corporate taxes.  There are also payroll taxes and any other fee, levy or revenue tool (all taxes but given a different name).

For the most part, these taxes are unavoidable, and as Canadians we pay them knowing that money goes back into the economy and helps people.

What I do not understand, however, is why people pay more taxes than they are required to pay, or can afford to pay, and these taxes are viewed by people in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as a “stupid” or “lazy” tax and what they are referring to are penalties and interest.

It is my belief that no one should pay any penalties or interest.  Ever.  Why give the CRA more money than they are seeking through the Income Tax Act or the Excise Tax Act.

If you work with an accountant or tax preparer, there should be no reason for late filings or late remittances, or for missing out on key deductions because that representative should know you, and the industry you work in, and be able to keep you current and free of penalties and interest.

But there are many legitimate reasons why people file late, and incur penalties and watch interest accrue on their tax accounts, and these people are then hammered by the CRA and need help, which is why I created inTAXicating.  My goal here is to help you get out of the troubles that you have gotten into and by help, I mean rehabilitate you and get you current on your filings, help you reduce your balance owing, apply for taxpayer relief (fairness) if it applies to you, and get you on a remitting and reporting schedule which ensures you are never late again.

Too many firms out there have watered down the “Tax Solution” process to the point where you pay them a ton of money, they “fix” your issue and then another one pops up, all because they are experts in taking money and not experts in resolving CRA debt issues.

The best part about working with inTAXicating is having the expertise where you need it.  If your problem is with collections or enforcement then you need the person who worked in that area, and trained and managed the collectors and who can tell you the CRA’s next move before they can.

Being audited?  Recently assessed?  Don’t understand a letter?  Balance looks too high?

There is no tax situation too scary, or too difficult to figure out.  Business taxes, personal taxes, GST/HST, payroll, T2’s, provincial, federal, liens, RTP’s, appeals, VDP… We’ve seen it all, handled it all, and have been successful with it all.

Just because it’s July 1st and summertime doesn’t mean the CRA stops working too.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  With more time on their hands, the CRA’s collections staff have the time to thoroughly research tax files which have balances on them to see what they can do to ge the account paid in full.

My experience working in the CRA for almost 11-years, tells me that the majority of in depth investigations occurs during the summer months.

Make summertime the best time to resolve that nagging tax problem.

If you have a tax problem, we have a tax solution.

You can also find us on twitter @inTAXicating or on Facebook @inTAXicating

Or email us: info@intaxicating.ca

 

What are you waiting for?

“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.

 

Tax Freedom Day, 2017. Working For Ourselves Now… Theoretically.

June 9, 2017 is Tax Freedom Day!

What is Tax Freedom Day?

Does it really exist?

What might it mean to me?

In their annual report, the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank added up all forms of taxation — from income and sales taxes, to more hidden costs such as gasoline taxes, carbon taxes, tobacco and alcohol taxes, municipal property taxes, payroll taxes and even CPP and EI premiums — to come up with a figure for the overall tax burden for Canadian families, and this year, they have determined that the average Canadian family with two or more people will earn $108,674 and pay 43.4% in taxes.

Based on the Fraser Institute math, 100% of income earned thus far in 2017 has been gobbled up by government in taxes, and only now are you working for yourself until the end of the year.

Last year, in 2016, it came a day earlier, on June 8th and because of variances in all types of taxes in different provinces, Tax Freedom Day differs across the country, ranging from May 21st in Alberta to June 25th in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the reasons for the extra day is to account for the fact that Canadians’ tax bill has risen, on average, by $1,126 this year, according to the Fraser Institute. Of that increase, $542, came from higher income taxes, but sales taxes (up $311) and other energy-related taxes (up $204) also took a bigger bite while liquor, tobacco, amusement, and other excise taxes, payroll and health taxes, and import duties all decreased.

The Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, however, disputes the math behind the annual Fraser Institute report, because the Fraser Institutes uses “average” tax rates instead of median tax rates.

To come up with its “average” tax rates, the Fraser Institute simply adds up the amount of cash income earned by a taxpayer, and then divides that by the number of people. It then takes “outliers” and excludes those extremes from the calculations.

The Broadbent Institute said that skews the numbers in a certain way, and a better way than the average would be to use the median — the exact mid-point between the top and bottom and the rationale behind this surrounds the fact that the average income of Canada will always be higher than the median because of the small number of very high-income earners in Canada, which skews the average income amount higher.

Adding up only federal and provincial income taxes, the “average” Canadian in prime working years (between 25 – 54 years of age) earned $62,600 last year, and paid $12,000 in taxes, or around 19%, according to tax filings. Using the Broadbent method of calculation, the median for that group earned $50,500 last year and paid $7,000, or 14%, in income taxes.

Another main difference is that the figures used by Fraser Institute report doesn’t just include income taxes. It tabulates all sorts of fees that taxpayers don’t directly pay, such as payroll taxes and resource royalties that companies pay when they extract things like oil, minerals and timber.

It also only considers what it calls “cash income” on the other side of the ledger. That excludes employee benefits, investment income from pension plans and other forms of cash income.

The Fraser report also takes into consideration indirect costs like payroll taxes and other taxes which businesses pay in their calculations because even though businesses pay these taxes directly, the cost of business taxation is passed on to Canadians.

So now that we’re working for ourselves, let’s push all levels of government to treat our tax dollars more wisely, and let’s earn as much as possible (while continuing to pay our taxes on time!)