Owing Taxes to the CRA: Real options to consider

The Canadian Tax Filing deadlines for regular filers and for filers with self-employment income are rapidly approaching.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has pushed out the tax filing deadline for regular tax filers from April 30th, 2020, to June 1st, 2020.  Canadians with self-employment income were due to file by June 15th, 2020, and that date has remained the same.

Any payments for the current tax year are due by September 1st, 2020, which applies to balances and instalments under Part 1 of the Income Tax Act due on or after March 18th and before September 1st, 2020.

If you earned significant self-employment income, for the first time, you might be in for an unexpected surprise when you file your tax return, because there will likely be a balance owing to the CRA. This balance owing is a result of having to pay the amounts that an employer would have normally deducted from your pay, including both portions of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

If you haven’t made other provisions to cover your tax debt at the end of the year, you could have a problem.

If this were not a pandemic year and the CRA was fully operational, I would warn that tax debt is serious and should be dealt with immediately.

As we are all aware, the collections staff at the CRA have considerable “power” to find and collect money that are owing to the Crown.

With the amount of government benefits being offered up this year, Canadians have been providing their banking information to the CRA in record numbers, and it is that banking information which the CRA can, and will, use to recover the taxes owing to them, likely in record time.

In effort to deter Canadians from not paying the CRA, they charge penalties and interest (which compounds daily) on your overdue taxes.

They can withhold payment of your Child Tax Credit and GST rebate. They can take money from your bank account or garnishee your wages.

If those methods do not result in full payment of taxes, the CRA will then check to see if you own real estate, as they can register a lien against your property.

When a lien is registered against your property it can prohibit you from refinancing or selling your property until the outstanding debt is paid in full.

You may also find that if you are non-compliant (not filed up to date with the CRA), you may not be able to secure mortgage financing to purchase a home, buy a cottage, get a loan, or access equity in your property.

Many Canadian banks and credit unions will not provide an unsecured loan for the payment of income tax debt and they generally cannot refinance an existing mortgage to cover the debt either. When they learn of a lien, they deem you a credit risk and are more comfortable walking away from you as a customer then take a risk lending you funds that you either cannot pay or that the CRA will end up taking.

 

What Can You Do

Normally, you would contact the CRA immediately – but these are COVID times – and the CRAès collections division is presently not taking collection actions or weighing in on payment arrangements.

Pay what you can, as much as you can.  Because paying anything less than the balance owing is going to result in interest accumulating.

There is no need to pay more to the CRA, unless you absolutely have to.

If these were normal times, you might be able to negotiate a re-payment arrangement covering 3-6 months, but the interest continues to accrue.

 

What NOT to do

This is important to note – filing for bankruptcy, or filing a consumer proposal, does not discharge a lien against your property. If you go bankrupt on your CRA debt, the lien remains and – even worse – accrues interest over time. Even after your discharge from bankruptcy, the lien remains in force, until you eventually sell your home. Transferring a tax problem for a credit problem is not always the best option.

Do not transfer any assets, or your property, to another person. That will not solve your problems, but rather cause other ones.

Removing assets from the reach of the CRA will result in the raising of a Section 160 (325), non-armsè length assessment, which takes your tax debt and makes it jointly and severally liable with the person who now owns your property.

Do not ignore it. Far too often, Canadians ignore the requirement to file and pay their taxes. This means a balance owing to the CRA continues to grow and grow. When the balance gets to be too high, people feel they have very few options, and consider bankruptcy or insolvency to be one of them. Worse that this scenario, is when one of the parties with a large tax debt falls ill, passes away, or becomes separated from the other, and now the ability to resolve the tax matter becomes that much more difficult.

 

A Better Solution

If you are a homeowner then having an experienced mortgage broker working for you can save you both time and money when seeking a solution to your CRA problem. If you simply can’t pay the full amount of your back taxes, consider refinancing your mortgage and using the equity in your home to consolidate all of your debts, including credit card debts, at a rate which might even be better than the rate you are currently paying.

Mortgage brokers have access to lenders that will allow a refinance of your existing mortgage or second mortgage options to pay off outstanding CRA debt.

If you have tax debt, or are going to be facing some tax arrears, do not worry. Contact inTAXicating and let us provide you with the truth around your tax options and help you find the best solution for you.

info@intaxicating.ca

intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com

 

Best and Worst Major Cities for Business Tax Burdens: C.D. Howe Institute

On April 23rd, 2020, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report which identifies the best and worst major Canadian cities for business investment as measured by overall tax burdens.

The link to the reports is here; “Business Tax Burdens in Canada’s Major Cities: The 2019 Report Card.”  Authors Adam Found and Peter Tomlinson compared business tax burdens in 10 Canadian municipalities, the largest in each province.

“Municipalities and provinces would do well to pay attention to business tax burdens, particularly those imposed by business property taxes, since they impede investment and businesses’ ability to survive and invest after the present pandemic,” says Found.

Before a business decides to locate or expand in a given jurisdiction, it must consider the tax implications of such an investment.

Heavy tax burdens reduce potential returns, driving investment away to other jurisdictions and, with it, the associated economic benefits.

Found and Tomlinson estimate the 2019 Marginal Effective Tax Rate (METR) for the largest municipality in each province by aggregating corporate income taxes, retail sales taxes, land transfer taxes and business property taxes. Their findings measure the tax burden on a hypothetical investment that has the same net-of-tax return regardless of where in Canada it is located.

What Did They Find?

That municipal business tax burdens are highest in Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s, while near the group average in Calgary, Charlottetown and Moncton.

The most competitive municipal business tax environments were found in Vancouver, followed by Saskatoon, Toronto and Winnipeg.

I’d be curious to see if there was any consideration given to the associated costs which impact businesses in these markets, such as the cost and availability of parking and ability of the general public to access these businesses. Certainly, an expensive parking rate which is heavily enforced by the parking police would deter customers in certain parts of these cities.

Then again, so does bad signage…

Nonetheless, the bottom line is this. If the cost of investing in a Canadian jurisdiction is higher than the cost of investing elsewhere, then that jurisdiction’s capital stock will be smaller than it otherwise would be, because businesses go where the costs are cheaper so they can try to make more money.

The higher the METR (tax rates), the greater the investment loss and overall economic harm.

Tax dollars are important for budgeting purposes because jurisdictions use those dollars to support expenditures. When the tax base erodes, either taxes are increased, expenditures cut, or debts and deficits increased.

Calgary’s experience with depreciating property values was also discussed in this report, because in that city, as the assessed values of downtown office buildings depreciated rapidly, that caused unmanageable tax shifts onto other businesses in the city, to make up the shortfall.

“Calgary is a cautionary tale for cities across the country,” says Tomlinson. “With the current cash crunch for businesses, provincial property tax cuts – like those just announced in British Columbia – could be key to businesses’ survival.”

Read Full Report

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada’s most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.

Two Canadians Sentenced to Prison for Bitcoin Fraud in the US

Oregon’s Attorney General has reported that 2 Canadians – Karanjit Singh Khatkar, 23, and Jagroop Singh Khatkar, 24, residents of Surrey, British Columbia – were sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering in a scheme to steal bitcoin from a resident of that state.

According to the indictment, beginning in October 2017 and continuing until August 2018, the defendants used a Twitter account with the name @HitBTCAssist to trick victims into thinking they were communicating with a customer service representative from HitBTC, a Hong Kong-based online platform used to exchange virtual currency. HitBTC provides its customers with web-based “wallets” to store virtual currency and make transactions.

Using the fraudulent Twitter account, the defendants responded to the Oregon victim’s questions about withdrawing virtual currency from her HitBTC account and they convinced her to send information they could use to log on and take over her email, HitBTC and Kraken accounts. (Kraken is a U.S.-based online platform that offers services similar to HitBTC).

The defendants initiated transfers of 23.2 bitcoins from the victim’s HitBTC account to Karanjit Khatkar’s Kraken account. Karanjit in turn transferred approximately half to Jagroop’s Kraken account.

Two days after illegally accessing the victim’s account, Karanjit Khatkar bought a Mercedes-Benz with $56,598 in Canadian dollars. The Khatkars also traveled to casinos. Karanjit Khatkar gambled with tens of thousands of dollars while staying at high-end casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada.

On July 18, 2019, Karanjit Khatkar was arrested upon arrival at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and later ordered detained pending trial. Jagroop Khatkar appeared voluntarily for his arraignment and change of plea on December 16, 2019.

On December 16, 2019, the Khatkars pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering. As mandated by their plea agreements, the Khatkars delivered a check of $142,349 as a prepayment of restitution to their victim at their change of plea hearing.

At sentencing, the Khatkars were ordered to pay an additional $42,162 to their victim for a total restitution order of $184,511.

The moral of this story is two-fold. Firstly, the government doesn’t take too kindly to people stealing crypto-currency, and secondly, before giving out sensitive information, make sure you know who you are talking to.

This case is akin to the CRA scam where Canadians are threatened with jail from the “CRA” but it can be “resolved” if bitcoins are transferred into a “CRA” wallet. That scam has entrapped way too many Canadians. The CRA doesn’t even consider crypto currency to be legal tender, rather, they treat it like a commodity meaning once it’s sold, taxes are due on the Capital gain.

Ontario Contractor Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has reported that a Vaughan, Ontario based, general contractor has been fined for evading GST/HST.

The press release by the CRA announces that Gilles Larocque of Nobleton, Ontario pleaded guilty to tax evasion. He was sentenced in the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket and fined a total of $301,125.

Larocque pleaded guilty on January 7, 2020, in the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket, Ontario to two counts of failing to report income by not filing income tax returns, thereby committing tax evasion under the Income Tax Act.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to remit Goods and Services Tax / Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) under the Excise Tax Act.

A CRA investigation revealed that Larocque, who owned and operated a construction company in the Vaughan, Ontario area, provided general contracting work to clients that included dry walling, framing and ceiling tile installation for gas stations.

Larocque used several aliases and business names and charged clients for GST/HST, which he used for his personal expenses.

Larocque failed to report income in both 2013 and 2014 tax years and evaded a total of $180,401 in federal taxes.

He also failed to file GST/HST returns in both those years, totalling $120,724 in unremitted GST/HST.

The total amount of federal tax evaded and unremitted GST/HST for the years 2013 and 2014 was $301,125.

Charging GST/HST to clients and then keeping it for your own use is not only against the law, but it’s a pretty sketchy way to get another 13% of income. A common rule to avoid this from happening it to always make sure that you ask for a receive a receipt. The receipt pretty-much (but not always) ensures that the seller is reporting the GST/HST that they collect from you, and the income earned from your purchase.

 

 

CRA Targeting Underground Economy Again (or Still)…

Recently saw a news headline relating to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and collecting taxes, that caught my eye. The headline screamed something to the effect of; “Contractors buying from Home Depot beware — the CRA is coming after you.”

I immediately began to shake my head and wonder if what the purpose of this article was. Was it written in response to an action taken by the CRA, or was the headline intended to scare Canadians who are dealing in cash and not paying their tax, into using their services.

Afterall, this really is not news.

For as long as Canadians have found ways to evade paying taxes, the CRA has had to find ways to verify that taxpayers are reporting their accurate income – and reporting at all.

The latest instance came to light recently as the CRA sought information from The Home Depot, in July, using a provision in the Income Tax Act (ITA), known as the Unnamed Person Requirement (UPR).

The CRA obtained a Federal Court order (which they are required to do) which legally required the Home Depot to disclose the identities of their commercial customers as well as the total annual amount spent by each of these customers between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2016, Canada-wide.

Certainly, there are some Canadian Contractors who work solely for cash, and the CRA will use this information with the information that has been filed by these individuals, to determine if an audit is necessary.

The CRA will likely move quickly in cases where there are clear discrepancies, such as contractors who claimed $1 in income, who appeared at the top of the Home Depot list, and who live in, or own, millions of dollars of assets. In these cases, the CRA would send a letter, followed 30-days later by an assessment, and the taxpayer has 90-days to appeal that assessment with facts. Facts, being supporting documentation such as proof, receipts, explanations, and bank statements to prove that nothing untoward had occurred.

I’m not going to lie when I say that in the almost 11-year working in the CRA and the almost 11-years since I left the CRA, I have seen pretty much everything. Some good, some really good, but some bad, and some really bad.

The fact that the CRA found this tax evasion is part of the bigger problem around tax advice being given to people from people who have no idea what they’re saying. As a result, the CRA has to jump in, assume everyone is lying, cheating and stealing, and paint everyone with the same brush.

It gets worse, if these tax evaders filed tax returns and lied about having no income and received benefits based on earning no income, when in fact they earned considerable amounts of income and then took benefits they were not entitled to received from hard-working Canadians who pay their taxes. In those cases, these tax cheats can expect the CRA and the courts to come down much harder on them.

When taxpayers are convicted of tax evasion, they must still repay the full amount of taxes owing, plus interest and any civil penalties assessed by the CRA. In addition, the courts may fine them up to 200% of the taxes evaded and impose a jail term of up to five years.

Didn’t shop at Home Depot? You’re not out of the woods yet. In addition to this list from Home Depot, the CRA also compiled lists of municipal building permits by way of seeking out unregistered building subcontractors. The review of 8,396 building permits yielded 2,751 unregistered building contractors.

According to a CRA report released in late 2018, underground activity in Canada totalled $51.6 billion in 2016, which could have gone into the tax coffers.

When seeking permission from the court to have the Home Depot hand over their records, the CRA stated that 7% of an unidentified company’s customers had were not filed up-to-date on their personal tax returns, meaning a greater chance of tax evasion (which people think, but again, is totally not true).

Many audit and collection projects within the CRA make use of unnamed persons requirements (UPRs), tips from the CRA’s Informant Leads Line (Snitch line) and from Canadians themselves who fail to file tax returns on time.

If you, or someone you know falls into this category, you are best to contact us at inTAXicating, to help answer questions truthfully about how much exposure you might have to the CRA and what solutions are available to help.

We can be reached at: info@intaxicating.ca

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Lien Questions Answered

There are many questions around writs and liens – each situation can be very different – but there are some commonly asked questions which pop-up when someone realizes that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has registered a lien against their property.

Commonly asked questions:

  1. When does a lien have to be dealt with. A:When the property needs to be sold or refinanced. Unfortunately, many Canadians realize that the CRA has actually registered a lien when the property owner is attempting to sell or refinance their property, which is also the worst time to attempt to get the CRA to work with you.

2. Can I negotiate with the CRA? A: No, the CRA will not / does not negotiate tax debts. You can negotiate a payment arrangement under certain circumstances, and you can “negotiate” penalties and interest by applying to the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief program, but no other negotiations exist outside of bankruptcy.

3. Will the CRA remove a lien if I file for bankruptcy? A: No, liens survive bankruptcy.

4. Once I pay the lien amount, my debts to the CRA are done, finished, over? A: No, actually, the lien amount represents an amount owing in your account at the time the lien was registered. There is still interest accumulating on the debt (possibly other assessments too). Once the lien is resolved, there is the additional amount(s) which must be cleared up.

5. How can I get a lien removed? A: Great question! You can, provided you are doing so for a reason. If you need the lien removed in order to refinance because that re-financing will result in the CRA getting paid, then you might be able to have the CRA temporarily lift the lien to allow for that transaction to proceed.

6. Can I transfer the property out of my name / remove myself from title? A: NO, NO, NO!!! This is very dangerous because if you transfer an asset from your name into another person’s name when you have a debt to the CRA, or may have a debt to the CRA, and that transfer is for less than the fair market value, then the person who received that asset can be held liable for your tax debts.

7. Is the CRA going to act on the lien and kick me out of my house? A: No. If there was a lien on a secondary property such as a cottage for example, then the CRA might be prompted to take action and force a sale, but for a principal residence, no they are not.

8. If I leave it long enough, will it go away? A: Unfortunately no, unless you knew something about the way the CRA operates and there were specific criteria which applied to you and your financial situation.

Email Example

To help clear up some of the confusion around this topic, here is an email we received recently regarding a CRA lien. This email contains some common questions, along with some common misinformation.

Hopefully this example will help Taxpayers who have liens registered against them by the CRA.

Lien email.

Question: “When the CRA puts a lien on a property, we are advised to contact a lawyer. Why is that? Can we not get written confirmation from the CRA ourselves, that after the lien amount is paid, the lien will be removed within a set period of time?  If they agree to do it, do they just delay anyway or check whether they want anything else from you first?  Is this all true?”

Answer: There is a lot here, but let’s break it down into manageable pieces.

When the CRA registers a lien against a property – which is a regular CRA collections technique in order for the CRA to secure their debt – they know what the outcome will be.  As a result, while it might be a huge inconvenience, it’s usually not a concern unless the property is going to be sold, or if it needs to be re-financed.  In that case, the lien needs to be addressed.  Otherwise, the amount the CRA registers the lien for is the amount owing on the day the lien was registered and interest and possibly debt continues to accrue on the account.

The CRA cannot and will not provide confirmation that once a lien is paid that the lien will be removed because there might be additional debts which the CRA is going to need to register a lien for.  They prefer not to put things in writing which could come back to cause them problems collecting tax debts.

If, however, there is a just a tax debt, and the collector registers a lien and that lien is satisfied (paid) – that means the balance was paid in full through re-financing or selling the property.

The major problem that occurs here is that once a tax account is paid, that account is automatically removed from the inventory of accounts that the collector has – often without them knowing. This means they do not have the opportunity to remove the lien from the property and need to be reminded there is a lien in place so they can finish it up, remove the lien and close the account.

Otherwise, it can be very difficult to get a lien removed after the fact because there is no one assigned to it, and no one wants to take responsibility for working an account which is not assigned to them.

So if there is a lien registered and you pay it, make sure to follow up in a timely manner to ensure it’s been taken off.

Lien / Writ / Certificate Help

If you, or someone you know has a lien registered on a property that they own and are looking for suggestions, recommendations or solutions to resolve this, then look no further than inTAXicating Tax Services.

We can be reached via email at info@intaxicating.ca, to get the ball rolling.

Our services will cost you much less than you expected, and your results will be far greater than you could have imagined.

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.