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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BC Land Developer and Builder Sentenced For Tax Evasion

May 3, 2019 – Vancouver, British Columbia

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has announced that Willi Isaak of Anmore, British Columbia (Canada), has been sentenced to pay a $23,100 fine after being found guilty on two counts of tax evasion and one count of making false statements under the Income Tax Act, and one count of goods and services tax / harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) evasion under the Excise Tax Act.

Mr. Isaak was a director and 50% shareholder of Baarak United Enterprises Ltd. (Baarak), a real estate development company. Baarak was responsible for the acquisition and subdivision of a 20-acre land parcel in the Village of Anmore, British Columbia.

The trial judge determined that Mr. Isaak willfully evaded the payment of tax, by failing to report taxable corporate and personal income totalling $181,902 for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. Bank and accounting records revealed that several client payments for construction management fees and a BC Hydro refund related to the Anmore development were deposited into Mr. Isaak’s personal bank account, and unaccounted for in Baarak’s general ledgers. Mr. Isaak also failed to remit GST/HST collected from business operations during that period.

All case-specific information above was obtained from the court records.

The CRA takes tax evasion very seriously. Tax evasion occurs when an individual or business wilfully ignores or disregards Canada’s tax laws. For example, those participating in tax evasion under-report taxable income or claim expenses that are non-deductible or overstated. Those who do not fully comply with tax laws place an unfair burden on law-abiding taxpayers and businesses and jeopardize the integrity of Canada’s tax base. For the 5-year period of April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2018, the courts have convicted 307 taxpayers of tax evasion. This involved $134 million in federal tax evaded and court sentences totaling approximately $37 million in court fines and 2,964 months in jail.

Wilfully failing to follow tax laws could result in serious consequences, including reassessments, the imposition of civil penalties and criminal tax investigations and prosecutions resulting in the imposition of court fines and jail time. Under the income tax and excise tax laws, persons convicted of tax evasion will face fines ranging from 50% to 200% of the evaded taxes and up to five years imprisonment. If convicted of fraud under Section 380 of the Criminal Code, an individual can face up to 14 years in jail.

The CRA has set up a free subscription service to help Canadians stay current on the CRA’s enforcement efforts.

inTAXicating.ca was down. But it’s fully functional and operating again. Thank you for your patience!

For those of you who have attempted to connect with me through my website, inTAXicating.ca, you may have noticed that it was down for a period of time… I had changed web-hosts and at some point in time, the new host changed routing and didn’t notify me, so the site and email went down.

Apparently, while all of these website issues were finally resolved, the email issues have been partially resolved. Some of the older emails were retrieved, whereas some may be gone forever.

As I try to get through the backlog of emails, and phone calls, I ask that if you have tried to contact me in the past month to month and a half, and if you have not heard back, or if we started correspondence and that abruptly ceased – and you still need assistance – to please reach out again via email (info@intaxicating.ca).

Thank you for your patience.

As a back-up, I have also begun using this gmail account: intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com.

If you have a tax question, need some assistance with a tax problem or want to hire me to assist with a tax diagnosis or write a Taxpayer Relief letter, please contact me.  If you would like to have me speak to a group, or conduct any media interviews, please mention in the subject line that the email is urgent.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Warren Orlans

inTAXicating

A Tax Joke? Taxes are Not a joke!

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

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

Here it is;

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

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

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

Nobody could squeeze one single drop out of the lemons.

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

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

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

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

The crowd fell silent.

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

“Drinks are on me!” The man said.

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

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

 

Groan.

Canadians Must Hold Governments Accountable For Their Spending of Tax Revenue

The average Canadian family’s largest expense is taxes.

Therefore it should not be unreasonable that Canadians expect all levels of government to not waste their tax dollars, money taken off their paychecks and paid into the system.

Whether tax dollars are wasted when a government pays a negotiation bonus to unions, or if they have to pay private companies a fine after breaking contracts with them, governments must do a better job at keeping the optics above-board and avoid $200,000 moving expenses or $1300 a person dinners altogether!

But they don’t, or they can’t, and we, as Canadians have come to expect that from our elected officials.

If governments want to spend fast and loose with money, let it be their own, or at the very least taxes off of non-Canadians – like withholding taxes, or something of the like.

But if we, as Canadians do not hold these governments accountable for their spending of our taxes, we allow them to continue to do this and they will continue to do so.

If we held our elected officials to a higher standard and used the opportunity to remove governments who wasted taxpayer dollars immediately, it would send a message to the next government that they have to spend wisely.

This information came out in the late summer months from the Fraser Institute, an economic think-tank.

To clarify, when referring to taxes, its not just income taxes, but all the taxes Canadian Taxpayers make to all levels of governments (federal, provincial, and local), including both visible and hidden taxes— everything from income taxes, which are less than a third of the total, to payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, health taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol taxes, and much more.

In a recent report published by the Fraser Institute, they tracked the total tax bill of the average Canadian family from 1961 to 2014.

For 2014, they estimated that the average Canadian family (including unattached Canadians) earned $79,010 in income and paid $33,272 in total taxes—or 42.1% of income—while just 36.6% went to food, clothing, and shelter combined.

Indeed, Canadian families spend more on taxes than the basic necessities of life.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Back in 1961, the first year the Fraser Institute started tracking this data, the average Canadian family paid a much smaller portion of its household income in taxes (33.5%) while spending proportionately more on the basic necessities (56.5%).

Since 1961, Canadians’ total tax bills have increased by 1,886%, dwarfing increases in shelter costs (1,366%), clothing (819%), and food (561%). Even after accounting for inflation (the change in overall prices), the tax bill shot up 149.2% over the period.

And now taxes eat up more income than any other single family expense.

So why should Canadians care, aside from the fact that we work really hard to earn an income, and pay these taxes?

With more money going to the government, families have less to spend on things of their own choosing, whether it’s a new car, technological gadget, or family vacation. They also have less money available to save for retirement and their children’s education, or to pay down household debt.

While there’s no doubt that taxes help fund important government services, the issue is the amount of taxes that governments use compared to what we get in return.

To make an informed assessment, you must have a complete understanding of all the taxes you pay. Unfortunately, it’s not so straightforward because the different levels of government levy such a wide range of taxes—with many taxes buried in consumer prices and hard to discern.

Armed with this knowledge, we can hold our governments more accountable for the resources they extract and continue a public debate about the overall tax burden, the amount and scope of government spending, and whether we’re getting our money’s worth.

Otherwise, taxes will continue to increase.

So why is this important to us?

It is important because we understand that taxation is a necessity in order to have a healthy, wealthy, productive society for everyone, and in paying taxes there are circumstances which arise that make the system disadvantages to some Canadians.

Unlike our neighbours to the south who shoot elected officials for spending money, we are much more in control of our emotions (plus, no guns, eh?) so we need to hold them accountable in different ways, such as, not re-electing them. and going to public debates, and letting the officials that we elect know that they can no longer waste our money!

We can fix this.

The Truth and Myths Around the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Program

There is quite a lot of information on the Internet around the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Taxpayer Relief Program (formerly known as fairness).  Understandably, there is also a lot of misinformation around this program.  After having spent almost 11 years working in the CRA – beginning as an entry-level collector and working my way up through the division to a team leader before taking my MBA and heading into the private sector –  I have learned quite a lot about how the Taxpayer Relief program actually works.Myth vs Reality

This post will identify the key objectives of the program straight from the CRA, and then highlights some common myths about the program and the actual fact about why it makes sense to invest considerable time and effort into an application, or engage the services of someone who knows the program inside and out.

The Taxpayer Relief program was set up to allow for the Minister of National Revenue to grant relief from penalty and/or interest when the following types of situations prevent a taxpayer (individual or corporation) from meeting their tax obligations:

  • Extraordinary circumstances;
  • Actions of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA);
  • Inability to pay or financial hardship;
  • Other circumstances

The program distinguishes between “cancelling” and “waiving” of penalties and/or interest as the CRA understands that granting relief to a taxpayer only to see them smothering in penalties and interest again is an exercise in futility.

The term “cancel” refers to a penalty or interest amount that is assessed or charged for which relief is granted, in whole or in part, by the CRA.

The term “waive” refers to a penalty or interest amount that is not yet assessed or charged for which relief is granted, in whole or in part, by the CRA.

The term “Taxpayer” includes individual, employer or payer, corporation, partnership, organization, trust, estate, goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) registrant or claimant.

Now, you or your client, has been charged penalties and / or interest and you want to know if you qualify.  Look no further than the CRA website, and their section on Taxpayer Relief, here.

Circumstances that may warrant relief include;

Extraordinary circumstances

Penalties or interest may be cancelled or waived in whole or in part when they result from circumstances beyond a taxpayer’s control.  Extraordinary circumstances that may have prevented a taxpayer from making a payment when due, filing a return on time, or otherwise complying with a tax obligation include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

  • Natural or human-made disasters, such as a flood or fire;
  • Civil disturbances or disruptions in services, such as a postal strike;
  • Serious illness or accident; and
  • Serious emotional or mental distress, such as death in the immediate family.

Actions of the CRA

The CRA may also cancel or waive penalties or interest when they result primarily from CRA actions, including:

  • Processing delays that result in taxpayers not being informed, within a reasonable time, that an amount was owing;
  • Errors in CRA material which led a taxpayer to file a return or make a payment based on incorrect information;
  • Incorrect information provided to a taxpayer by the CRA (usually in writing);
  • Errors in processing;
  • Delays in providing information, resulting in taxpayers not being able to meet their tax obligations in a timely manner; and
  • Undue delays in resolving an objection or an appeal, or in completing an audit.

Inability to pay or financial hardship

The CRA may, in circumstances where there is a confirmed inability to pay amounts owing, consider waiving or cancelling interest in whole or in part to enable taxpayers to pay their account. For example, this could occur when:

  • A collection has been suspended because of an inability to pay caused by the loss of employment and the taxpayer is experiencing financial hardship;
  • A taxpayer is unable to conclude a payment arrangement because the interest charges represent a significant portion of the payments; or
  • Payment of the accumulated interest would cause a prolonged inability to provide basic necessities (financial hardship) such as food, medical help, transportation, or shelter; consideration may be given to cancelling all or part of the total accumulated interest.

Consideration would not generally be given to cancelling a penalty based on an inability to pay or financial hardship unless an extraordinary circumstance prevented compliance, or an exceptional situation existed. For example, when a business is experiencing extreme financial difficulty and enforcement of such penalties would jeopardize the continuity of its operations, the jobs of the employees, and the welfare of the community as a whole, consideration may be given to providing relief of the penalties.

Other circumstances

The CRA may also grant relief if a taxpayer’s circumstances do not fall within the situations described above.

The CRA expects these guidelines to be used when applying for relief and that the requests are made within the deadlines for requesting relief, which is limited to any period that ended within 10 years before the calendar year in which a request is submitted or an income tax return is filed.   The 10-year limitation period rolls forward every January 1st.

If filed using the correct form, with sufficient supporting documentation, a response from the Taxpayer Relief Program can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years due to the amount of requests.  In order to ensure that you are making the best claim possible, you really should engage the services of a professional, as they would be able to assess whether or not your request is sufficient, and they would ensure that you meet all the other conditions which must be in place for the CRA to review and consider your application.

At the end of the day, if you have a reasonable chance of being successful under this program, the investment made to have it written, reviewed or monitored by an expert is a worthwhile expenditure.

Now let’s have a look at some common myths around this program which are floating around the Internet.

Myths

Myth: That the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief program is a one time program and that you had better take your best shot the time you decide to apply.

Reality: Not true,  This program is available to all Canadians who have been charged penalties and / or interest and as such, they have the right to ask for relief each and every time it is warranted.  The Taxpayer Relief Group do not maintain collection inventories and as such they review each case on the merit of its submission without any influence from the permanent collections diary or the collector assigned to the case.

Myth: That the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Program is used in order for the CRA and a taxpayer to negotiate a deal which would resolve the taxpayer’s debt issue by settling the debt and accepting less than the actual amount owed to them.

Reality: Never, ever, ever!  The CRA does NOT settle debts outside of bankruptcy or a proposal, and they certainly do not use the taxpayer relief program for this purpose.  As a matter of fact, I can speak of a first hand experience where a collector used the word “settle” in the permanent collection diary of a corporation which had paid a principle tax debt of $650,000, because they wanted to fight the $775,000 in penalties and interest through Taxpayer Relief.  The CRA sent back the $650,000 and re-opened negotiation with the corporation because they did not want to set the precedent of settling tax debts through the Taxpayer Relief Program.

Myth: I cannot afford to pay my taxes, so I am not going to file my tax return, and then when I have a debt, I can ask for relief because I had no money?

Reality:  Failure to file a tax return is a criminal offence which can result in prosecution, so you should always file, and be clear to the CRA upfront that money is tight.  But before an application is made to the Taxpayer Relief Program, all outstanding returns must be filed up to date, and all installments must be accounted for.  Otherwise, the application is set aside until everything is current.

Myth: Having a disability or illness from birth qualifies me for Taxpayer Relief.

Reality: Probably not.  If you have managed to conduct your affairs for a period of time without any tax issues, but then something happens which cases the accumulation of penalties and interest, you cannot use your disability or illness when applying for relief, unless something happened during the period in which the penalties and / or interest were applied as a result of a worsening of your disability / illness.  In that case, you would need to substantiate this with supporting letters from your doctors and specialists.  

Myth:  I met with someone who is going to write a letter to the CRA asking for relief and they have sent me the letter to review.  If I sign it, and they send it off, am I now being considered for relief?

Reality:  Not any more.   Years ago, taxpayers were able to send in letters to the fairness department which contained their reasons for asking for relief and some would include supporting documentation, while others would not.  However, since the CRA revamped the Taxpayer Relief Program, they require that the form RC4288 be included in the package or the claim will be rejected.

Myth:  I need to be pre-qualified for the CRA Taxpayer Relief Program.

Reality: No.  You can determine if you may qualify, or you can seek a professional to help you determine if you have grounds for relief, but there is no pre-qualification of this program.

Myth: If my claim is rejected, then I have to pay the penalties and interest.

Reality:  You should make arrangements to pay the penalties and interest in any case in order to stop the interest clock from ticking should the claim be denied – wherever possible, however, the Taxpayer Relief Program allows for a second-level review to be performed (usually with additional information provided) and there is an option for judicial review should the second level review be unfavourable.

 

So take some time to look around when you are considering an application under the Taxpayer Relief Program and make sure that if you engage someone you do so for the right reasons.