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

 

CRA Hires New Chief Service Officer. (It wasn’t me, but it should have been me!)

On November 1st, 2018, the CRA announced that as a result of complaints from the public related to “significant service delays”, they have launched a national consultation tour and on this tour will be promoting the appointment of a new Chief Service Officer (CSO).

That position should have been mine, but they never asked, so instead of helping the masses while working at the CRA, I’ll have to continue helping Taxpayers as inTAXicating.

While noting the introduction of a “new suite of services … leading to real results for Canadians”, or a return to the service that the CRA used to give Taxpayers, the CRA is admitting that it has a long way to go in the eyes of Canadians when it comes to providing anything related to “Customer Service”.

In March of 2018, the CRA appointed its first CSO, Mireille Laroche who happens to be a bilingual career public servant with a background in and who previously worked at the Department of Finance.

So much for the CSO helping Taxpayers with Collections issues related to the CRA because for that to happen, the CSO would need actual time working in, you know, Collections.

That being said, the CSO be classified as an Assistant Commissioner of the Service, Innovation and Integration Branch, as well as Chief Data Officer.

The Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, has visited a number of remote locations over the past year to discuss service issues promising solutions, but none have come from the CRA.

Stated “improvements” coming from the CRA include; the opening of the Northern Service Centres in territorial capitals, an enhancement of the CRA’s digital services, and the implementation of a new call centre platform because the one they currently use doesn’t meet the needs of Canadians.

A CRA spokeperson stated that, “these service enhancements will address many of the frustrations Canadians have experienced when they interact with the CRA [and] while they will be of significant benefit to Canadians, they are really just the beginning of the CRA’s client-focused approach to service.”

To that statement, I disagree!  I think the public wants to be able to sit down with their Collections representative face-to-face and that the CRA’s insistence of moving collections files to these “hubs” has created additional confusion, unnecessary stress and assessment which would have been resolved in person previously.

In addition to launching both online and in-person public consultations, the CRA is holding a series of “design jams,” which, according to the CRA spokesperson, is “a collaborative brainstorming activity used to solve design problems. It is part of the ‘design thinking toolkit.’ Design jams produce prototypes, pitches, or proposals; it is the equivalent of a ‘hackathon’ but for designers. The focus is on stakeholder and participant empowerment. Rapid ideation is done with all stakeholders involved.”

Time will tell if there will be actual changes being made to the way the CRA interacts with Taxpayers, or if this is just another way for the Federal Liberal government to spend taxpayer money while touting all the “progress” that has been / will be made.