Thursday Thirteen: 13 Tax-Related Things That Confuse Canadians.

I came across this interesting article from the Globe and Mail newspaper called “10 Tax Related Things that Leave Canadians Stumped”, and while I suggest you read the original article, I have used this article for inspiration to provide 13 Tax-Related Things that Confuse Canadians.

  1. Why can’t spouses file joint income tax returns as they can do in the US?
  2. Why are parents only allowed a transfer of $5,000 of their child’s unused tuition, education and book credits?  The parent is often the one who paid the costs of tuition, should they not be able use all of it?
  3. If I received an actual dividend of $1,000, why do I report $1,380 on my tax return ($380 is called a “dividend gross-up” and the purpose of grossing up a payment is to bring the dividend back up to the amount of money the corporation earned before it paid corporate tax.
  4. Why must child care expenses be claimed by the lower-income spouse?  Understanding that the motivation behind this child care deduction is to get people with children back to work to help drive the economy, but the way this deduction is written it is claimed by the lower-income spouse based on 2/3rds of their income.  By doing this, the deduction is constrained by that spouse’s income.  Should it not be based on the higher-earning spouse so that the family could often get a larger child care claim to offset the costs and since it’s being paid, why are they not allowed to claim it in full in each and every case?
  5. When one spouse has a tax refund and the other owes money, why can’t you net the refund and tax payment against each other? Again, this would simplify our tax system and reduce the administration and paper work for the CRA, but the privacy rules are cited for this not happening. but should the situation be different – a spouse with a debt – and they are all over that!
  6. Why do people hold on to their investments too long before converting them, resulting in a capital gain becoming a capital loss?  Yes, the tax on capital gains is 23% but paying tax on a gain is much better than losing money, isn’t it?
  7. How is it that the CRA never knows when people move when they are looking for missing filings or returns but they always know where I am when they need to send a legal warning letter or register a lien against a property.?
  8. Why do people pay no attention to the RRSP contribution limit information on their income tax assessments when planning their contributions for the year, usually at the last-minute in March? An individual’s RRSP contribution limit for the upcoming year is printed right on the Notice of Assessment for the prior year and can be found through the “My Accounts” section of the CRA website.
  9. Why can self-employed people claim mortgage interest as a home-office expense while employees cannot? If you have an employer that requires you to work from home and they sign a T2200 form saying so, why should an employee’s deductible expenses be restricted in comparison to a self-employed person’s?
  10. Why can I deduct my car expenses when I drive directly to my client’s office from my home – but when I drive to my own office to work with the client via teleconference or telephone, why is the mileage considered personal?
  11. Why is the maximum childcare expense set at $7,000, when the monthly child care cost far exceeds $1,000 in many cities? It drops to $4,000 for children aged 7 to 16.
  12. If the CRA send me a refund cheque in error – their error – and whether I cash it or not, they charge me penalties and interest when they recover it?
  13. How a CRA audit deemed to be a “random” audit where the auditor states that they are not looking for anything, always has something behind it which caused it.  Why can’t they just say, “You’ve been snitched on”, or “You claimed an expense with a fake invoice” or even “You took cash from your business and deposited it into your personal account.”  That way, knowing the gig is up, the auditor could transfer all like issues over and assess and give the person a warning that will have meaning.

Can anyone answer any of these?

 

Time will tell.

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On the Fence about FATCA? Canada and U.S. Sign Intergovernmental Agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

Ever since  I caught wind of  the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, back in 2010, FATCA has been near the top of my radar.  For those of you who are unaware what FATCA is, The Foreign Account Tax dept of financeCompliance Act (FATCA) requires citizens of the United States (present, past, those with citizenship who do not live there, those who worked there a specific number of day, and those who received “accidental” citizenship through birth), to report their financial assets held outside of the United States to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  If providing that information means that the IRS would be taxing you and you have been trying to hide these assets, FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report your information to the IRS.  The intent of FATCA was to combat offshore tax evasion and to recoup federal tax revenues.   FATCA is a portion of the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.

As the tax manager at Computershare Investor Services and the Assistant Vice President of Tax for CitiGroup (CitiFund Services) I got to know FATCA very intimately and at one point or another became the Canadian lead on information dissemination and compliance.  After almost 11-years of interpreting legislation at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deciphering this text came second nature and thus taking the FATCA regulations and translating them into English was not a difficult task, but more something that I had to do in order to teach myself the requirements so I could pass along that knowledge to my employers and to my clients.

The interesting thing about FATCA from a Canadian side was that with over a million “US Persons” here in Canada (probably much more now) I don’t believe the IRS understood that the majority of them were paying taxes in Canada and since the Canadian tax rate is higher than the US rate, there was some hesitation on the Canadian side to provide all this data to the IRS for no net gain.  Other countries rushed to sign intergovernmental agreements with the IRS to meet deadlines which have now been pushed out again as a result of the July 2014 start date for FATCA, but Canada did not.

The Canadian government was hesitant to force Canadian financial institutions to provide the very detailed information on Canadian citizens for fear that they would be double taxed, something the Canada-US Treaty strove to avoid.   In addition, the Canadian side wanted the Canada Revenue Agency included so that information could pass through secure channels and potential breaches of security and privacy could be avoided.  There was even talk that Canada refused to sign an agreement with the IRS, instead forcing the IRS to seek their own tax cheats from their own side of the border.

Then something changed.

The IRS began ramping up their search for US Persons via every mean possible – whether it was checking Facebook accounts to see where people are born, cross-checking it with school records – or by allowing people who had no previous knowledge of FATCA some amnesty when catching up on their delinquent tax returns, but then hammering them on their filing of the Report of Foreign and Financial Assets to the tune of $10,000 per late return – with no maximum.

People became scared, and when scared you have two choices to make.  Either flee or fight.  In this case it’s either comply or pray.

Those who chose to file had to wade through unclear rules and regulations and a lot of unclear information floating around on the Internet.  Is there penalty, is there not?  Will I be charges criminally, or will the IRS understand that I was not aware of my obligations.  Do I have to file 3-years of past-due returns or 10 years?  When are FBAR’s due?  Should this cost me $10,000 or $100,000?

Many questioned the over-reach on the US side while others commented that as an US citizen, the requirements were there and you should have known.

But with all that being said, on February 5th, 2014, Canada and United States announced that they have reach an agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The intergovernmental agreement lays out the details of how the US will be using FATCA to track down the Canadian financial activities of US persons to make sure they are paying required taxes to the IRS.

Under the terms of the agreement Canadian financial institutions will send some of the information they collect on their US clientele to the Canada Revenue Agency and the CRA will transmit the information to the IRS.

The agreement can be read in it’s entirety on the Canadian Department of Finance website.

My take from reading the release is that the Canadian government realized their hands were tied, however they were not going to allow the IRS to demand information which violates Canadian privacy laws and thus allowed the IRS to pursue their legitimate tax-base with the assistance of the CRA much in the same way the CRA and IRS work together to collect tax debts – through information sharing and not the actual collecting of debts for the other country.

Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, the Minister of National Revenue said; “This is strictly a tax information-sharing agreement. This agreement will not impose any U.S. taxes or penalties on U.S. citizens or U.S. residents holding accounts in Canada. The CRA does not collect the U.S. tax liability of a Canadian citizen if the individual was a Canadian citizen at the time the liability arose. This includes dual Canada-U.S. citizens. That will not change under this agreement.”

Changes to the FATCA legislation under this agreement include, but are not limited to;

  • Certain accounts are exempt from FATCA and will not be reportable, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), and others yet to be released.
  • Smaller deposit-taking institutions, such as credit unions, with assets of less than $175 million will be exempt from FATCA compliance.
  • The 30 percent FATCA withholding tax will not apply to clients of Canadian financial institutions, and can apply to a Canadian financial institution only if the financial institution is in significant and long-term non-compliance with its obligations under the agreement.

This intergovernmental agreement is only the beginning.  Recent G-8 and G-20 commitments agreed upon in September 2013, intended to fight tax evasion globally and to improve tax fairness, provide for an automatic exchange of tax information as the new global standard.  This agreement signaled an intention to begin exchanging information automatically on tax matters among G-20 members by the end of 2015.

So like it or not, FATCA is just the beginning of a world-wide crack down on tax evasion.

Still on the fence?

inTAXicating Tax Services works with several Canadian tax-preparation firms who specialize in US taxes, and FATCA compliance.  If you wish to get caught up, please feel free to reach out to us at info@intaxicating.ca.  If, you have further questions and wish to discuss your requirements, you can email, or call us at 416.833.1581.  If you wish to comment, you may do so below.

A Lesson in POWER: How to ALWAYS Level the Playing Field with the CRA.

Power is a funny thing.

Pretty much everyone wants it at some point in their life.

Most of the people who have it do not know how to use it properly.

To be honest, few will ever get it.

The most important thing to know about power is that it is most successful when used in two ways; either by declaring yourself King and having your cronies keep everyone else at bay by whatever means possible, or secondly by taking the time to get key players on your side and using your network to help you maintain power but all along helping those around you learn and grow, and they help everyone else under them do the same.

Which model do you think is most often associated with government tax collections agencies?

Having spent a lot of time working at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in the collections and enforcement division and being responsible for training collections, enforcement and audit staff there I can honestly say not as many staff there who feel you have to do what they say no matter the consequences as you would think.

It is true that there are employees of the CRA who feel that being in a position of power allows them to do things, say things and act in a manner which is improper or unjustified.  There are also staff there who take their positions of power to a whole new level and they let their egos control their decision-making process which means they wield power in order to realize an outcome in their best interest, not yours.

I have seen how power corrupts and the result is never easy to correct.

The CRA has a lot of power.

Throughout my decade of employment at the Canada Revenue Agency I was surprised with how much power the Agency has and how many taxpayers feared this power.  I could hear collection officers tell taxpayers that they could clean out their bank accounts like “this!” (Insert snapping of fingers sound here), which is true, but also not true.  I learned to be subtle in my use of my apparent super-powers and the way I used my power was to visit my clients and by always making sure that when sitting with a taxpayer / representative that my chair was at its highest so that I would be looking down at them.  It was all I needed when dealing with the career tax evaders because it worked, but it was a tactic not necessary when dealing with 99% of the people I met with.

However, we already know that the CRA has a lot of power and in most cases before they use it, they are going to let you know first by phone, letter or a visit to your home or place of employment.  Once the CRA has decided they need to use their powers they are bound by the guidelines set out in the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act and by policies and procedures set out in their tax office.  The extent to which they use their powers is either their decision or it is influenced by their team leader or manager.

Once the CRA starts using their powers, your ability to control the outcome diminishes greatly. What you can control, is how much power you will ALLOW the CRA to use against you.

This is done by being proactive – reading notices, asking questions and keeping all your paperwork in one spot where you can access it once it is asked for.  But if you are past that point, or if it is just not possible, then you can take power back by enlisting the help of people who know the CRA policies, procedures and most importantly, their techniques and tactics.

If the CRA knew they were dealing with someone who knew more about their job, more about their techniques and more about how quickly they need to take an action which they claim is urgent, then the playing field is changed forever.

Having someone there to look after your best interests, who will tell you what the best plan of action for you, and you only, then taking that plan to the CRA and telling them the same is the best way to always level the playing field.  Negotiating is always easier when you know more than your opponent.

So please, if you have a tax problem, old or new, and you have been spinning your wheels with the CRA, the IRS, the MRQ, WSIB or the CRTC, don’t let it continue any longer.  Come visit inTAXicating.ca, or send us an email at info@intaxicating.ca and take advantage of our free consultation to leave how to put these issues behind you once and for all.

Have you ever been put in a position where you accepted something which was not in your best interests because the other side had all the power?

Happy to read your comments below.

Happy 2014! Here are 14 things you can do right now to reduce your tax burden, or increase tax credits, on your 2013 taxes.

Happy New Year!  May 2014 bring you wealth, happiness, prosperity and great health.  May it also bring you debt-free (should you need to be) and also allow you to be one step ahead of the taxing authorities.

With the changing of the calendar, many are already working on their new years’ resolutions, but you should also review the list below to see if there are any actions you can do now to reduce your 2013 taxes owing or to increase the amount of refund you will get this year, or in future years.  It’s never the wrong time to thing about tax savings – we do it all the time here at Intaxicating, and want to pass along some tips for you.

Here are 14 easy strategies you can still take advantage of which impact your 2013 taxation year;

 

1.  Make your installment payments as required, or if you have fallen behind, catch up with one lump sum payment right away.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) charges interest on missed installment payments, but if you catch up in one fell swoop, then they begin to reduce the amount of interest they charge you.  Ssshhh.  It’s a secret.

 

2.  Make sure you file on time and pay in full while doing so.

So how does this impact the 2013 taxation year, you might be asking and why is it so high up the list?  It is because many Canadians are shocked with the amount of money they owe at year-end and it’s the worst time of the year to discuss ways to reduce taxes with your accountant or tax preparer because they are so unbelievably overwhelmed they cannot spare 2 minutes to talk to you, let alone review your return for possible deductions you failed to mention to them. You are not the accountant!  Nor the tax professional.  So take time now to speak to someone who knows about what you do for a living and see if there are areas where you may be entitled to a deduction or credit and then go get that supporting documentation.  Also use the time to run your year-end situation through a free tax program to see how much you owe and what it will take to reduce that, or make it go away completely.

If, however, you are stuck owing a balance to the CRA or MRQ, make sure to set aside the funds to pay it in full with the filing of your tax return.  Heck, you could even send in the money now if you have it, but do not wait until even a day later than the deadline or interest starts accumulating.  The CRA charges 10% interest compounding daily, so it can add up rather quickly.

 

3.  Contribute to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).  

The deadline to contribute to your RRSP for 2013 is March 3rd, 2014.  If you need to know how much you are eligible to contribute to your RRSP. check your 2012 CRA Notice of Assessment.  Or, check online using the CRA’s “My Account” service.  Your contribution limit for 2013 is going to be 18% of your 2012 earned income (to a maximum of $23,820) less your 2012 pension adjustment, if any, plus any RRSP room carried forward from prior years.

 

4.  Contribute to a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).  

The Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) program was initiated by the federal government to assist families saving for their children’s post-secondary education.  As an added bonus, the government tops up your annual contribution by 20%, up to a maximum of $500 ($2,500 contributions x 20%) per beneficiary per calendar year, to a lifetime maximum of $7,200. 

 

5. If you turned 71-years-old, you must collapse your RRSP.

If you turned 71-years-old by December 31, 2013, you must collapse your RRSP by the end of the year. At that time, you have 3 choices to make; either pay tax on the fair market value of the plan’s assets, transfer your RRSP into a Registered Retirement Fund Income Fund (RRIF), or purchase an annuity with the proceeds.  No tax is paid at the time of the purchase of the annuity or at the time of conversion into a RRIF.  You may still be able to contribute to your spouse’s RRSP under certain conditions.

 

6.  Make your Home Buyers’ Plan repayment before it is included in your income for the year.

The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) is a program that allows you to withdraw funds from your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability. You can withdraw up to $25,000 in a calendar year.   

Generally, you have to repay all withdrawals to your RRSPs within a period of no more than 15 years. You will have to repay an amount to your RRSPs each year until your HBP balance is zero. If you do not repay the amount to your RRSP, for 2012, it will have to be included in your income for that year.  The deadline is

March 3rd, 2014.

 

7.  Pay the interest on low-interest loans related to income-splitting.

If you have entered into an income-splitting arrangement with family members and have loaned funds to either a spouse or a child at the interest rate set (quarterly) by the CRA, make sure that the interest on these loans are paid before January 30, 2014, or the loans will be subject to the attribution rules which taxes the income earned by your spouse or child in your hands.

 

8.  Pay the interest on an employer-loan to avoid it becoming a taxable benefit.

If in 2012, you received a low-interest loan from your employer you will want to ensure that interest is paid on that loan before January 30, 2014 in order to avoid a deemed taxable employment benefit. This benefit will be calculated at the CRA’s prescribed rate for the period that the loan was outstanding (which increased from 1% to 2%, effective October 1, 2013) less any interest actually paid.  This is not to be confused with a loan taken out as a result of shares owned.

 

9.  Reduce your business income by paying your family members who work for you.

As a business owner, it is beneficial to pay your family members a wage consistent with a wage you would pay to a complete stranger in order to reducing the amount of income in your business.  Also ensure that you are remitting to the CRA the CPP, EI and tax amounts on these payments.  You will need to issue them a T4, and file a T4 summary with the CRA by February 28th, 2014.

 

10.  File any T4’s and the T4 summary before the CRA deadline of February 28th, 2014 in order to avoid any penalties and interest.

If you are short on remitting for any employees, take advantage of the January 15th remittance – the last one for 2013 – and also consider the Payment on Filing (POF) option to top up amounts with the filing of the T4 summary.  Keep in mind, if you use the POF option to catch up on a considerable amount of funds, the CRA will still charge you maximum penalties.  

 

11.  Pay back any personal operating costs on employer-provided cars.  

If your employer provides you with a company car, you already know that it is a taxable benefit and it will be included on your T4.  Did you know that the actual benefit is made up of two parts; The first part is a standby charge based on a percentage of the original cost or the monthly lease payments for the car, and the second part applies if your employer pays the automobile’s operating expenses.  In 2013, this benefit is equal to 27¢ per personal kilometre driven.  The standby charge and the operating benefit are reduced by the amounts you pay to your employer.  For a standby charge reduction, your payment must have been made during 2013.  For an operating benefit reduction, your payment must be made by February 14, 2014.

 

12.  Has the tax burden from previous years got you considering bankruptcy?  

You are not alone!  In Canada 55% of bankruptcies are CRA related.  Before you speak with a trustee, speak with your trusted tax professionals at Intaxicating Tax Services, who can tell you whether or not the debt is fully collectible, and if there are other options available to you which will not ruin your credit for 7 years.  Even if the CRA is breathing down your neck, they are not allowed to tell you to file for bankruptcy and they like to think they understand when someone is insolvent, but we have the expertise, and the network to help you out of debt or, if you decide to proceed with a bankruptcy, or proposal, get you the best deal possible. 

 

13.  Google your tax problem!

You might have heard that it can be dangerous to Google  that you have a tax problem, however nothing can be further from the truth.  The CRA has all their tax information online and there are a plethora of tax-related resources available to help you determine if you should go it alone or if additional help is needed.  Make sure when you are doing your research that the information you are reading matches with the CRA website, does not sound too good to be true or is written in such a way to scare you into thinking you need to pay for a service you may not.  Most reputable firms will offer a free consultation, or a nominal fee for an hour meeting followed up with a written report to help you decide what to do.  Don’t rush into something until you have all the facts.

 

14.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Speak with your accountant / tax professional about any deductions that you may be entitled to such as the public transit tax credit or for working at home.  If your accountant has not already asked you about what you do in detail then it’s up to you to determine if you need to brush up on the tax act yourself, or find a new tax team to help you pay the least amount of tax possible, like the tax professionals at Intaxicating Tax Services.  If, on the other hand, you are having issues with collections, then we are the only place to go based on our hands-on experience on both sides of the negotiating table.

 

Happy 2014.

 

We are:

InTAXicating Tax Services

@intaxicating

info@intaxicating.ca

416.833.1581.

http://www.facebook.com/intaxicating

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Intaxicating Tax Services.

Is there anything scarier than taxes?!?

Possibly the taxing authorities and some of the people that work there…

Death and Taxes
Death and Taxes (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Boo!

We’re not afraid of Halloween, taxes OR the government!

#IntaxicatingTaxServices

Did you know the MRQ (Revenu Quebec) has an office in Toronto?

Did you know that The Secrétariat aux Affaires Intergouvernementales Canadiennes had an office in Toronto?  So does Revenu Quebec…

The Secrétariat advises the Government of Québec on all Canadian intergovernmental matters, coordinates Québec government activities in Canada, assures the defence and promotion of Québec’s interests, and collaborates to strengthen links with Canada’s francophone and Acadian communities.

The mandate of this office which opened in 1973, is to promote and safeguard Québec’s interests in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut. The head of the Bureau du Québec à Toronto represents the Québec government in its relations with these three governments and is also in charge of Québec’s Vancouver branch office, which is mandated to maintain relations with the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Contact information

Bureau du Québec à Toronto
20 Queen Street West, Suite 1504
P.O. Box 13
Toronto, Ontario M5H 3S3

Telephone: 416 977-6060
Fax: 416 596-1407
E-mail: bqtoronto@mce.gouv.qc.ca

Head: Paul-Arthur Huot

Intergovernmental and institutional relations

One of the main tasks of the Toronto office is to maintain and develop Québec’s intergovernmental and institutional relations with Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut and facilitate exchanges with them. To that end, the office plays an active, ongoing liaison role with government and public departments and agencies such as universities, colleges and municipalities.

Economy

The office’s solid market expertise enables it to offer a wide range of economic and commercial consultation services to Québec businesses. It also promotes Québec products. Thus, the office:

  • supports Québec businesses seeking to penetrate the Ontario and Manitoba markets;
  • advises businesses in its territory looking to invest in Québec or market their products there;
  • provides services proper to the regional economic context;
  • bolsters business partnerships.

Culture

The office fosters an ongoing dialogue with the artists of Ontario and Manitoba to promote exchanges and develop a network for disseminating the work of Québec artists. Its activities are also aimed at promoting Québec’s cultural works and informing the people of Ontario and Manitoba on Québec culture.

Francophonie

The Office nurtures privileged ties with the Francophone organizations that are present on the territory it covers, thus fostering exchanges and partnerships between the Francophone representatives of these regions and Québec. It plays an active role in managing the programs arising out of the Québec Policy on the Canadian Francophonie, and in monitoring the various cooperation agreements.

E-mail: bqtoronto@mce.gouv.qc.ca

In the “Francophonie” section of its Website, the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes offers useful information concerning the policy’s implementation and available financial assistance pursuant to the policy

Communications and public affairs

The Toronto office represents and promotes Québec. It informs Québec government authorities of the major political and economic issues in its territory. Hence, it:

  • provides information and documentation on Québec;
  • maintains relations with the national press;
  • makes a daily survey of major events in its territory;
  • informs Québec government authorities of, and advises them on, the major political, economic and social issues in Ontario and Manitoba.

 

UPDATE:

Taxation

The ministère du Revenu du Québec (or MRQ) has a team of tax specialists in Toronto who USED to be located in the Bureau du Québec à Toronto, to carry out the necessary verifications concerning Canadian firms that do business in Québec, however, they have moved!

The new Toronto office offers taxpayers and agents a tax information telephone service. It also makes available a complete inventory of tax forms.

As of December 2014, their office moved, and is now located at:

400 University Avenue, Suite 1500.

Toronto, ON M5G 1S7

 

Documents may be dropped off at this address between 8 am – 12 pm, and 1 -4 pm.

There is a drop box!

The new telephone number for Revenu Québec in Toronto is: 416.645.8770 x 645 4000

The new office sent me a note to update the information – and I thank them – but they state that with the awesome Clic Revenue Service they offer online, it is very rare that the general public would need to contact them.  I agree.

Ms. Nicole Lemieux is now the Chief Representative.

The MRQ office email: saic-bqtrev@mce.gouv.qc.ca

 

For further information on the Bureau du Québec à Toronto, feel free to contact the office’s personnel.

E-mail: bqtoronto@mce.gouv.qc.ca

http://www.saic.gouv.qc.ca/bureauduquebec/bureau_quebec_toronto_en.htm

Now that’s service!