Auditor General Report Points Out The Obvious: CRA takes too long to resolve tax objections.

In some not-news of the day, the Federal Auditor General has found that the federal government takes months — sometimes years — to make decisions, costing Canadians time and money when it comes to resolving tax disputes.

Audits of the Canada Revenue Agency unveiled exceedingly long delays which fall short of public expectations in an era of advanced technology and instant communications.  He noted that departments, like the CRA, assess the time it takes to make decisions against their own internal benchmarks, giving little heed to what the taxpayers they serve might consider a timely decision.

The Canada Revenue Agency often leaves taxpayers waiting for months after they file formal objections to their tax assessments.  Appeals officers seeking help from other parts of the agency often wait a year or more.

Over the last 10 fiscal years, the inventory of outstanding cases at the CRA grew by 171%, while the number of employees dedicated to resolving them grew by only 14%, the audit found. The backlog of unresolved cases as of March 31 represented more than $18 billion in federal taxes, the audit said.

But the solution here is not necessarily to grow the public service, but rather a review of the internal policies and how the union impacts the employees ability to do their jobs might need to be reviewed and revamped.

I remember when I started working in the CRA and was “advised” that I should be working 7 accounts per day.  I can tell you this, when you begin your day at 7:15, and are completed your work by 8:30 there is only so much coffee you can drink per day.  I wound up holding several inventories of accounts, and assisting my teammates in order to keep busy.

Eventually, as rules loosened, I was in charger of a collections / compliance team and we were working upwards of 90 accounts per day each which made such a significant dent in the total amounts coming into collections that they disbanded the team.

Our office had to take on work from other tax offices in order to have enough work for each employee and as stay left, took on other positions outside of collections or took leaves they were not replaced.  Our tax office at 50% less staff was resolving 400% more accounts…

But like everything else in life, there was a downturn, contracts up for renegotiation, people moved on (like myself) and now the Auditor General reports there are too many accounts which cannot be handled at current staffing levels.

Ahhh, government.

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Back from vacation and catching up! How we can help – details included.

Just wanted to drop a quick note to all of you who called, emailed and hit me up on the blog or on social media that we’re back to work and trying to get to everyone as soon as possible.

If anyone has an urgent matter, please send an email to info@intaxicating.ca, in the subject line, please write “urgent” and that will be the top priority.

For new readers of this blog or who are seeing this blog through our website, here is what you need to know!

inTAXicating is a Canadian tax consulting business which provides solutions to Canadian Tax problems predominantly related to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), but not limited to the CRA.

With over 20-years experience in Canadian Tax (throw in some IRS tax, FATCA, Revenu Quebec, Cross-border matters and WSIB) combined with over 10-years working in the CRA in their collections division, you have the experience and expertise that no-one else can boast to have.

Our model is simple! Give you the truth based on the facts.

You get a free consultation and if it is determined that you can handle it best, or if your questions are quickly answered, then you are on your way.

If there are more complex matters which may eventually require greater expertise, then you have the option to handle you tax matters up to that point and then hand it over, or you may wish to hand it over right away…

It’s your taxes and you need to know what is being done and how to properly handle them going forward.

There are no magical cures for tax problems which took years and years to grow, so if anyone promises you a magic bullet, proceed with caution.

inTAXicating also believes that everyone who earns money needs to pay their taxes, however, they should pay what they owe, and in circumstances where there is no ability to pay, the government should understand that and give you a break.

No questions are bad questions.

I do not believe in the “natural person” being exempt from taxes because the CRA does not believe it, but I have spoken to many, many “de-taxers” and enjoy the conversations and helping them through the CRA’s prosecutions.

We specialize in all matters relating to CRA collections, specifically Directors Liability, Taxpayers Relief, s160 assessments, liens, and garnishments, RTP’s.

We provide audit representation, accounting (through a CA), as well as presenting the options to solve all tax matters including the ugliest and most complex tax matters. The messier the better!

In short, we want to help.

15 minute Consultation / responding to questions via email – free
Meeting – $250 plus HST (one hour meeting – detailed summary and recommended plan of action included)
Engagement – either hourly @ $250/hour or a fixed fee depending on the complexity and amount of work involved.
Accounting – best rates possible also related to the amount of work involved.

We try to stick to this model as best as humanly possible because it’s your money and you work hard for it, so you should not have to throw it away.

info@intaxicating.ca

When News Really Is Not News: Revenue Canada “Forbids” Unitarians From Working For Justice.

I came across a headline from CBC.ca which screamed “Revenue Canada forbids Unitarians from working for justice – Tax auditors continue Harper-launched probe of religious charity under new Liberal government” and I could not hesitate to stop and see what this was all about.

The link to the original article is here, and comments are already closed for this topic, a day after it hit the public broadcaster’s website with a whopping 732 comments.

To summarize the article for those who do not want to follow the link, the CRA (not Revenue Canada) advised the Canadian Unitarian Council that it’s council bylaws are too vague.  They did not “forbid” them for doing anything but being compliant with Canadian Charity regulations.

The CRA wrote, “Vague purposes are ambiguous and can be interpreted in many different ways,” in a compliance letter, which includes other demands more than a year after the political activity audit of this charity was launched.

The Canadian Unitarian Council bylaws were accepted by Industry Canada when the Toronto-based charity submitted them for approval (applied for charitable status) in 2013, however the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) found the wording to be contradictory to the Charitable definition set out in the Income Tax Act, and have asked the charity to remove any reference to “justice” or “social justice.”

Where I find this post to be completely irresponsible is where the author begins to compare audits of charities to being a witch hunt which started under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and is continuing under Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

“Many charities targeted by CRA’s political activity audit program, begun in 2012 under the Stephen Harper government, had expected relief from the Liberals, who campaigned on a promise to set charities “free from political harassment.”

It is the responsibility of the Minister of National Revenue through the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure that each and every charity is registered correctly and that they are following guidelines set out in the Income Tax Act and that those rules, regulations and by-laws which were submitted by the charity is being followed.

While it might be a huge pain in the ass for established charities, the CRA audit process provides an opportunity for charities to ensure they are compliant with rules and regulations and are eligible to issue donation receipts.

With all the chaos the CRA has had to deal with regarding the GLGI charity scam and other ineligible donation programs, it is VERY important for each and every taxpayer that the CRA does their due diligence and confirms the charity is following the letter of the law because if they are not, the problems fall to the people who donate!

Wisely, the Minister of National Revenue said the 24 political activity audits underway would continue without interference from the Liberal government and the Notice of Revocation of Charitable Status issued to 5 other charities would not be rescinded by her government.

The Liberals did, however, cancel political activity audits on 6 other charities.

The fact that the Canadian Unitarian Council was a vocal critic of the Harper government is meaningless, as is the fact that many of the 60 charities audited in the $13.4-million political activities audit program were too.

The only thing that matters here is that Taxpayers like you and I will be able to donate to a charity, receive a donation receipt and be sure that the donation receipt is valid and will be accepted by the CRA.  Even if that means that charities which were started with all the best intentions in the world have to work a little bit harder to ensure they are fully compliant with the CRA’s Charities requirements, which can be found right here.

Personally, I’m happy to hear that of 38 completed audits so far, only one found no problems, six have been given notice the agency intends to revoke their charitable status, of which 5 will be appealing.

Considering the amount of discussion and opportunity to meet the CRA’s requirements during the audit process, it is likely that these charities which are appealing either do not meet the CRA’s charity requirements at all, or are refusing to change their bylaws and thus will have their status revoke for good.

At the end of the day, it’s not a war against charities, but it’s the CRA performing due diligence to ensure the taxpayer’s donated money is heading for a cause and not to pad the pockets of the charities Board of Directors.

Philippe DioGuardi Guilty of Professional Misconduct

On November 21st, 2015, the Law Society of Upper Canada found Philippe DioGuardi, of DioGuardi Tax Law guilty of professional misconduct.  As a result, Dioguardi has been given a six-week suspension, a $5,000 fine and an order to pay $75,000 in legal costs.

The law society’s application to the tribunal included allegations that DioGuardi took money from six clients before performing “any or very little legal service,” and in some cases “failed to perform legal services to the standard of a competent lawyer.”

DioGuardi also failed to file income tax returns for a client in a timely manner, the law society alleged in its application.

As part of the agreed-upon penalty, DioGuardi must submit to a review of his practice by the law society.
In its submissions, the law society charged that DioGuardi “failed to act with integrity” by having eight clients sign retainer agreements that benefited his law firm, DioGuardi Tax Law, to the “potential detriment” of those clients when he would deposit client retainer money into the firm’s general account, as opposed to a trust account, which gave DioGuardi ownership over client money prior to any work actually being done.

A law society bylaw states that client funds must be deposited in a trust account and can only be drawn once work is completed.

Earlier this year, DioGuardi was investigated by the Toronto Star relating to his personal and business practice stemming from a messy divorce and to address allegations that he overdrew his firm’s account by $2 million, and at one point owed the CRA more than $140,000 in arrears.

 

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Auditor Convicted of Corruption

CRA LogoI came across a news article this morning that a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) auditor from Montreal was convicted on Friday June 12th on charges of corruption for attempting to extort $90,000 from a restaurant owner in lieu of a $600,000 audit assessment.

Upon seeing the article, I went to see if I knew any of the people involved, which I did not, and it brought back my memory of the only time I was offered a bribe while working at the CRA, which I obviously declined.

I was the Resource and Complex Case Officer in a Collections unit here in Toronto and one of my accounts involved a gentleman who had a habit of opening and closing companies over a 27-year period.

He would never file, the auditors would assess his balance, he would bankrupt the company and the next day he would open a new one. He even used the same bank, but would open and close accounts over-and-over again.

It was quite funny given that he denied everything, even his $1 / year income but with a $5-million dollar house all paid off, it took me one phone call to put everything together.

He was a nice guy… Honestly. His house was built by him and his kids, on land his father bought 45-years ago, and the assessments the CRA were charging him with – prompting him to bankrupt the companies – was not even related to the business he was in.

He didn’t know why they were assessing him. He was afraid the CRA was going to put him in jail.

The CRA thought he was a criminal and kept on top of him.

One giant misunderstanding, which was quickly resolved after I taught him how to file HST returns.

But when I first met him and presented him with a list of companies that he had opened and closed year-after-year, he said this to me;

“I’m connected to the mob.”

I said to him, “Okay. That’s not my business. What is my business is finding out why you keep doing this and what the CRA can do to help you.”

He said, “If you can make this balance go away, I’ll give you Toronto Maple Leaf tickets.”

After I stopped laughing, I said to him, “Are you kidding me? I’m a huge hockey fan, and I love the Leafs, but if I were to even consider a bribe that would result in me losing my job, going to jail, and not being able to see my children, it would have to be for a hell of a lot more than Leafs tickets, and to be honest, if you have THAT much cash, you’re better off paying your debts and never falling behind on filing or paying again.”

He replied; “I was just kidding.”

I said, “Of course you were.”

I mentioned it to my Manager who, after reviewing the file, suggested I run this by the Special Investigations unit. I spoke to SI and they knew of this gentleman and that he has been suggesting his ties over the years in hopes of having the CRA back off, and only when I explained the reasoning behind the debt did the SI manager mention that he was told this many years ago but didn’t believe it to be true.

I wonder what happened to that guy…

I hope he stayed compliant!

Back to this case.

This case relates to an auditor named Francesco Fazio who, in 2005, was auditing a restaurant named “La Belle Place.” and after completing the audit, told owner Stamatis Argiroudis that he would owe $600,000 in taxes based on Fazio’s estimate of unreported revenue, according to a Montreal Gazette report.

According to testimony from the trial, Fazio told the owner that a more favourable estimate could be made for $90,000.

The owner refused to pay the money and probably words were spoken and the file was transferred to another CRA auditor. The auditor said the owner mentioned connections to organized crime, however the judge presiding over the case did not believe this to be true and ruled against the auditor.

In this day and again of recording devices in our phones and the CRA snitch line, it’s important to be careful what you say, and to whom you say it. Same goes for using social media. Be careful what you say about people and businesses when it’s not true.

I hope the CRA conducts an investigation into all the companies that this audit has audited to see if there is a recurring pattern or if this was a once-off situation.

Are There Really “Red Flags” At the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Are there “Red Flags” at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

How not to get noticed for the wrong things, this Tax Season.

One of the most commonly asked questions of me is about being “flagged” by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and how to avoid getting flagged, or, what gets your flagged.

I hate to break everyone’s bubble, however, there are no red flags!

For the majority of Canadians who file their taxes year-in, year-out, and who make remittances, make their payments, open businesses, close businesses, make money, lose money, and everything in between, your tax account is just a record of transactions, conversations and payments received and made.  Even for those Canadians who should be doing the above and don’t or who fall behind and catch-up on one mass filing, their accounts have a bit more information due to CRA research, however, No flags.

For those engaged in criminal behaviour, however, there are no “flags”, because you are being investigated criminally and whether you know it or not, the CRA knows you and is watching your activities and comparing that to what you file.  Your tax account is known because it is being actively worked by someone.  There are words or phrases placed in your permanent diary which tell anyone who reviews your account what you are up to, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve been red flagged.

So why do people talk about flags?

They’re actually talking about stuations like some described below which catch the attention of the screeners on a case-by-case basis, and could result in them being audited outside of their normal audit review period.

1) When you get your tax returns completed and filed for the year, and there are issues, possibly mistakes, which the CRA catches and in anticipation of getting the solution, have a hard time getting a hold of you.

2) You are suddenly self-employed and you are not sure what to claim, or how much you are entitled to, or you claim things or amounts different from your industry standard.   The CRA compiles industry profiles which they use to assign you a “SIC Code” and they compare your returns with the Industry Standard to ensure you fall in line.

3) The dreaded “Net Worth Assessment”.  If you appear to the CRA to be unable to afford the lifestyle that you are currently living in, then the CRA can, and will, issue a Net Worth Assessment and force you to prove that you are not hiding income.  Yes, this can be a challenge, especially in light of the assessments being done from tax centres outside of the Greater Toronto Area who cannot fathom a million dollar house and a $75,000 income.  They don’t take too kindly to the concept of being being helped by family or personal wealth.  Just be warned that a tax return showing $1.00 of income for the year and an address in a wealthy neighbourhood is cause for further questioning.

4) Big changes from year-to-year.  If there are major changes in your income or expenses whether personal or business-related, are going to draw the attention of the CRA.  The CRA wants to make sure that you have not made a mistake, or worse, that you have bought into a tax scheme.  Expect questions, so get proof ready!

There are some tax situations that are just automatically looked at closer – each the year the CRA with the help of the Department of Finance choose a sector of industry to look at in closer depth usually because something has been detected in previous years or because there is a lot of cash floating around these business, such as construction, or dentists, doctors, IT consultants…

Home office deductions for example are frequently looked into as this is often a common problem for taxpayers claiming the home office in order to use deductions without actually utilizing their home as their office.

Even if you honestly never ever use your company vehicle for personal use, it will take some hard doing to prove to the CRA that this is true. Just driving back and forth to work in the business vehicle is classed as personal use. Your best protection here is to keep very detailed records concerning the business vehicles.

6) Renting for income:  Do not assume that rental losses are going to be accepted at face value by the CRA.  While the CRA will give you some grace time to start generating a profit from your rental business, it will still be watched with a close eye based on your industry, location and address(es).

7) Who prepares your return matters!

The CRA is starting to follow the IRS and taking a long hard look at tax accountants and tax preparers to see if there is a pattern among certain firms / indivuduals who either claim deductions they are not allowed to claim on your behalf, or who are missing certain expenses or deductions.  The CRA’s hope here is to weed out the bad apples, and educate the current crop to ensure they take advantage of the deductions and tax credits available to each client.

Should be a valuable change to the Canadian tax filing scheme.

But at the end of the day, doing it right, and on time, is the best way to stay out of the CRA’s bad books.

If, however, you have any questions, concerns or comments, please feel free to reach out to me at any time, at worlans@intaxicating.ca.

 

Not All Tax Information Found on the Internet is true! Are you shocked?!?

Did you know that not all the tax information and suggestions you find on the Internet are true?

Of course you knew that!

I’ve joked with everyone from my children, to family, friends, employers, employees and even director’s and CEO’s of huge organizations that tax information “must be true!  It’s on the Internet”, no matter how absurd it might appear to be.

We all know, or should know to take everything we read with a grain of salt… and that fact-checking is critical when trying to decide if information is legitimate, completely made up, or aimed to scare you.

Sources

As we scroll through pages and pages of information, reading about situations and stories about how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers tax law here in Canada it is easy to lose sight of goal, which is to get a better understanding of what is acceptable and what is not regarding so many aspects of taxation.  The best indicator of how close to the truth an article is can be determined by the sources cited in that piece.

An article about the CRA with a link to the CRA website (which backs up the facts) is the best indicator that the author knows their stuff.

If, however, you come across an article which has no references, no supporting links to the originating source, or links from a website titled something like “I_want_to_stop_the_CRA.org” then you can be assured the information is not going to be accurate, it is not going to help you, and more likely it was written to scare you, or present a horror story to get you to contact them to help you.

Don’t waste your time on those… Ever!

When a prominent tax lawyer wanted everyone to stop looking for solutions on the Internet it was presented that the CRA could find out you have a tax problem by sneaking into your house, taking your computer, breaking in to it, and seeing that you have been looking for tax help online.

GASP.

Well, guess what?

If the CRA has to come and seize your computer, they already know you have a tax problem!  They cannot seize your computer unless it’s part of a criminal investigation.

The true intention of these ads is not to warn you about a new power that the CRA has secretly acquired, but rather this firm doesn’t want you seeing that there are options available for you online to fix the problem yourself.  So they scare you away from the Internet so you won’t find helpful tips and solutions at firms like this one, inTAXicating.

Better to hire them then get advice from a real former CRA Collection employee to help get you back on track.

In a capitalistic marketplace I don’t blame them, but I am concerned.  Tax is confusing, especially when a tax problem suddenly arises and the CRA is pressuring you to fix it quickly in one of their 3 ways:

1) Pay it

2) File up-to-date and watch the balance go away, or,

3) Go bankrupt.

How can you be expected to make that sudden choice which has significant short and long-term implications on you, your business, your family and your life, without having the facts, all the facts, and not just the facts the CRA wants you to have, or that you believe they are telling you.

That’s where I come in, specifically, this blog, this business and this business model.

I want you to know the truth.

I want you to be able to make an informed decision whether that decision is made via information found on this blog, or on my website, or through an email to me.  I want you to be able to understand the CRA and their collection, enforcement, audit, filing process and administrative process as well as I do.

I want you to understand the corporate culture there and that very infrequently is there an agent on the other side of the phone with your picture on a dart board in their cubicle.

I want you to know your options, your best next steps and that your long-term plan of action will not only help you resolve your tax situation but also keep you and the CRA happy.

I want you to know that in situations where I feel that you cannot do this alone, that I can help you, and will help you, make matters right, and I want you to know that a tax problem does not occur overnight and resolving them can take a long-time.

I have the knowledge and understanding that no-one else can claim to possess about the CRA collections policies and process and I don’t say that to boast, but rather to inform.  I don’t profess to have an “army” of “real” CRA staff with me, nor do I pretend that background is in any area other than where it shows on my web-site, blog, and on my LinkedIn profile.  Collections, collection, collections.

I’m also not going top pretend that a background in Appeals or Audit is going to help you better than a back ground in Collections.  To each their own.

I write my blog posts myself and where possible I cite everything I can to the CRA website so that you can be comfortable knowing that information you read on my social media platforms are sourced from the people who want you to pay your taxes and question your deductions and filing deadlines.

I don’t write my posts in order to scare anyone or to force them to use my services, because quite frankly, I want everyone to be able to navigate the Canadian tax system without ever having problems and running afoul of the CRA and in a perfect world, one day I’ll be able to provide a users guide to the CRA to allow people to file, re-file and pay without incurring penalties and / or interest and where the CRA understands why people can’t, won’t or are unable to do so and then have the CRA deal with them in an understanding manner.

But for now, we have to take it one day at a time, and one situation at a time.

The best day to start fixing tax problems is today.  There are always solutions and there are always options.  In deciding what you want to do, you need to make sure you are getting the right information and from the right sources.  Be wary of what you read on the Internet because it can make you want to close your blinds, change you name and hide from the CRA when all they want you to do is to close an account or file a nil return.

Get the facts!

inTAXicating Tax Services offers a free 15-minute consultation to determine how to best proceed with a tax situation.

From there if’s decided that a written plan of action is needed, I can produce one for you.

If from that, a decision is made to engage inTAXicating to represent you in your dealings with the CRA, then we determine if the hourly or fixed plan works best for you.

You don’t have to worry about opening those brown envelopes.  Help is here!

http://www.intaxicating.ca

http://www.intaxicating.wordpress.com

info@intaxicating.ca

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