You Filed Your Tax Return to the CRA. You Owe CRA Money. Now What?

You have filed you Canadian personal tax return by the April 30th deadline and you owe the CRA money.  Now what?  You have heard horror stories about how the Canada Revenue Agency goes about collecting taxes dollars.

You need to act fast, right?

Well that is exactly what is wrong with tax-filing season in Canada.

What about if you owe more to the CRA because you already have a balance, or if you happen to be self-employed and you plan on having your tax returns prepared after the April 30th deadline, but before the June 15th deadline for self-employed Canadians, and you find out that you owe money to the CRA?

Or, what if you carry a balance year-over-year because between taxes owing and installment payments, you just can’t keep up?

What do you do?

What are your options?

If you listen to the radio, you are likely to have noticed that about every 3rd ad is a commercials talking about debt.  In these commercials, very calm voices talk about how it feels to be in debt and how they a simple solution for debt.  They even refer to “programs” which are supported or endorsed by the Canadian government. and in 10 minutes / 15 minutes / 20 minutes, you too can be debt free.

It’s convenient.  Too convenient…

Their solution is bankruptcy or a consumer proposal, and their solution is a great way for you to no longer have debt owing to the Canada Revenue Agency, or your credit card provider, etc.

What they fail to mention, is that you are paying them money to trade your debt problem for a credit problem.

Sure, you won’t owe the CRA any more, but now that the euphoria of that “win” has worn off, you now have to face reality that you have no credit for 3-7 years at best.  During that 3-7 years, you won’t have a credit card unless it’s a prepaid one, and you won’t be able to get a loan, and you cannot be the director of a corporation.

During that period where you are under a  proposal or in bankruptcy, the CRA can, and still will raise assessment where they are allowed by law to, such as raising s160/s325 assessments for assets transferred to avoid paying the CRA, or if you act as a director even though the director is someone else’s name.

Forget about it if the CRA has already placed a lien on an asset.  That survives a bankruptcy.

But the commercials make it sound SO appealing, so quick, and so good.

I’ve always felt that bankruptcy and Consumer Proposals are great options for people with no options.  If your debt is tax-related then you really should know what your options are before jumping at the first thing you hear and making these Trustee / Insolvency firms rich, so they can advertise even more, but up bigger billboards and open their own “tax solution” businesses to “help” you with your tax problems.

Don’t fall for the easy way out, because you get way more than you bargained for!

Instead, contact us, inTAXicating, and let us diagnose your debt, and tell you the best options for you, and not what works best you the trustee or the CRA.

http://www.intaxicating.ca

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Full Disclosure Alert: Know Who You Are Dealing With!!

I had the most interesting comment sent to me today, by someone who used to work at the CRA.

She noticed on my blog, and on social media, that I “claimed” to have been a “Former CRA Employee of the Year” and she, having worked at the CRA, was not familiar with the award.

She questioned my legitimacy!

I love it.

It reminded me that I had not finished updating the “About Us” section on the inTAXicating website, and in doing so, I will include the details of this honour.

I was nominated for the “Most Valuable Player” award – which was the wording they used for the Employee of the Year – by a colleague of mine in 2002.

The nomination was his acknowledgement that I went way above and beyond the scope of my employment not only professionally but personally to support my colleagues, staff and to represent the CRA in a positive manner.

This was before my MBA, and before children.

I had recently started a Mentoring Program for the Collections division at our CRA office and the program was so successful, that we began running it through the rest of the departments in our building and in other Tax Services Offices. I was also responsible for overseeing the Write Off inventory, managing a New Intake collections / compliance team, heavily into training staff and had recently taken over the Director’s Liability inventory and was in the process of cleaning that up.

Personally, I had just gotten married, had been right in the middle of taking accounting courses towards my CGA designation and was volunteering my time with a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program here in Toronto.

I was also on the board of the Government of Canada Charitable Workplace Campaign, and in the role, I went to each and every employee in the Revenue Collections division in our office and spoke to them one-on-one about the program and their contribution.  They donated record amounts.

I had several inventories of business collections accounts, and when the office renovated floors and we had to move staff between floors, I was the coordinator.  I was also the employee who received the sensitive issues from the Director’s Office to hand, with care.

I was busy.  Could have been much busier, but certainly I was fully engaged.

I was nominated and both myself and the nominator received recognition for the honour.

I was deeply honoured and appreciative.

Then I won.

I was shocked.

I drove to Niagara Falls, accepted the award from then Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency Ruby Howard, and I drove back home to attend class later that evening.

The following day, the first person I met when I arrived into the building greeted me like this;

“Hey Warren. Congratulations on the award. I just don’t feel that you deserved it.”

“Thank you”, I replied to him. “Neither do I.”

“Sorry, that might have been harsh”, he said to me.

“I’d rather you speak the truth, than keep that from me” I said.

“You know what”, he said. “Maybe I just don’t know you well, enough, but time will tell.”

Just a year before this man passed away from a long battle with cancer, he said leaning over the cubicle right beside me where he sat; “You know what, Warren. I’m surprised you only won one of those things.”

That comment from one of the smartest people the CRA had ever employed, meant a lot to me.  Not many people got along with this gentleman because he was all business, all the time, but I deeply respected him and I let him know it.  He earned that respect from everyone, but few knew how to pass it along to him.

But, getting back to my “claim”…

I decided to attach the picture of my award;

Me accepting the award in Niagara Falls;

My certificate of my 10-year’s of service to the CRA;

…and a word of advice for anyone who has tax problems…

Know who you are dealing with. Understand their expertise in the field you are looking for expertise in.

What makes inTAXicating so successful is that Taxpayers, business owners and other professionals read my words, Google me, check out my LinkedIn profile and determine that I know my stuff.

Which I do.

Then they reach out.

I expect each and everyone of you to do the same.  Read some posts, Google me. Check out my LinkedIn profile and reach out for tax help, to have questions answered, to learn more about the CRA, or to help your clients so you can help them.

Email: info@intaxicating.ca

“New” CRA Powers are Not so New after all! Unless…

Recent radio advertising and newspaper or online articles would have you believe that the CRA has been ramping up staff in order to break down your door in the middle of the night and arrest you for tax fraud.

Deep down inside you knew that you should have opened a BN number and GST/HST account for your child\s lemonade stand because even though they were significantly under the $30,000 sales threshold, if registered, you could have claimed the Input Tax Credits – but you didn’t and the CRA wants their money!

You also know that if you had a question, the CRA call centre were going to mislead you, or lie to you so that you would be forced to pay even more money.

You also know that you might need help for a tax accountant, tax lawyer, tax broker, tax solutions firm, or tax audit specialist… but you cannot choose because the different names must mean they do different things and you don’t know which category you fall into, and … the CRA are so coming to get you… now!

(Is that rustling in the bushes in front of my house?)

spyingWell all of these new powers and the threats that they are going to break-down your door and arrest you on the spot are not really true.

You only have to fear the CRA breaking down your door (really the RCMP, but I’m sure the CRA would be there somewhere along the way) if you have done something wrong.  Very wrong.  Criminally wrong.

You should be concerned if the CRA knows you’ve done something criminally wrong, or have been involved in terrorist financing or activity because they’ll pass that along to the police.

The Canada Revenue Agency gained the little-noticed new authority, which does not require a judicial warrant, through an amendment tucked into the government’s most recent budget bill.

Previously, confidentiality provisions in the law prevented the CRA from handing information about suspected wrongdoing, on its own initiative, to law enforcement.

The exception was information that pointed to tax-related crimes.

The new provisions apply to offences including breaking and entering, vehicle theft, arson, corruption and kidnapping and in return, the CRA can now receive information from local authorities about any offence with a minimum prison term, or one with a maximum sentence of 14 years.

The list of offences is broad and is a significant shift in confidentiality policy allowing the CRA to pass along information to law authorities without a court-ordered warrant, even when the alleged crime(s) have nothing to do with taxes.

Interim procedures for administering the new powers were issued to all CRA employees in June 2016 not too long after the legislation received royal assent.

The intended use of this new tool, is that an exchange should occur when an employee gathers information in the course of their regular duties.

This information exchange was intended to be one-way and would be closely controlled through a set of strict criteria.

As an aside, it would have been nice to know who might be carrying on criminal activity, when I was working at the CRA and went to visit a business to determine why they stopped filing GST returns, only to learn that they were conducting illegal activities and was physically threatened before getting the heck out of there.

The following day the RCMP showed up, cleaned out the place and arrested the operators.

I never did get my outstanding GST returns, however, which could have been prosecuted as a criminal offense (but was not).

All potential referrals to police will be vetted by the agency’s criminal investigations personnel and must be approved by the assistant commissioner of the department’s compliance programs branch, CRA has reported.

The key points to remember are this;

  1. If you happen to have partaken in a criminal activity, you might not want to disclose that to the CRA collector.
  2. Make sure to stay compliant!  File up to date and don’t give the CRA reasons for looking for stuff.
  3. Take all of the tax-related advertising with a grain of salt.  Their intention is to scare you and force you to drop a ton of cash at their business.  Instead, I recommend you do your research, ask questions and get the solution that fits your tax problem.
  4. If you’re not sure… Ask.  Then use your judgement.

 

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.

Don’t Forget The T3’s!

Are you a Canadian resident who also has an obligation to file in the US?  Before you send in your US taxes to meet the April 15th filing deadline, make sure to remember there is still one more tax slip on its way.

If you are set to receive a T3 for a Canadian trust, you have a little more time that your dual-filing counterparts.

T3 slips, otherwise known as the Statement of Trust Allocation and Designations (RL16 for Quebec residents), are being prepared and mailed – copies to the CRA – by the end of March.

A T3 slip reports how much income you received from investment in mutual funds in non-registered accounts, from business income trusts or income from an estate for a given tax year.

If you have not received your T3 tax slip – get in touch with the relevant financial administrator or trustee but make sure to file your income tax return by the deadline anyway to avoid late filing penalties.

You can find more information from the CRA website, here.

The Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) Sought Voluntary Revocation of Charitable Status From CRA

The voluntary revocation of the registered charitable status of The Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) as a result of a CBC investigation could leave Canadian Taxpayers who donated to this organization owing back monies to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Almost one year ago, the CBC Investigates reported on accountability issues at the Newfoundland charity after former members of the Board of Directors raised concerns about the operation of the group, which at the time continued to take donations from the public 18 months after closing its flagship horse sanctuary.

As a result of strict confidentiality guidelines, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are unable to say who made the request to have HAPPA’s charitable status removed, however after the CBC investigation was published, the website was removed, and further investigation turned up a significant breach in reporting requirements on behalf of the charity as it would appear that they filed incorrect information with federal charity regulators, claiming that all board members are “arm’s length” from each other.

According to the CBC, the only current active members of the Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) board are what appear to be a mother and daughter and what appear to be a long-time couple.

Family members and common-law partners are considered “not at arm’s length” by the Canada Revenue Agency — something that can affect how the agency assesses a charity’s status.

Charities are required to file a form outlining those relationships and the CBC reported that on HAPPA’s website they found their filing for the year ending December 31st, 2011 in which there were 8 directors listed as being “at arm’s length” from each other.

The significance of the revocation of charitable status is that anyone who donated to the charity after that date, will not be allowed to claim the donation as a deduction from their income. If they do so anyway, the CRA will re-assess them plus penalties and interest. The Taxpayer Relief program will not granted penalty and or interest relief to those who donated to this charity, and in situations like these, as there are no categories to apply under.

Once the revoked, the charity should have transferred all of its remaining property — including cash — to an eligible donee, or be subjected to a revocation tax equal to the property’s full value.

If you have donated to this organization and are concerned that the CRA may disallow the charitable receipt, it is best to not submit it with your taxes. You have 4 years to claim charitable deductions.

The Canada Revenue Agency is actively looking for Offshore Accounts too…

I have received confirmation from a senior official at the Canada Revenue Agency that the CRA is in fact actively investigating individuals suspected of being involved in the recent offshore account problem overseas.  Thus far, no one has been named publicly and my source at the CRA has confirmed that each person contact thus far has willingly come forward to pay amounts owing in full and that the number of people thus far targeted by the CRA totals less than 100.

The list remains private because the CRA does not want to tip-off those involved that they are coming for them, nor do they want to admit that they are severely short of qualified staff needed to make arrangements with these taxpayers and their numerous numbers of representatives.

The CRA suspects that the list is available elsewhere and that it might be coming to light sooner than many wish which could hurt the CRA and will certainly shame those involved.

The CRA will certainly be looking for additional offshore funds with speculation abound that there will be incentives down the road for taxpayers and financial organizations to disclose to the CRA situations where an individual or organization is placing it’s assets out of the reach of the CRA for tax evasion purposes.

Stay tuned!