Is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) looking after your best interests?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does an adequate job at what they are mandated to do, and that is to collect tax revenue and tax information from taxpayers while using their debt management (collections) division to collect from the unwilling or pre-occupied.

From the inside the CRA trains the collectors to understand that those who do not file or pay are “debtors” and that actions should be taken to bring these debtors into compliance right away.

They are also trained that if you can collect from – or force into bankruptcy – these individuals and corporations, that you are doing them a service but forcing them to make decisions that they are unwilling or unable to make on their own.  You’re doing them a favour by putting them out of business.  You stop the “bleeding”.

Those of us who have worked in the “real world” understand that behind the account numbers and names there are real people who are trying to run real businesses and who find taxation either complicated or overbearing and cannot comply with the rules and regulations.

Since failure to comply with some tax laws can result in criminal actions, I believe that the tax rules are complicated and with little forgiveness on the party of the government, one small mistake can shut a business down, or result in significant monetary penalties.

The most frustrating part, I find, is trying to explain to the CRA that their actions – while justified internally – have serious implications on more than a business or a person.

Take for example one of my clients;

I spent the last week in serious discussions with just about everyone at the Winnipeg Tax Services Office, trying to convince then that if they keep a garnishment on a corporate bank account that they will shut down this corporation.

The corporation’s issue, which the collector, team leader, technical advisor, section manager and director felt justified these actions?

They were in collections for 2-years. They had a trust exam and fell behind.

GASP.

I mentioned the accounts I am resolving for them right now involving people and corporations in collections for 15-20 years. 2-years is a drop in the bucket.

I also let them know of the tragic circumstances surrounding this corporation involving a death, an illness and a mass exodus of employees which left one director now trying to keep his corporation alive. That was until the CRA placed the garnishment and wanted to shut down the corporation.

So the collector – new – and the technical advisor – new – find words to justify their actions and the director did not return my calls or letters (yet, apparently) did not feel compelled enough to get back to me and intervene.

The CRA’s solution instead of putting 3 employees out of jobs, and a family man without income to support his young family was to drag out the process and ask for a payment arrangement on a corporation with no income… From their actions.

So whose interests are the CRA looking after?

Theirs?

No.

By not allowing the corporation to operate and earn income they are going to lose out on revenue to pay their liability.

Or when the CRA finally “allows” the business to continue operations and removes the Requirement to Pay from the business bank account, the CRA fails to take into consideration that the business will now need to back back rent, phone bills, internet bills, and likely replenish inventory before they have any funds abailable to pat themselves or the CRA anything.

Is the CRA then looking after the best intentions of the corporations?

Heck no!

By not being able to operate and by stringing along the director, this corporation is bleeding a slow death. Customers are losing faith, employees are quitting or being laid off, and with no money, the corporation cannot afford to fight any more.

It becomes very clear at this point that the CRA is looking after no one’s interests.

The CRA takes actions which are told to them from people who have no concept of reality.  Their actions are destructive and cause more damage than good, most of the time.  They don’t understand that sometimes, no action is the very best action.

Frustrating?

Absolutely it is.

In our specific case, after one whole week of trying to talk sense into the CRA, the collector agreed to lift the garnishment today.  Instead of receiving a payment, however, the CRA will get a plan on how this corporation plans to recover from a poorly executed collection action which got the CRA one payment and now nothing for at least a month.

At the end of the day, because of our involvement, everybody is going to win, but my job would be so much easier if the CRA understood that they need to listen to the experts and let the account resolve itself.

We all would be so much further ahead – the corporations director might have actually slept in the past month – if the CRA had slowly taken actions to remedy the situation rather than freezing the business bank account and not telling the business owner why they were trying to shut him down.

I’m looking out for the corporation’s best interests.  I’m also looking after the best interest of the CRA because we all need them on our side, and not against us.

Someone has to!

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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

What it Really Means When the CRA Registers a Lien Against Your Property

English: Northwest corner of the Connaught Bui...
CRA HQ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across an interesting article this morning regarding liens, governments (municipal – property taxes, Federal – the Canada Revenue Agency), and the idea that people with unpaid taxes, or tax debts run the risk of losing their properties to the government.  The article can be read here, and the title of the article –

“More Hamiltonians losing properties due to unpaid taxes”

– scared the death out of me because I know the truth about liens, and right away I suspected something was out of sorts.

I continued to read the article which explained that due to a decline in manufacturing jobs, coupled with a prolonged economic downturn (recession) people are struggling to pay their bills, so the one bill they seem to be delaying payment on most often is their property taxes.  In fact, the article states that, “A record number of properties are being slapped with liens because Hamilton home and business owners can’t pay their taxes.  By the end of 2013, the city will have registered more than 500 properties after warning owners that time is up to pay their overdue taxes.”

That is a lot of back taxes, and you know that there will come a time when the city’s Director of Taxation will have to find some “incentive” to “encourage” people to pay their taxes and that could come in the form of making an example of someone very publicly in order to show the rest of the delinquent accounts what is going to happen to them… Soon… Maybe…

But is this article not the public shaming itself?

If you were unaware of the consequences of having outstanding property taxes, you would think that the government is going to slap on a lien, then come and take your house from you.  I thought maybe the residents of Hamilton were losing their properties to the government, that the government is seizing and selling them in order to recover the unpaid property taxes at a rate far greater than anywhere else in Canada, and that certainly is not the case if you read the entire article.

While the facts clearly point to an increase in properties registered with tax liens from 2008 when the recession began until 2012, one needs to wonder if it has to do with an increase in prpoerty taxes owing, or if maybe another factor falls into play – maybe employees are getting better with practice registering liens to secure the government’s interest.

Below are the number of registered liens in Hamilton per year:

2008: 323

2009: 354

2010: 368

2011: 377

2012: 400

2013 (projected): 500+

Interesting, however, the reality is that, “Few properties are actually sold in city tax sales. There were six in 2012 and three the year before.”

So what does this exercise actually mean to the government and to you, the taxpayer?

It points out that the government will register a lien on any property you own in order to secure their interest in a tax debt you have.  Municipalities do it, and the CRA does it.  To be honest, the CRA should be registering liens against any and all properties which have equity in them.

The lien sits on the property and the owner is not allowed to sell or re-finance the property until the lien is paid in full.  In fact, most financial institutions will only lend money in instances where there is a lien provided that the agreement entails payment in full of the lien and word from government that the lien is going to be removed upon receipt of the full payment.

So how does this explain the seizing and selling of 2 properties?

Simply.

The CRA, for example, makes it a policy to never seize a property where doing so would result in them having to “live in the street”.  They will, however, never blink twice if the property they have registered a lien against is an income property, a cottage or in the case of a car, a second car.   Those are fair game.

Does that mean you can ignore the lien?

Heck no!

But you need to know if the government is actively searching for assets to seize and sell, or if they are securing their interests.  While they may not tell you, they will probably let your representative know – which is why prolonged tax issues regularly need a different voice to help the CRA understand that there is a person at the other end of the telephone and that nobody wants to be in a debt position they cannot get out of.

So before you ignore the debt, or the lien, you should understand that there is the possibility that the CRA could seize your asset in very short notice.

Don’t take a lien lightly.

The Biggest Taxation No-No’s. EVER!

Canada Revenue Agency
Canada Revenue Agency (Photo credit: John Bristowe)

Working in the Canada Revenue Agency for almost 11-years, I learned a thing or two about how the CRA operates as well as what is a red flag for them and what the CRA often let’s slide.  It helps when I negotiate with them that I know their policies, procedures and how to navigate their systems as well as they do, or even better.  I’ve used this knowledge to help my clients save millions of dollars of taxes.

With that in mind, I want to help you save unnecessary expenses, so I decided to reveal the 8 Biggest Taxation No-No’s EVER.

8.  Try and do it yourself.  Taxation is a complicated topic for many and if you don’t live and breathe tax then you should consider either hiring someone to help you along or at the very least hire someone to set you up correctly and who will take the time to learn about you and your business so that you are getting all of the tax deductions and credits available to you all the time.

7.  Think that you are above taxation.   Everyone pays taxes no matter their income level; whether it be income tax, payroll tax, or consumption tax.  To think that there is a magic “Pay no tax” card is a huge mistake and the CRA does not take “detaxers” or the underground economy lightly..

6.  Brag about not paying taxes / scamming the government.  Our tax system here in Canada is a self-assessing system with the government’s responsibility being the checks and balances.  It’s not that they don’t trust you but… They don’t trust you, which is why they have huge departments responsible for catching the tax cheats.  If the government doesn’t get you, your ego might;

5.  Post information online about yourself or your business and think that the government will not see it and use it against you.   The “government” are a bunch of people like you and I who are trying to make a living.  If you claim you are suffering from financial hardship yet post pictures on Facebook showing yourself living it up, or if you claim to be Canadian and your profile states that you are born in the US, the collectors or auditors will find it and us it against you.

4.  File late, miss installment payments or fail to make remittances.  All this will do is add penalties and interest onto your tax account and there are very few excuses the government will accept to have them reversed or cancelled.   Many large tax debts start in just this way.

3.  Carry a balance.  If at all possible it is critical to make sure that you do not carry a balance with the CRA.  With interest being charged at a floating rate of just over 10%, compounding daily, your balance can grow at a shocking rate.  The CRA is not a bank and you should not think it’s okay to treat their debt as a bank loan.

2.  Don’t be afraid to search online for your tax advice.  Not only has the CRA moved to strengthen their online presence but there are a lot of professionals online who have posted their experiences with the CRA and steps they took to resolve tax problems for themselves and their clients.  Anyone suggestion otherwise is doing so to avoid you from finding out there are other – better – tax solution providers in Canada.

1.  Thinking that anyone can help you.  This is the absolute biggest tax no-no I have encountered in 17-years of taxation.  If you have an electrical problem at home, do you call a plumber?  Would you ask a dentist to perform open-heart surgery?  How about asking a former auditor to help you with a collections problem, or an appeals officer to help you correct your payroll nanny account issues?  How about going to an Insolvency firm to have a lien removed from you house which was placed there by CRA collections?

It doesn’t make sense but don’t get me wrong.  If you have created a tax crime, such as tax evasion,  you will need a tax lawyer, and if you need tax returns prepared, they need to be done by an accountant, and a former CRA auditor is the right solution if you have a difficult, complex corporate tax audit underway,

In taxation it is critical that you have experience on your side when you work to resolve your tax issues and understanding the way the CRA operates is more important than you could imagine.

Tax debts begin with audit or compliance issues.

Then they go to collections.

Collections leads to enforcement – garnishments, requirements to pay (RTP), liens, seizures, director’s liability, and much more.

You need experienced former collections staff to help you, and with almost 11-years of progressive collections experience in all areas, from collector to resource officer, to team leader, believe me when I say that experience helps!

When your representative knows more than the collector, or trained that collector, you know you have the best representation possible.

To leave your $250,000 tax liability to anyone else would keep me up at night too.

Lien on Me: The CRA and Liens. Questions Answered.

When the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) registers a lien against your home, they are securing their interest by attaching the repayment of their debt to your property.

CDAHQsignage2

The CRA considers a lien to be enforcement action and this tool is commonly applied where there are properties in the name of a taxpayer who has a tax debt.  Collection officers at the CRA should be registering liens, or securing the Crown’s interest, much more frequently then they currently are, and it should be done whenever there is a tax debt of a considerable amount owing.

Below are some answers to common questions about CRA property liens to help you understand what to do, and where to turn for help.

1.  How to tell if there is a lien registered against your property 

A title search on your property will reveal the existence of a lien.

It is CRA policy that they advise you by letter when a Certificate has been registered in Federal Court which identifies the property in question and the balance owing for which they are preparing to register a lien.  This does not mean that a lien has been registered, but this is essentially a warning of impending action.

If, however, the CRA does not have your correct address you will not receive any notices and thus may only discover there’s a lien when you try to sell or refinance your property.  A title search reveals the existence of liens.

2.  When the CRA registers a Certificate do they always then register a lien?

Not necessarily.  The CRA could be using the Certificate in several ways, including; to secure their interest in the property to make sure that before the tax debtors interest in the property is liquidated, the tax debt is paid in full, or in order to get the attention of the property owner so they will begin negotiations with the CRA, or they may have the intention of proceeding with the seizure and sale of the property in order to pay off all or part of a tax liability.

3.  Will the CRA take my house and leave me homeless?

It is CRA policy to not seize and sell a property when it would result in the property owner having nowhere to live.  If this property is an income property or cottage or secondary place to live, then the CRA will likely proceed to realize on the property and pay off their debts.

4.  Have I lost title to my home?

No. A lien is a registration on the title of that property which prevents you from selling or refinancing that property until either the tax debt owing is paid in full, or there is a written arrangement to have the proceeds from a sale or refinancing directed to the CRA for full payment of the debt.

5.  What is a Writ of Fi Fa / Writ of Seizure and Sale?

If a Certificate has been registered in the Federal Court and the tax balance still exists, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will register a Writ of Fi Fa (abbreviation of “fieri facias” which is Latin and means “that you cause to be made”).  It is a writ of execution obtained in legal action which is addressed to the sheriff and commands him to, in this case, seize and sell, the property of the person against whom the judgement has been obtained.

This is a very serious enforcement action and after your property is sold, you are entitled to any proceeds left over after the tax arrears have been paid in full.

6.  What are my options now that a Certificate has been registered and a lien applied to the property?

Even though the CRA has an interest in the property, you can still access the equity and use that equity to make arrangements with the CRA – or the Department of Justice – to refinance the property or even sell it with the understanding that this can only be done in conjunction with the CRA receiving full payment of their tax debt.

7.  What is the CRA’s priority regarding my property should I decide to sell it?

Assuming your mortgage is a traditional mortgage through a recognized financial institution, the proceeds from a sale should fall in this order (depending on the type of tax(es) owing);

1. Financial institution holding the mortgage

2. Secured lenders

3. Canada Revenue Agency

4. Other creditors who have registrations against the property

5. Property owner.

So if you have other debts including a tax liability (and the two tend to go hand-in-hand), then it is possible in this scenario to have nothing left over by the time the property is sold and all debtors are paid off.

8.  What if I owe CRA more than there they get from the sale of my property?

If, after the sale of your property there are still taxes owing to the CRA, them your tax balance is reduced by the amount the CRA is paid and the remainder is still owing to the CRA.

9.  What if I am not the only one on title – ie/ jointly with a spouse?  

In the case where there are more than one person on title in addition to you, it’s important to keep in mind that the CRA can only realize proceeds from your share of the equity in the property.  So if you sell, re-finance or are forced to sell, only your share of the equity can be paid out the CRA. The CRA cannot seize your spouses’, or anyone else’s equity.

Keep in mind that in order to get the Certificate, the CRA has to reconcile the account, determine the share owned by the tax debtor and then use that figure when sending the Sheriff out to seize and sell the property.

10.  The CRA has registered a lien against my property.  Can I sell my interest to someone else and get removed off title?

If a tax debtor initiates a transaction which puts an asset out of reach of the Canada Revenue Agency not at Fair Market Value, the CRA has the ability to initiate a section 160 Non-Arms Length assessment and assess the person(s) who received the asset for your liability (minus consideration received).  

11.  Will bankruptcy free me of a lien?

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 and the CRA’s priority is now second in line after the bank.

If after all that the tax debt is still remaining, then and only then because of the bankruptcy, will the tax debt no longer be owing.

Who Can Help?

The bottom line here is that tax liens can cause serious problems and it’s best to seek our help to resolve your tax issues before it gets that far.  Even if a lien is in place in order to secure the Crown’s interest, it’s best not to ignore the CRA.

We have handled hundreds of liens, and will find the best solution for you.  It might be refinancing your mortgage, paying out the lien, or temporarily lifting the lien in order to improve your arrangement with the CRA.  Whatever the problem, no matter how complex, we have helped and can help.

Initial consultations are always free.

inTAXicating Tax Services.

Visit our website or send us an email at info@intaxicating.ca.

Toronto-based.  Canada-wide.