CRA Helping Small and Medium Sized Canadian Businesses

On June 27th, 2017 The Government of Canada announced that they are committed to ensuring tax fairness for all Canadians, as they recognize the importance of small and medium businesses in creating jobs and growing the economy.

As a result, they made a commitment to overhaul its service model so that people who interact with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) feel like valued clients, not just taxpayers.

Today, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, unveiled the CRA’s actions for the next two years to make its services for small and medium businesses more helpful and easier to use.

The Report on the Canada Revenue Agency’s 2016 Serving You Better consultations with small and medium businesses contained concrete commitments based on feedback shared by small and medium businesses and chartered professional accountants in the fall of 2016.

The CRA’s 2017-2019 Serving You Better action plan contains over 50 action items that will improve services for small and medium businesses.

Top 10

Here are the top ten service improvements for businesses, which will allow them to:

  1. Receive a CRA security code by email rather than mail
  2. Call a new dedicated telephone service for tax preparers that helps with more complex technical issues
  3. Request a Liaison Officer visit
  4. Provide T4 information slips to their employees in electronic format
  5. Use T2 Auto-fill through commercial software
  6. Create their own filing and balance confirmation letters online
  7. Create short “how-to” videos that explain the services on My Business Account
  8. Experience telephone service improvements
  9. Share feedback about their audit experience in a new post-audit survey
  10. Help Canadians have their objections resolved faster

To find out more about the CRA’s action plans to serve small and medium businesses, go to canada.ca/cra-serving-you-better.

Quick Facts

During the 2016 Serving You Better Consultations, the CRA and their senior officials met with over 300 participants face-to-face to discuss what the CRA could do better.  Approximately 135 of these participants sent their views online or in writing.   All in all, the CRA received over 1,500 comments and suggestions for improvements to their services.

Who was consulted?

The CRA partnered with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada to host a total of 21 sessions with small and medium business and accountants in cities across Canada.

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Thursday Thirteen Tax Tips: 13 Important Considerations Before Hiring Tax Representation

Trying to decide if it is time to hire a tax representative is a difficult decision and if made incorrectly, can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars plus add significant amounts of stress and reputational damage to you and / or your business.

With so many people and organizations on the Internet promising to do so much for you, how do you know who to trust and more importantly, how can you tell if the specific tax matter you have is something they have experience (and success) handling?

Well, I’m going to give you some tips, so feel free to share them, about how I would go about finding a tax expert for my situation and what important questions you need answered before you hand over your hard-earned money, Social Insurance Number (SIN) and / or Business Number (BN).

The first thing that you must be comfortable doing is asking questions and if you do not understand the answer or if it seems like the response you get is part of a sales pitch, then think twice and get another quote.  It’s okay.  Anyone offering these services will either expect that you have spoken to more than one person, or will be confident that their expertise is what you need and know that you will come back.

Do they offer a free consultation?  It’s helpful if you do not know exactly how much trouble you are in, if at all, and having a few minutes to ask will put your mind at ease and help build a relationship for the future if it’s necessary.

During a 15-minute free consultation I usually do not know how many other tax representatives they have spoken to, if any.  As a result, I have to be clear, honest and set the price based on the amount of work involved, only.  It works for me, and it works for my clients.

keep-calm-youre-hired

Once I begin working with clients I get to hear what others promised, or wanted to charge, and often times I am surprised both by the recommended course of actions and the price quoted / charged.I thought it might be a good idea to expand on this topic and provide the 13 IMPORTANT considerations to look for before hiring tax representation:

13) Knowledge – Does this person or organization have significant knowledge in the area you need?

12) Experience – Knowledge is great to help you understand more, however, is their knowledge based on books they studied in school, or was it gained through hands-on experience?  If you are lucky, you can get both.

11) Fit – Can you work with them? Are they able to explain in a manner that you actually understand what happened, and what the next steps are.

10) Advertising – Odds are good that if they are spending a lot of money on advertising, they are going to have to charge you more in order to re-coup the costs.  A lot of advertising doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best, it just means they value advertising, or need clients..

9)  Social Media Presence – Taking into consideration that people do NOT advertise they have a tax problem online, it can be difficult to see if your prospective tax representation is worth your hard-earned dollars.  A good way to check up on a prospective hire is to have a look at their followers and who they follow.  It may seem great that a firm will have 5000 followers, however, followers can be bought, so a Canadian firm with 3000 followers from, say, Turkey might be a tip-off that something is not right.  Also look at their posts and comments via mainstream media.  Are they commenting on articles to educate or does everything they publish and promote look like it has been written by a marketing firm aimed at trying to get you to hire them.

8) Flexibility – Are they flexible in their pricing, or are they so set in their fees that they will not, or can not, recommend someone else or reduce their fees to assist.

7) Promises – Do they promise to save you money through reviews of your tax filings or do they take the easy way out and recommend bankruptcy, or a proposal?

6) Fear Mongers – If you notice that the tone of everything coming from a prospective firm / representative seems like they are trying to scare you, they are, and that’s a good sign to proceed with caution.  If they tell stories of the CRA hiding in your bushes, reading your emails or coming to arrest you, you should think twice.

5) What is their catch? – You know what you need, but what do they want, or what do they want from you?  There might be additional things relating to your tax issues that you did not know about and would benefit you, but if it’s not necessary and they won’t back away from it – like a financial analysis – then be concerned that they just want to put you though a cookie-cutter program instead of working towards solving your problem(s).

4) Do they play nice with others? – Blog posts aside, are they active in community networking groups (like on Linked In) and are they contributing to the discussions or do they have their own agenda and are just posting articles aimed at the wrong crowd – ie/ pitching their services to individuals in a group full of tax lawyers.

3) Sticks and Stones – How do they  refer to the Canada Revenue Agency?  Do they call the CRA the “Taxman”?  Do they have other negative nicknames?  I can tell you with the experience that 10-plus years of working for the CRA has afforded me that the CRA HATES that and do you really want your representation to start your negotiations off on the wrong foot?

2) Which Way is Up – Does their projected course of action come with terms, such as; “I think, this will work” or “I can try this…” or does the word “maybe” come up a lot?  The good part of that language is that it is a sign that they want to try a course of action and they expect the outcome to be positive or they have no clue what to do and after they run you through their cookie-cutter service, they hope you will be in a better situation.

1) You are Smarter – If you finish your conversation and get the feeling that once all is said and done you will be in a much better place both mentally and financially and you are armed with enough information and understanding of what got you there in the first place and that you can and are able to identify and address all future issues, then you might just be in the right place!

Good luck!

 

Warren

What keeps me busy during the day…

I like taxation, and I have worked in the industry for over 17 years, and no, I am not a CA / CMA / CGA… Yet.  I did not wake up one day deciding this was my passion, but after almost 11 years at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), I certainly have learned a thing or two about Canadian taxation, and in the private sector afterwards I learned a thing or two about US tax, the MRQ and I had the opportunity to manage staff on a permanent basis and test out those MBA skills I worked so hard to learn.

Now I get to help people solve their tax problems and that is what makes me happy.

Here is a little biography about myself and my work-experience;

I graduated from University here in Toronto with a specialized honours degree in Public Policy and Administration.  The economy was in a downturn so I began to sell promotional items which I would customize for clients, such as; Pens, mugs, sports uniforms, etc. and I did that for just over a year-and-a-half until I applied to the CRA at the suggestion of a friend.  Seven months, later and I was settling in for my first day of training.  I will never forget the horror of walking through the office and seeing one fellow sleeping at his desk and another doing the crossword…  Little did I know what would come next.  The CRA, or maybe all governments, are unique in many ways.  They have goals, they have mandates and they have unions.  The fact that someone was resting had no bearing on the amount of work they accomplished, or how much they knew.  I certainly learned that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover.

11 months in to a job working in Collections, I was part of the most recent hiring group which was let go due to budget issues, however we were entitled to write entry exams allowing us to be re-ranked for potential re-hire.  I wrote all the exams, completed the interview and was ranked 1st, meaning if the CRA decided to hire anyone from that list, they would have to offer me a position first, and sure enough they did.

The next 10 years was a giant blur of exams, coffee breaks, crosswords and discussion about the amount of work which needed to get done vs. the amount of work allowable under the union guidelines.  For the most part this was never an issue.  During my time there I moved from an entry-level collector to a field officer and then to a resource officer and I touched a lot of areas during my time there including; compliance, GST/HST, Taxpayer relief (then fairness), Director’s Liability, Audit, Training and Learning, and so much more.  I also completed 3 years of accounting towards a CGA/CMA and my MBA degree.  I took 2 parental leaves and I worked with management to set up a collections conference and a mentoring program which I ran for 2 years.  I also performed a ton of training for all of the new hires and the rest of the staff.  I found I had an ability to take legislation and break it down into English and explain it to everyone, which helped with training and resolving complex issues.

I found treating staff as resources got the most of them and I was afforded many opportunities to manage teams within my areas.  I also found that by picking up the phone and speaking to the so-called debtors, that I could get across to people who owed the CRA money and explain what steps the CRA would be taking and use that to discuss what was in their best interests and what was in the best interests of the CRA.  As a result, I closed a lot of files without having to take any legal or enforcement actions other than talking to them.   “How would you like to resolve this?” was / and still is, a very acceptable opening line.  No accusations, and no blaming.  When I needed to flex my muscles to get something done, I certainly did just that and when push came to shove if I needed something done that was being delayed I found ways to get it done faster, or I learned it myself and taught others how to do it.

I was awarded the CRA Employee of the Year one year for my work in the office and my extracurricular work (volunteering and course-work) and as you could expect, I was quickly realizing that I was wearing out my welcome there.  I needed a change.

So just before 11 years at the CRA, I threw my resume online and I was hired by the world’s largest transfer agent to run their investor tax reporting department which I happily did for 4 years.  In this role, I learned about investor slips, T4’s, T5’s, T3’s, T5008’s, and the US forms, W8’s, W9’s, 1099B’s, and got my feet wet with Cost Basis and FATCA.  I also had a brief dive into Qualified Intermediaries, but thankfully that nightmare was moved off to compliance and legal.

While working there, I was plucked away for an opportunity as an AVP at a bank which afforded me an opportunity to dive deep into FATCA and the mutual fund side of tax reporting; Contribution receipts, T3’s, and the like.

When that opportunity ended, I was asked to work as a consultant, leading FATCA for the bank, but from somewhere down near Dallas, Texas but I decided to remain here in Toronto and I’m glad that I did.

In case you were not aware, there was a recent study published – which for the life of me I cannot find right now – which revealed that 55% of all bankruptcies in Canada were due to the Canada Revenue Agency (amounts owing / collection / enforcement actions).  That tells me that there a LOT of Canadians with tax problems and many who have tax problems but don’t know they have tax problems because they never open the brown CRA envelopes.

Now, on to my current role:

As the Managing Director of a professional tax firm committed to helping Canadians who have tax problems resolve their matters with the CRA, I have the opportunity to do what I like doing the most – helping others.  In doing this, I also help the CRA resolve some of their most complex accounts and I help people get their debt in order and their tax accounts current and up-to-date.  The management team are incredibly knowledgable about the industry and my colleagues, peers and staff are second to none.  It’s a good fit all around.

Since I have taken over this role, I have met with, and spoken to, many Canadians across the country about their tax problems and together we have worked to help them become debt-free and resolve their CRA problems so they can go back to being able to sleep at night.  I am happy to help you or someone you know.

It’s amazing what all that CRA knowledge in so many different areas can do to move a file forward.