CRA Snitch Line Accepting Tips on COVID Fraud

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have announced that they are opening up their Informant Leads (snitch) line to information regarding COVID-19 benefit program fraud.

Amid reports that people are double dipping or taking the benefits when there are not entitled to, the CRA are intent on not waiting for 2021 when people file their tax returns, but are asking for Canadians to come forward and provide information regarding the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

The Snitch Line accepts information of tax cheating such as not declaring all income, accepting “under the table” cash payments or setting up a fake business to claim losses and thus reduce taxes. The information reported goes right to an audit group, who compare the information they receive with the information the CRA already has on that individual and business, and if the amount to recover is significant, will act to seek recovery.

The CRA said it is looking for information regarding people who are receiving either CERB or CESB who were ineligible, or businesses or charities who are “misusing” the wage subsidy program.

The decision to go after cheaters marks a significant turning point in the Trudeau government’s desire to take on fraud of COVID-19 emergency aid programs. In mid-April, a CRA spokesperson dissuaded Canadians from snitching on potentially ineligible CERB recipients because, at that time, the CRA said their focus was on “getting crucial (CERB) payments to those who urgently need it now.”

The CRA stated that those who received a payment to which they weren’t entitled will be required to repay the amount in due course.

Due course meant with the filing of the 2021 personal income tax return for many who applied for and received the credit, only to learn that their income did not dip below the amounts making them eligible to receive the funds. With so many Canadians providing direct deposit information to the CRA, means that with direct access to your bank account, the CRA can take those funds when they want. It also means if there are not sufficient funds in your bank account that the CRA can freeze you bank account and send a garnishment to your employer, if warranted.

With this significant change in direction, it should be noted that any business or individual who are caught receiving money they we not entitled to, will be ordered to reimburse it and it could be quite costly. In the case of the wage subsidy, a business which falsified documents, in order to claim the benefit can face penalties up to 225% of the amount received through the program.

The CRA and Service Canada have records of all individuals who’ve received payments for the CERB and CESB. What has changed is that the CRA have brought in their audit staff – presently not working on audits due to COVID – to verify payments were correctly allocated.

How to Snitch

In order to successfully provide information to the CRA through their Informant Leads line, there is information that the CRA requires.  Remember, all information provided to the CRA is anonymous.

Depending on the program they may have falsely claimed, the CRA would require details on the suspect’s work situation (CERB and CESB), their schooling situation (CESB) or their employer’s number of employees and total payroll (CEWS).

In many cases, people brag to their friends and neighbours about how stupid the government is, by providing them with benefit payments when they are not entitled, and that information is usually enough for the CRA to investigate.

The link to the CRA’s Informant Leads Program information, is here.

Filed your 2019 Personal Income Tax Return: Now what?

What an absolute crazy year 2020 has been thus far!

The tax filing deadline for individuals to file their 2019 personal income tax returns (T1) in Canada was June 1st, by 11:59pm. For Canadians who have earned self-employment income, their returns are due by June 15th, 2020. Payments for balances owing are due to the CRA by September 1st, 2020, and the CRA is currently not charging interest on exsting balances owing the them, nor interest or penalties for any late payments or filings for the time being.

New and enhanced services

Check CRA processing times – Want to find out quickly how long it will take for the CRA to process your return, or your refund? Use the Check CRA Processing Times tool on canada.ca to get a targeted completion date. The new tool uses published service standards and information you select from drop-down menus to calculate targeted completion times for various programs.

Dedicated telephone service for tax service providers – If you are still working on a tax return(s), the CRA have been offering this service to small and medium income tax service providers across Canada for the 2020 tax filing season. By using this service, income tax service providers can connect with experienced CRA officers who assist with complex tax questions.

Representative authorizations – Thank goodness, the CRA has created a new e-authorization process for online access to individual tax accounts which permits representatives to request access to individual tax accounts using a web form through Represent a Client. As a result, the existing T1013 form will be discontinued for access to individual tax accounts.

The T1013, RC59, and NR95 will be combined into one form called the AUT-01 Authorize a Representative for Access by Phone and Mail. This form will only be used to request offline access to individual and business tax accounts.

Owing Money to CRA

If you have filed, or are about to file and you owe money to the CRA, there are a couple of critically important facts you should keep in mind.

  1. If you have applied for any of the COVID-prompted benefit programs, and have done so through Direct Deposit, you may, unfortunately, be at risk.
  2. The CRA is delaying the payment of balances owing until September 1st, while not charging interest on all accounts except payroll accounts. This shouldn’t mean its okay to forget it until the fall, but rather, with no interest being charged on existing balances, its the best time to figure out ways to catch up, set aside funds, or find / earn funds to pay off the CRA
  3. Before we all know it, it will be September, and a few things will be certainties. Our year-end will be fast approaching for the 2020 tax filing season, any balances owing to the CRA will be due, and the Canadian debt and deficit will be through the roof. The Federal government will need those funds ASAP, and aside from raising taxes, they will likely begin aggressive collections of taxes owing. The quickest way the CRA can recover funds, is by issuing a Notice of Assessment (which has legal warning in it) and then taking those funds from your bank account.
  4. You have options outside of bankruptcy, consumer proposals, high-interest loans, or high-rate mortgages. Preparing in advance for this situation and working with the CRA can prevent unwanted or unexpected surprises.

 

The CRA’s collections staff have already been advised where to locate direct deposit information and how ensure it is accessible when full collections are permitted.

Don’t wait until it’s too late.

inTAXicating can assist with anything CRA-related. With over 10-years experience working in the CRA’s Collections department, we know things the CRA will never tell you.

 

Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA)

What is the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA), and how does it work?

The CECRA program will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50% of three (3) monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May, and June.

The Program

The loans will be forgiven if the mortgaged property owner agrees to reduce the small business tenants’ rent by at least 75% under a rent forgiveness agreement, which will include a term not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place. The small business tenant would cover the remainder, up to 25% of the rent.

Who Qualifies as a Small Business Tenant?

Impacted small business tenants are businesses who;

  • Pay no more than $50,000 in monthly gross rent per location (as defined by a valid and enforceable lease agreement),
  • Generate no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues, calculated on a consolidated basis (at the ultimate parent level), and
  • Have temporarily ceased operations (i.e. generating no revenues), or has experienced at least a 70% decline in pre-COVID-19 revenues.

Property Owners

CECRA for small businesses is applicable to commercial property owners with:

  • Eligible small business tenants
  • Eligible small business subtenants
  • Residential components and multi-unit residential properties with commercial tenants (i.e. mixed usage)

 

To qualify, property owners must meet the following requirements:

  • You own property that generates rental revenue from commercial real property located in Canada.
  • You are the property owner of the commercial real property where the impacted small business tenants are located.
  • You have a mortgage loan secured by the commercial real property, occupied by one or more small business tenants.
  • You have entered OR will enter into a rent reduction agreement for the period of April, May, and June 2020, that will reduce impacted small business tenant’s rent by at least 75%.
  • Your rent reduction agreement with impacted tenants includes a moratorium on eviction for the period of April, May and June 2020.
  • You have declared rental income on your tax return (personal or corporate) for tax years 2018 and/or 2019.

 

How Does it Work?

While it is expected that CECRA will be operational by mid-May, commercial landlords are expected to either enter into the agreement, reducing rent immediately, or, once the program details have arrived, enter into the agreement and refund the monies to the tenant.

 

What Will CRA be looking for?

In order to support the credit, the CRA will be checking to ensure revenue loss. Small businesses can compare revenues in April, May and June of 2020 to that of the same month of 2019. They can also use an average of their revenues earned in January and February of 2020. If these figures do not justify a revenue loss of at least 75%, the credit will need to be paid back to the CRA.

 

What will CMHC be looking for?

CECRA for small businesses loans will be forgiven if the property owner complies with all applicable program terms and conditions including to not seek to recover rent abatement amounts after the program is over.

 

Administering the Program

CMHC will administer the program on behalf of the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial partners.

 

The program offers assistance for the months of April, May and June, 2020.

  • It can be applied retroactively.
  • Property owners may still apply for assistance once the 3-month period has ended if they can prove eligibility during those months.
  • Property owners must refund amounts paid by the small business tenant for the period.

 

If rent has been collected at the time of approval, a credit to the tenant for a future month’s rent (i.e. July for April) is acceptable if agreed upon by both the property owner and the tenant. This can be a flexible 3-month period.

 

The deadline to apply is August 31, 2020.

 

Program Summary Details

CMHC will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners.

  • The loans will cover 50% of the gross rent owed by impacted small business tenants during the 3-month period of April, May and June 2020.
  • The property owner will be responsible for no less than half of the remaining 50% of the gross rent payments (paying no less than 25% of the total).
  • The small business tenant will be responsible for no more than half of the remaining 50% of the gross rent payments (paying no more than 25% of the total).

 

 

Owing Taxes to the CRA: Real options to consider

The Canadian Tax Filing deadlines for regular filers and for filers with self-employment income are rapidly approaching.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has pushed out the tax filing deadline for regular tax filers from April 30th, 2020, to June 1st, 2020.  Canadians with self-employment income were due to file by June 15th, 2020, and that date has remained the same.

Any payments for the current tax year are due by September 1st, 2020, which applies to balances and instalments under Part 1 of the Income Tax Act due on or after March 18th and before September 1st, 2020.

If you earned significant self-employment income, for the first time, you might be in for an unexpected surprise when you file your tax return, because there will likely be a balance owing to the CRA. This balance owing is a result of having to pay the amounts that an employer would have normally deducted from your pay, including both portions of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

If you haven’t made other provisions to cover your tax debt at the end of the year, you could have a problem.

If this were not a pandemic year and the CRA was fully operational, I would warn that tax debt is serious and should be dealt with immediately.

As we are all aware, the collections staff at the CRA have considerable “power” to find and collect money that are owing to the Crown.

With the amount of government benefits being offered up this year, Canadians have been providing their banking information to the CRA in record numbers, and it is that banking information which the CRA can, and will, use to recover the taxes owing to them, likely in record time.

In effort to deter Canadians from not paying the CRA, they charge penalties and interest (which compounds daily) on your overdue taxes.

They can withhold payment of your Child Tax Credit and GST rebate. They can take money from your bank account or garnishee your wages.

If those methods do not result in full payment of taxes, the CRA will then check to see if you own real estate, as they can register a lien against your property.

When a lien is registered against your property it can prohibit you from refinancing or selling your property until the outstanding debt is paid in full.

You may also find that if you are non-compliant (not filed up to date with the CRA), you may not be able to secure mortgage financing to purchase a home, buy a cottage, get a loan, or access equity in your property.

Many Canadian banks and credit unions will not provide an unsecured loan for the payment of income tax debt and they generally cannot refinance an existing mortgage to cover the debt either. When they learn of a lien, they deem you a credit risk and are more comfortable walking away from you as a customer then take a risk lending you funds that you either cannot pay or that the CRA will end up taking.

 

What Can You Do

Normally, you would contact the CRA immediately – but these are COVID times – and the CRAès collections division is presently not taking collection actions or weighing in on payment arrangements.

Pay what you can, as much as you can.  Because paying anything less than the balance owing is going to result in interest accumulating.

There is no need to pay more to the CRA, unless you absolutely have to.

If these were normal times, you might be able to negotiate a re-payment arrangement covering 3-6 months, but the interest continues to accrue.

 

What NOT to do

This is important to note – 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. Transferring a tax problem for a credit problem is not always the best option.

Do not transfer any assets, or your property, to another person. That will not solve your problems, but rather cause other ones.

Removing assets from the reach of the CRA will result in the raising of a Section 160 (325), non-armsè length assessment, which takes your tax debt and makes it jointly and severally liable with the person who now owns your property.

Do not ignore it. Far too often, Canadians ignore the requirement to file and pay their taxes. This means a balance owing to the CRA continues to grow and grow. When the balance gets to be too high, people feel they have very few options, and consider bankruptcy or insolvency to be one of them. Worse that this scenario, is when one of the parties with a large tax debt falls ill, passes away, or becomes separated from the other, and now the ability to resolve the tax matter becomes that much more difficult.

 

A Better Solution

If you are a homeowner then having an experienced mortgage broker working for you can save you both time and money when seeking a solution to your CRA problem. If you simply can’t pay the full amount of your back taxes, consider refinancing your mortgage and using the equity in your home to consolidate all of your debts, including credit card debts, at a rate which might even be better than the rate you are currently paying.

Mortgage brokers have access to lenders that will allow a refinance of your existing mortgage or second mortgage options to pay off outstanding CRA debt.

If you have tax debt, or are going to be facing some tax arrears, do not worry. Contact inTAXicating and let us provide you with the truth around your tax options and help you find the best solution for you.

info@intaxicating.ca

intaxicatingtaxservices@gmail.com