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.

 

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Canada Revenue Agency Offering to Close Dormant GST Accounts

[109/365] Taxation.
Taxation. (Photo credit: kardboard604)

I came across an interesting article on the H&R Block blog site regarding the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and their upcoming strategy regarding dormant GST accounts.  The original article can be found right here.  Having spent almost 11-years working for the CRA – almost 2 of those years dedicated to GST, I am very familiar with the problem the CRA faces by having many GST accounts open and unaccounted for.  When the CRA is unsure as to whether the account is open, active and not filing, or open, inactive and never used can often be difficult to determine is the phone number and address on file at the time of registration are no longer applicable.

As many of you are already aware, not filing GST returns is a criminal offence under the Excise Tax Act for which the CRA can, and will prosecute taxpayers.  When the CRA moves to action on these accounts their intention is in their approach so if they suspect the file was opened in error, or can be sure it is not required then they will call, or have a field officer drop by the residence or business to ask about the account.  If, however, they have reason to believe that the account is open and just not-filing, maybe as a result of a telephone conversation, then they approach this completely differently.

In this case, the CRA will begin to collect information for their permanent diary and see how the story differs from the information provided by the taxpayer.  Once they notice a difference, they move in with a Demand to File, which is an indication that they intend to prosecute.

The CRA understand that taxpayers register GST accounts then move and fail to update their address with the CRA (HUGE mistake!) at which point the CRA needs to determine if the account is inactive or a non-filer.  If this is you, or someone you know, it’s best to take care of this right now.

A common example would be this; a taxpayer opened a business which operated as a sole proprietorship (SoleProp) for 18-months until it incorporated.  The new corporation (NewCorp) registered a GST account and began to make its quarterly installments, while the SoleProp no longer had any income attached to it, but instead of closing it, the owner filed nil returns for the next 3-years.

This is an example of an account the CRA would happily close over the phone because the trail is clear and both are current.

Normally, you need to complete a RC145 Form (used to be a GST11)– Request to Close Business Number Program Accounts in order to close your GST account, however under this program, the CRA will close the account if you give them permission over the phone.

Whether the account is closed or not, you still have to file all your outstanding GST/HST returns and pay any amounts owing up until the day your business ends because closing your account does not exempt you from paying any GST owed back to the CRA.  In addition, if you have business assets and shut down the operation, the assets are deemed disposed of at Fair Market Value (FMV) on the day you stopped operating so you will need to calculate the GST on the value of your assets, too.  You will also want to make sure that you capture any bad debts on that final GST return if you have not previously.

If you sell to a purchaser who is a GST registrant and who continues to operate the business, you can jointly file a Form GST44, Election Concerning the Acquisition of a Business or Part of a Business, so the purchaser does not have to collect and you do not have to pay GST.

The important thing to remember about the GST is that once you open an account it remains open until you take action to close it.  If you have a dormant GST account and the CRA is calling you, it will save you time to answer the phone and provide permission to close it.  If you fail to close it and the CRA is unable to get in touch with you, they can enforce collection actions against you and raise director’s liability to hold you personally liable to corporate debts, as well as the previously mentioned criminal prosecution.  Stopping this kind of action can be difficult once the CRA has determined that you are hiding something from them.

Do not wait for the CRA to come collecting their returns or their GST, but if you are already embroiled into a battle with the CRA over notional assessments or GST amounts owing, or worse if you have received a Demand to File notice from the CRA that they are intending to assess you as a director of the corporation and are seeking a due diligence defence, you need professional help right away.

I can help!

Just visit http://www.intaxicating.ca and see how Intaxicating Tax Services can assist you in all your CRA matters.  Passionate about Tax.  Passionate about helping people.

info@intaxicating.ca

Learn How to Lodge a Service-Related Complaint with the CRA

[109/365] Taxation.
Taxation. (Photo credit: kardboard604)
Have you ever had an issue with the Canada Revenue Agency which was so upsetting that you wanted to complain but did not know how?  Well, once you finish reading this post you will know how to do that, when you can do that and what you need to do that.

The first think you will want to do is to follow this link, to the CRA website and read their brief section on service-related complaints.  If everything looks good, then download this form, the RC159 fill it in, and send the completed form, together with supporting documentation and any authorization forms, separately from other tax forms to the CRA.

You can fax your form and supporting documentation to 1.866.388.7371 from Canada or the US or 1.819.536.0701 from outside Canada and the US, or you can mail them to the following address:

CRA – Service Complaints Supporting documentation
National Intake Centre
P.O. Box 8000
Shawinigan-Sud QC. G9N 0A6
CANADA

Make sure to include all relevant documentation that you feel may be helpful in reviewing your complaint or feedback.

This is a service complaint;

A service complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the service, quality, or timeliness of the work performed by the CRA which could include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • undue delays;
  • poor or misleading information;
  • staff behaviour; or
  • mistakes, which could potentially result to a misunderstanding or omission.

This is not a service complaint;

If your service complaint does not relate to a service matter, other options are available, for example:

  • normal delays in the processing of your income tax returns – see Service Standards or for more information on what you can expect from the CRA.
  • dispute an assessment, determination, or decision – see Complaints and disputes.
  • disagreements related to the Income Tax Act – the CRA is responsible for administering tax legislation, not amending it. If you have a complaint about the Income Tax Act or other tax legislation matters, contact the Department of Finance Canada.

Additional information can be found by reading Booklet RC4420, Information on CRA – Service Complaints.

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.

Beware of Fraudulent Communications! The CRA Does NOT Randomly Request Personal Information.

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

The CRA issued a warning, as the periodically have to do, to make sure that citizens are aware of some scams being committed via email, phone and mail whereby someone is pretending to be the CRA and they are asking for personal information such as a credit card number, social insurance number (SIN), bank information or passport information.

As in EVERY other situation, if someone, anyone asks you for this information, you should NOT be providing it.

If the CRA wants to contact you for information they already know all this information and will not be asking you for it.  Even worse is the fact that the fraudsters are arguing that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or benefit payment.

Again, the CRA knows this information and if you are eligible for a program or benefit, they will either enroll you in it automatically or they will send you a letter asking you to call the CRA general enquiries line.

Another common scam refers the person to a Web site resembling the CRA’s Web site where the person is asked to verify their identity by entering  personal information.

Again, this is not true.  The CRA website is http://www.cra.gc.ca where the “gc” stands for “government Canada” and the “ca” represents that the website is Canadian.  If the fraudster persists, please hang up and call the general enquiries line to confirm or call the RCMP (details below).

So just to confirm, and this is from the CRA website;

The CRA does not do the following:

  • The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email.
  • The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?
  • Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?
  • How did the requester get my email address?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The CRA will continue to post notifications of fraudulent communications as they become aware of them and encourages you to check their Web site should you have concerns.

Examples You will find examples of a fraudulent letter, emails, and online refund forms from the CRA’s website in the links provided.  Notice how shoddy and unprofessional the request are.  As per telephone calls, the CRA will occasionally leave messages for taxpayers on their answering machines, including a callback number, and a request for the taxpayer to have their SIN handy when they call, however, it is important to note that not all telephone messages claiming to be from the CRA are genuine.  If you have any doubt and wish to verify the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, agent name, or location. you should contact the CRA directly by using the numbers on our Telephone numbers page.  For business-related calls, contact 1-800-959-5525 and for individual concerns, contact 1-800-959-8281.

If you have responded to a fraudulent communication and have become a victim of fraud, please contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by email at info@antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.

Be careful when giving out personal information to anyone regardless of where they claim to work.  The CRA won’t get offended.  They’ll try again a different way if necessary.

Interesting: CRA Employee Fired over Video Game About His Job

Not CRA-Approved
This child will now never create a video-game about her CRA job!

I was a little caught aback when I saw that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) fired an employee over a video game that he had created based on his job.  Getting fired from the CRA is not easy task – as I used to tell people when I worked at the CRA, you could stand on your bosses desk and pee on his / her papers and not come close to getting fired.  I had to do some research and ask around to get more details in order to see what really happened to cause this termination. My immediate reaction to this article – before reading it and researching for more details, as that I would have thought that someone with this kind of wit and abilities should not be fired from the CRA, but rather, promoted in the CRA, right into the IT or marketing departments where his skills could be used to help the CRA make peace with the general public. Then again, I’m not often surprised by the decisions made by the CRA.The video game this employee made, was not solely based on his job, but rather, on the disdain of his job – which makes a pretty big difference. in my opinion.  In case you would like to locate the game and check it out, the developer’s name is David S. Gallant and the name of his game is “I Get This Call Every Day”.  Based on details of his location and that he would be receiving calls every day which are similar, I came to the conclusion that he worked in the call centre somewhere out near the Toronto West TSO.

In the game, users listen to a customer call and are given options for how they can respond to the inquiry.  The game prompts the user to respond to the calls, and having never seen the game I cannot be 100% sure, but I understand that there are common responses and some shall we say are a little less than professional, such as the often cited snarky response like “I’m not your buddy, sir” which is intended to rile up callers instead of helping them with their problems and moving on to the next call.

While it’s true that the CRA are not your buddies, I can honestly saw in the 11-years I spent at the CRA and the 7 years since dealing with call services agents on the phone, I am more concerned when an employee is unable to navigate their system (because they are new or not adequately trained) so they cannot provide me information I require or are unwilling to, but I have never, ever had an agent be rude to me even in the slightest – for which I give the CRA top marks because within the CRA everyone knows the call centre is like a prison because the agents are handcuffed to the phones and have no opportunities to wander from their desks as say, collections or audit staff would.   Advancement opportunities are also quite limited, but the training these guys get is top-notch and I have personally hired staff from the call centres for private sector work because of their knowledge and they customer service skills.

Mr. Gallant was quoted as saying that; “I felt the need to express myself, and despite the fact that I could’ve lost my job for it, I still wanted to ensure that I got my art out there and I made it available to people.”

The Minister of National Revenue, Gail Shea, however failed to see the humour in the situation.  “The minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable,” a statement released from her office.  The CRA will now proceed with the common practice of conducting a full investigation into the access of Mr. Gallant to ensure no confidential information was compromised, and no illegal activities took place while Mr. Gallant was employed there.

While I personally witnessed much more severe acts which should have resulted in termination, the CRA does not like to get embarrassed, and that is probably what they feel this was.  Unfortunately, unless the game clearly identifies Mr. Gallant and his position at the CRA, then this is another circumstance of someone from within the CRA outing an employee and getting them punished which happens a lot in bureaucracies, especially in the CRA which I can attest to.

If anyone has seen the game or played it, I would love for them to comment with their feedback in order to add additional facts to my post, or email me at realurbandaddy@gmail.com with your thoughts and I can keep them anonymous and add the facts at the bottom of this post.