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

 

2018 Federal Budget Highlights: 12 Changes Related to Taxation, the CRA, and you, the Canadian Taxpayer

The Federal Liberal government has just unveiled their 3rd budget, and in doing so will be increasing spending by roughly $20 billion dollars, bringing the federal deficit to roughly $670 billion dollars.

Looking at the tax issues, here are the main items which come from the budget this afternoon;

  1. 5-Week “Take-it-or-leave-it” Paternity Leave.

The government implemented a 5-week “take it or leave it” parental leave, pretty much like what Quebec has, in order to entice more dads to take paternity leave.  This would begin June 2019 (not sure why it takes this long to implement) and the Liberals expect it to cost taxpayers $1.2 billion dollars.

What this does not do is change the corporate culture which deters dads from taking time off, nor does it entice more moms to join the workforce.

What might have helped, would be more available daycare spaces, or fixing the Live-in Caregiver program which worked very well until it didn’t.

2.  Throwing bad money after bad money – Phoenix Pay system

If you have been following the Phoenix payroll fiasco that has been going on in the CRA, you would know that the CRA has already spent a lot of money on a payroll system which didn’t work, and then a ton of money to try and fix it.

Now, the Liberals have announced that it intends to eventually move away from Phoenix and explore the “next generation of the federal government’s pay system, but before doing so, the Liberals provided $16 million over the next 2 years to “research” a new pay system.

I’ll do that on my own, for half that amount.!

While “researching,” the CRA will now have $431.4 million over 6 years to try to fix the existing Phoenix system.

When you add the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Liberal government has already invested in fixing the Phoenix pay system, and the researching costs, and the budgeted costs, you will come to a figure of roughly $900 million on a system that this government will move away from.

This system was supposed to save the government roughly $70 million per year, starting in the 2016-17 fiscal year, and the Auditor General even said that scrapping the pay system would be the worst thing the government could do because if they start from scratch, they could have the same issues with another system!

3.  Help for the CRA to answer their phones!

The Liberal government is providing $206 million over 5-years to the CRA to help the Agency answer their phones.  This issue came up in November when the Auditor General noted that the CRA’s call centre only picked up the phone about one-third of the time.

The money will be used to improve the CRA’s telephone service, improve their online services and increase the number of community-based programs which help low-income people prepare their tax forms.  Ideally the call centre hours will also be expanded, and more training will be provided to ensure that more correct answers are provided.

4.  Private Company Passive Investment Income

Beginning taxation year 2019, there will be a phasing out of access to the small business deduction for Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (CCPC’s) which earn more than $50,000 of investment income.  The current rules for the refundable tax on dividends paid by CCPCs will also be amended.

CCPC’s are entitled to a preferential tax rate on up to $500,000 of qualifying active business income – the “small business deduction.”

Going forward, CCPC’s who earn income or net capital gains from property (not properties used in an active business) will be treated as follows; For each $1 of investment income earned over $50,000, the small business deduction limit will be reduced by $5, so once a CCPC has investment income greater than $150,000, they will lose their small business deduction entirely.

The government has decided that Canadians who earn income passively, ie/ rental income, deserve to pay more tax because either;

a. It’s not fair to Canadians who have to “work” to earn income

b. The Liberals got elected taxing the “rich” and by earning money this way – damn you – you are on their list, or,

c. The Liberals would tax a tax if they could because they need tax revenue to pay for all their promises.

5. New Tax Rules for Trusts to begin in 2021.

The government needs more taxes, hence the new tax reporting requirements for trusts which were unveiled in the budget.  The intention of these new rules is to provide the CRA with information related to beneficial owners, or potential beneficial owners of trusts.

Currently, trusts which do not earn income or make distributions in a taxation year are generally not currently required to file a T3 trust return.  (Trusts are required to file T3 returns if there is tax payable in the year or if the trust distributes income or capital to its beneficiaries.)

These new rules apply to express trusts which are resident in Canada as well as to non-resident trusts currently required to file T3 returns.  Each trust will have to provide the CRA with the identity of all of its trustees, beneficiaries and settlors, as well as each person who has the ability – through the trust terms or related agreements – to exercise control over trustee decisions regarding the appointment of income or capital of the trust, such as a protector.

The budget currently grants an exemption to mutual fund trusts, segregated funds, trusts governed by registered plans, graduated rate estates and qualified disability trusts, non-profit organizations and registered charities, and certain trusts that have been in existence for less than three months or that hold less than $50,000 in specified passive assets.

6. Tiered Partnerships Losses and At-Risk Rules

Essentially, partnerships wanted to use losses from one partner to lower the income of another partner, but the CRA disagreed.  The matter went to court and the CRA lost.  This budget reverses the CRA’s loss, making it a win, and worse than that, it is effective the date of the budget, which was February 27, 2018.  Losses are now lost.

7. Increased Assessment Period for CRA on Foreign Interests

Effective February 27, 2018, the CRA will have an extended reassessment period of taxpayers in respect of income arising in connection with foreign corporations in which they have at least a 10% interest in because it’s a long, often difficult process for the CRA to audit these foreign affiliates.

8. Reduced Filing Deadline to 6 Months for T1134.

Effective 2020, Taxpayers who currently had 15-months to file Form T1134, now have 6-months to do so.

9. Fighting Aggressive International Tax Avoidance

The Liberal government committed to fight international tax avoidance by strengthening rules related to controlled foreign corporations, addressing issues of treaty abuse, adopting the OECD revised Transfer Pricing Guidelines, and of greatest significance is the pledge to abide by tax reporting requirements of countries which Canada bilateral exchange agreements – and providing information to the tax authorities of these countries.

The acceptance of the OECD multilateral competent authority agreement now increases the countries which Canada can provide information to, and get information from.

Additionally, the CRA will be able to participate in what was called a “spontaneous exchange of information” on certain tax rulings with other tax administrations as part of a coordinated international effort to counter harmful tax practices.

The CRA also gets $38.7 million to expand its offshore compliance activities through the use of improved risk assessment systems and business intelligence, and to facilitate the hiring of additional auditors.

The anticipation is that the CRA will need these auditors to act on the new information they will be receiving as a part of the OECD/G20 Common Reporting Standard participation.

Another key tax issue relates to reassessment periods and non-residents of Canada to address a scenario where the CRA reassesses a taxpayer in order to reduce or eliminate a loss in a taxation year which results from a non-arm’s length transaction with a non-resident.  Currently, the CRA cannot reassess the taxation year to which that loss was carried back because the reassessment period has elapsed, but going forward, the CRA will have 6 years after the normal reassessment period to reassess the year to which the loss was carried back in such circumstances.

Another change impacts a scenario where a taxpayer contests a requirement for information (RFI) or an application for a compliance order – as this period will not be included when computing the time limit for the CRA to reassess.

This “stop-the-clock” rule is similar to the existing rule that applies for purposes of requirements for foreign-based information.

10. GST/HST

GST/HST is applicable on the fair market value of the management and administrative services provided by the general partner to an investment limited partnership where consideration becomes due or is paid before September 8, 2017.

GST/HST now applies to management and administrative services rendered by the general partner on or after September 8, 2017, unless GST/HST was charged by the general partner before that date.

The GST/HST is generally payable on the fair market value of management and administrative services in the tax year in which these services are rendered (however rules to calculate FMV, and what constitutes FMV were not provided at this time).

11. Excise – Cannabis Tax

A new excise duty framework for cannabis products under the Excise Act, 2001 applies to all products available for legal purchase, including fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils, and seeds and seedlings for home cultivation.

The cannabis taxation program will be administered by the federal government on behalf of most provincial and territorial governments on a coordinated basis. 75% of the taxation revenues from a combined $1 per gram / 10% of the price of the product, whichever is higher, excise duty rate will flow to participating provinces and territories, with the federal government receiving the remaining 25%.

12. Increased Funding to CRA and Tax Court of Canada

The budget provided money to the CRA and the Tax Court of Canada to:

  • $79 million over 5 years and then $15 million per year going forward in order to develop an electronic platform for processing trust returns;
  • $90.6 million over 5-years to help the CRA pursue domestic and international cases which have been identified as high-risk potential danger of loss through enhanced risk assessment systems;
  • $30 million over 5-years to enhance security measures aimed at better protecting the confidentiality of taxpayer information; and
  • $41.9 million over 5-year, and $9.3 million annually going forward to provide support for new front-line registry and judicial staff, most of whom are expected to support the Tax Court of Canada.

And so much more…