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

 

Best and Worst Major Cities for Business Tax Burdens: C.D. Howe Institute

On April 23rd, 2020, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report which identifies the best and worst major Canadian cities for business investment as measured by overall tax burdens.

The link to the reports is here; “Business Tax Burdens in Canada’s Major Cities: The 2019 Report Card.”  Authors Adam Found and Peter Tomlinson compared business tax burdens in 10 Canadian municipalities, the largest in each province.

“Municipalities and provinces would do well to pay attention to business tax burdens, particularly those imposed by business property taxes, since they impede investment and businesses’ ability to survive and invest after the present pandemic,” says Found.

Before a business decides to locate or expand in a given jurisdiction, it must consider the tax implications of such an investment.

Heavy tax burdens reduce potential returns, driving investment away to other jurisdictions and, with it, the associated economic benefits.

Found and Tomlinson estimate the 2019 Marginal Effective Tax Rate (METR) for the largest municipality in each province by aggregating corporate income taxes, retail sales taxes, land transfer taxes and business property taxes. Their findings measure the tax burden on a hypothetical investment that has the same net-of-tax return regardless of where in Canada it is located.

What Did They Find?

That municipal business tax burdens are highest in Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s, while near the group average in Calgary, Charlottetown and Moncton.

The most competitive municipal business tax environments were found in Vancouver, followed by Saskatoon, Toronto and Winnipeg.

I’d be curious to see if there was any consideration given to the associated costs which impact businesses in these markets, such as the cost and availability of parking and ability of the general public to access these businesses. Certainly, an expensive parking rate which is heavily enforced by the parking police would deter customers in certain parts of these cities.

Then again, so does bad signage…

Nonetheless, the bottom line is this. If the cost of investing in a Canadian jurisdiction is higher than the cost of investing elsewhere, then that jurisdiction’s capital stock will be smaller than it otherwise would be, because businesses go where the costs are cheaper so they can try to make more money.

The higher the METR (tax rates), the greater the investment loss and overall economic harm.

Tax dollars are important for budgeting purposes because jurisdictions use those dollars to support expenditures. When the tax base erodes, either taxes are increased, expenditures cut, or debts and deficits increased.

Calgary’s experience with depreciating property values was also discussed in this report, because in that city, as the assessed values of downtown office buildings depreciated rapidly, that caused unmanageable tax shifts onto other businesses in the city, to make up the shortfall.

“Calgary is a cautionary tale for cities across the country,” says Tomlinson. “With the current cash crunch for businesses, provincial property tax cuts – like those just announced in British Columbia – could be key to businesses’ survival.”

Read Full Report

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada’s most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.

CRA Targeting Underground Economy Again (or Still)…

Recently saw a news headline relating to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and collecting taxes, that caught my eye. The headline screamed something to the effect of; “Contractors buying from Home Depot beware — the CRA is coming after you.”

I immediately began to shake my head and wonder if what the purpose of this article was. Was it written in response to an action taken by the CRA, or was the headline intended to scare Canadians who are dealing in cash and not paying their tax, into using their services.

Afterall, this really is not news.

For as long as Canadians have found ways to evade paying taxes, the CRA has had to find ways to verify that taxpayers are reporting their accurate income – and reporting at all.

The latest instance came to light recently as the CRA sought information from The Home Depot, in July, using a provision in the Income Tax Act (ITA), known as the Unnamed Person Requirement (UPR).

The CRA obtained a Federal Court order (which they are required to do) which legally required the Home Depot to disclose the identities of their commercial customers as well as the total annual amount spent by each of these customers between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2016, Canada-wide.

Certainly, there are some Canadian Contractors who work solely for cash, and the CRA will use this information with the information that has been filed by these individuals, to determine if an audit is necessary.

The CRA will likely move quickly in cases where there are clear discrepancies, such as contractors who claimed $1 in income, who appeared at the top of the Home Depot list, and who live in, or own, millions of dollars of assets. In these cases, the CRA would send a letter, followed 30-days later by an assessment, and the taxpayer has 90-days to appeal that assessment with facts. Facts, being supporting documentation such as proof, receipts, explanations, and bank statements to prove that nothing untoward had occurred.

I’m not going to lie when I say that in the almost 11-year working in the CRA and the almost 11-years since I left the CRA, I have seen pretty much everything. Some good, some really good, but some bad, and some really bad.

The fact that the CRA found this tax evasion is part of the bigger problem around tax advice being given to people from people who have no idea what they’re saying. As a result, the CRA has to jump in, assume everyone is lying, cheating and stealing, and paint everyone with the same brush.

It gets worse, if these tax evaders filed tax returns and lied about having no income and received benefits based on earning no income, when in fact they earned considerable amounts of income and then took benefits they were not entitled to received from hard-working Canadians who pay their taxes. In those cases, these tax cheats can expect the CRA and the courts to come down much harder on them.

When taxpayers are convicted of tax evasion, they must still repay the full amount of taxes owing, plus interest and any civil penalties assessed by the CRA. In addition, the courts may fine them up to 200% of the taxes evaded and impose a jail term of up to five years.

Didn’t shop at Home Depot? You’re not out of the woods yet. In addition to this list from Home Depot, the CRA also compiled lists of municipal building permits by way of seeking out unregistered building subcontractors. The review of 8,396 building permits yielded 2,751 unregistered building contractors.

According to a CRA report released in late 2018, underground activity in Canada totalled $51.6 billion in 2016, which could have gone into the tax coffers.

When seeking permission from the court to have the Home Depot hand over their records, the CRA stated that 7% of an unidentified company’s customers had were not filed up-to-date on their personal tax returns, meaning a greater chance of tax evasion (which people think, but again, is totally not true).

Many audit and collection projects within the CRA make use of unnamed persons requirements (UPRs), tips from the CRA’s Informant Leads Line (Snitch line) and from Canadians themselves who fail to file tax returns on time.

If you, or someone you know falls into this category, you are best to contact us at inTAXicating, to help answer questions truthfully about how much exposure you might have to the CRA and what solutions are available to help.

We can be reached at: info@intaxicating.ca

Gifting Scheme Conviction. Be Careful With Your Hard Earned Money!

A Coaldale, Alberta man has been arrested for fraud after allegedly being one of the central figures in a so-called “gifting” scheme which has taken in about 500 individuals across the province of Alberta.

Gifting schemes have been under the microscope at the Canada Revenue Agency for over a decade, and in all cases, the CRA have rejected these schemes, and denied the donation receipts of the contributors.

While these cases play out in Tax Court, the participants are left to fend for themselves, often accruing penalties and interest which far exceed the amount of their contribution or their tax benefit.

In this specific scheme, Steele Cameron Tolman, 57, was charged with fraud over $5,000 and possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000. He is scheduled to appear in court in Lethbridge on May 17 to answer LPS charges he is a “main presenter” or “promoter” of a gifting circle fraud which began in September 2018.

These schemes – and this scheme specifically – operate under false pretences, whereby people are recruited by telling them that if they contribute $5,000 they will eventually receive $40,000 with no risk.

The fraud occurs when that $5,000 is used to payout the $40,000 to one of the earlier members which means new members must be recruited in order to continue paying out members.

If this scheme was promoted out of a parking lot, and some guy’s back of their van, they are going to say this scheme was completely ridiculous, however, this was promoted by friends and family who received the $40,000 payout which added additional legitimacy to the scheme.

The fraud is criminal in nature because the recruitment of new members occurs under the false pretense of “no risk. Those who participated and received their $40,000, are in receipt of the proceeds of crime, which is illegal, and those who received their payouts must declare that income to the Canada Revenue Agency.

What is truly amazing is that people who participate in schemes and scams like these can claim that they did so thinking it was legal, and have used that argument in conversations with the police and the CRA.

If you give someone $5,000 and they give you back $40,000 – which seems too good to be true… Means it is too good to be true.

Much in the same way that someone donating $1,000 to a “charity” and receives a tax receipt for a donation of $2500.  It’s illegal, and you’re going to get caught and the penalties and interest will far exceed the amount of benefit received.

Be careful with your hard earned money. There are no fast and easy ways to make a buck. Don’t fall for scams and schemes and get left with a tax debt, or worse.

Canadians Must Hold Governments Accountable For Their Spending of Tax Revenue

The average Canadian family’s largest expense is taxes.

Therefore it should not be unreasonable that Canadians expect all levels of government to not waste their tax dollars, money taken off their paychecks and paid into the system.

Whether tax dollars are wasted when a government pays a negotiation bonus to unions, or if they have to pay private companies a fine after breaking contracts with them, governments must do a better job at keeping the optics above-board and avoid $200,000 moving expenses or $1300 a person dinners altogether!

But they don’t, or they can’t, and we, as Canadians have come to expect that from our elected officials.

If governments want to spend fast and loose with money, let it be their own, or at the very least taxes off of non-Canadians – like withholding taxes, or something of the like.

But if we, as Canadians do not hold these governments accountable for their spending of our taxes, we allow them to continue to do this and they will continue to do so.

If we held our elected officials to a higher standard and used the opportunity to remove governments who wasted taxpayer dollars immediately, it would send a message to the next government that they have to spend wisely.

This information came out in the late summer months from the Fraser Institute, an economic think-tank.

To clarify, when referring to taxes, its not just income taxes, but all the taxes Canadian Taxpayers make to all levels of governments (federal, provincial, and local), including both visible and hidden taxes— everything from income taxes, which are less than a third of the total, to payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, health taxes, fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, import taxes, alcohol taxes, and much more.

In a recent report published by the Fraser Institute, they tracked the total tax bill of the average Canadian family from 1961 to 2014.

For 2014, they estimated that the average Canadian family (including unattached Canadians) earned $79,010 in income and paid $33,272 in total taxes—or 42.1% of income—while just 36.6% went to food, clothing, and shelter combined.

Indeed, Canadian families spend more on taxes than the basic necessities of life.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Back in 1961, the first year the Fraser Institute started tracking this data, the average Canadian family paid a much smaller portion of its household income in taxes (33.5%) while spending proportionately more on the basic necessities (56.5%).

Since 1961, Canadians’ total tax bills have increased by 1,886%, dwarfing increases in shelter costs (1,366%), clothing (819%), and food (561%). Even after accounting for inflation (the change in overall prices), the tax bill shot up 149.2% over the period.

And now taxes eat up more income than any other single family expense.

So why should Canadians care, aside from the fact that we work really hard to earn an income, and pay these taxes?

With more money going to the government, families have less to spend on things of their own choosing, whether it’s a new car, technological gadget, or family vacation. They also have less money available to save for retirement and their children’s education, or to pay down household debt.

While there’s no doubt that taxes help fund important government services, the issue is the amount of taxes that governments use compared to what we get in return.

To make an informed assessment, you must have a complete understanding of all the taxes you pay. Unfortunately, it’s not so straightforward because the different levels of government levy such a wide range of taxes—with many taxes buried in consumer prices and hard to discern.

Armed with this knowledge, we can hold our governments more accountable for the resources they extract and continue a public debate about the overall tax burden, the amount and scope of government spending, and whether we’re getting our money’s worth.

Otherwise, taxes will continue to increase.

So why is this important to us?

It is important because we understand that taxation is a necessity in order to have a healthy, wealthy, productive society for everyone, and in paying taxes there are circumstances which arise that make the system disadvantages to some Canadians.

Unlike our neighbours to the south who shoot elected officials for spending money, we are much more in control of our emotions (plus, no guns, eh?) so we need to hold them accountable in different ways, such as, not re-electing them. and going to public debates, and letting the officials that we elect know that they can no longer waste our money!

We can fix this.

Member of Nova Scotia First Nation charged with evading $2.2 million in taxes

The Canada Revenue Agency have announced that they have charged a member of Nova Scotia’s Millbrook First Nation with evading $2.2 million in GST/HST.

The CRA charged Lisa L. Marshall who was the operator of the Traditional Trading Post, a convenience store, located on the Cole Harbour reserve of the Millbrook First Nation using the Excise Tax Act with wilfully evading or attempting to evade compliance with that Act.

The CRA alleges that between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2015, the store failed to collect or remit $2,284,144.72 in Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) related to the sale of tobacco products to non-Aboriginals.

The agency says people who fail to remit tax owing are liable not only for the full amount, but also to penalties and interest, and if convicted, the court can levy a fine of up to 200% of the tax evaded and also impose a prison term of up to 5 years.

The moral of the story here, is that if you are required to charge, collect and remit GST or HST, you should.  The CRA treats Trust Funds – money taken by registrants and held in trust until they are remitted to the Crown – very seriously, and those who misuse Trust Funds are dealt with swiftly and to the full extent of the law allowed to be used by the CRA.

 

CRA Hires New Chief Service Officer. (It wasn’t me, but it should have been me!)

On November 1st, 2018, the CRA announced that as a result of complaints from the public related to “significant service delays”, they have launched a national consultation tour and on this tour will be promoting the appointment of a new Chief Service Officer (CSO).

That position should have been mine, but they never asked, so instead of helping the masses while working at the CRA, I’ll have to continue helping Taxpayers as inTAXicating.

While noting the introduction of a “new suite of services … leading to real results for Canadians”, or a return to the service that the CRA used to give Taxpayers, the CRA is admitting that it has a long way to go in the eyes of Canadians when it comes to providing anything related to “Customer Service”.

In March of 2018, the CRA appointed its first CSO, Mireille Laroche who happens to be a bilingual career public servant with a background in and who previously worked at the Department of Finance.

So much for the CSO helping Taxpayers with Collections issues related to the CRA because for that to happen, the CSO would need actual time working in, you know, Collections.

That being said, the CSO be classified as an Assistant Commissioner of the Service, Innovation and Integration Branch, as well as Chief Data Officer.

The Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, has visited a number of remote locations over the past year to discuss service issues promising solutions, but none have come from the CRA.

Stated “improvements” coming from the CRA include; the opening of the Northern Service Centres in territorial capitals, an enhancement of the CRA’s digital services, and the implementation of a new call centre platform because the one they currently use doesn’t meet the needs of Canadians.

A CRA spokeperson stated that, “these service enhancements will address many of the frustrations Canadians have experienced when they interact with the CRA [and] while they will be of significant benefit to Canadians, they are really just the beginning of the CRA’s client-focused approach to service.”

To that statement, I disagree!  I think the public wants to be able to sit down with their Collections representative face-to-face and that the CRA’s insistence of moving collections files to these “hubs” has created additional confusion, unnecessary stress and assessment which would have been resolved in person previously.

In addition to launching both online and in-person public consultations, the CRA is holding a series of “design jams,” which, according to the CRA spokesperson, is “a collaborative brainstorming activity used to solve design problems. It is part of the ‘design thinking toolkit.’ Design jams produce prototypes, pitches, or proposals; it is the equivalent of a ‘hackathon’ but for designers. The focus is on stakeholder and participant empowerment. Rapid ideation is done with all stakeholders involved.”

Time will tell if there will be actual changes being made to the way the CRA interacts with Taxpayers, or if this is just another way for the Federal Liberal government to spend taxpayer money while touting all the “progress” that has been / will be made.