Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) Changes March 1st, 2018.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have announced that effective March 1, 2018, changes will be made to the Voluntary Disclosures Program to narrow its eligibility criteria.

What is the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP)?

The VDP provides Canadians a second chance to change a tax return which has been previously filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), OR to file a return(s) which you should have filed with the CRA.

Your application under the VDP – if approved – allows you to file or amend a return without the CRA prosecuting you, or assessing penalties.

Who Can Apply?

Taxpayers!

Taxpayers can be;
• Individuals
• Employers
• Corporations
• Partnerships
• Trusts
• GST/HST registrant / claimants
• Registered exporter of softwood lumber products

You can apply, or you can have an authorized representative – like an accountant, or tax professional like inTAXicating, submit the application on your behalf.

How Many Times Can You Apply?

The CRA would prefer you use VDP once and stay up-to-date on filings from that point onwards, however should circumstances warrant it, you can apply again.

Conditions of a Valid Application

To qualify for relief, the application must:
• Be voluntary – You come to the CRA before the CRA gets to you.
• Be complete – You cannot file for one year, for example, you have to file everything and disclose everything.
• Penalty: Involve the application or potential application of a penalty and, for GST/HST applications, the application or potential application of a penalty or interest
• Time: Include information that is at least one year past due for income tax applications and, for GST/HST applications, at least one reporting period past due; and
• Include payment of the estimated tax owing.

The Process

Submit an application to the CRA, and if the CRA approves it, the returns in question are filed or amended and there is no penalties or fear of prosecution (unless you are engaged in criminal activities).

The CRA then expects you to pay the balance owing – or make arrangements to pay – because while there is no penalties, there is still interest accruing on the account.

* The above information applies until February 28, 2018.

The CRA will update their VDP guidelines as of March 1, 2018, so in order to be considered under the existing VDP, the CRA must receive your application, including your name, on or before February 28, 2018.

What Changes March 1st, 2018? 

On March 1, 2018, when the new VDP comes into effect, it narrows the eligibility criteria to access the Program and imposes additional conditions on applicants, making it more difficult for those who intentionally avoid their tax obligations to benefit from the VDP.

Income Tax Disclosures

With the changes to the program, two tracks will be created for income tax disclosures:

1. Limited Program

The Limited Program provides limited relief for applications that disclose non-compliance where the facts suggest that there is an element of intentional conduct on the part of the taxpayer or a closely related party.

Under the Limited Program, taxpayers will not be referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure and will not be charged gross negligence penalties, however, they will be charged other penalties and interest as applicable.

2. General Program

Under the General Program, taxpayers will not be charged penalties and will not be referred for criminal prosecution related to the information being disclosed. The CRA will provide partial interest relief for years preceding the three most recent years of returns required to be filed.

GST/HST, excise tax, excise duty, softwood lumber products export charge and air travellers security charge disclosures

For GST/HST, excise tax, excise duty, softwood lumber products export charge and air travellers security charge disclosures, three categories will be created:

1. Wash Transactions

Wash transactions are generally transactions where a supplier has failed to charge and collect GST/HST from a registrant entitled to a full input tax credit. This category provides relief only for applications involving GST/HST “wash transactions” that are eligible for a reduction of penalty and interest under the policy set out in GST/HST Memorandum 16.3.1, Reduction of Penalty and Interest in Wash Transaction Situations.

Registrants will not be charged penalties nor interest and will not be referred for criminal prosecution related to the information being disclosed.

A registrant must now disclose information on any non-compliance during the four years before the application is filed.

2. Limited Program

This category provides limited relief for applications that disclose non-compliance where the facts suggest that there is an element of intentional conduct on the part of the registrant or a closely related party.

Under the Limited Program, registrants will not be referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure and will not be charged a gross negligence penalty, however, they will be charged other penalties and interest as applicable.

3. General Program

All of cases fall under the General Program where registrants will not be charged penalties and will not be referred for criminal prosecution related to the information being disclosed.

The CRA will provide partial interest relief and a registrant must now disclose information on any non-compliance during the four years before the application is filed.

How to Determine if a Disclosure Falls under the General or Limited Program?

For both income tax and GST/HST disclosures, the determination of whether an application should be processed under the General or Limited Program will be made on a case-by-case basis and in doing so, the CRA may consider a number of factors, including but not limited to:
• The dollar amounts involved;
• The number of years of non-compliance; and
• The sophistication of the taxpayer/registrant.

Other Significant Changes to the VDP

1. Payment

Payment of estimated taxes owing: Payment of the estimated taxes owing will be required as a condition to qualify for the program (When a taxpayer does not have the ability to make payment at the time of filing the VDP application, they may request to be considered for a payment arrangement.)

2. Anonymous Disclosures Eliminated

The “no-names” disclosure method has been eliminated and replaced by a new pre-disclosure discussion service.

The process for taxpayers and authorized representatives to make disclosures on a no-names basis has been eliminated. Under the new “pre-disclosure discussion” service, taxpayers or their authorized representatives can have a conversation with a CRA official on an anonymous basis, but that discussion does not constitute acceptance into the VDP.

3. Large Corporations

Generally, applications by corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million in at least two of their last five taxation years, and any related entities, will be considered under the Limited Program.

4. Transfer-Pricing

Due to the complexity of transfer pricing issues, applications will now be referred to a specialized Transfer Pricing Review Committee, which will review the applications instead of the VDP.

For efficiency, taxpayers may send their applications directly to this committee.

5. Review by Specialists

Applications involving complex issues or large dollar amounts will be reviewed for completeness by the relevant specialist from the program area prior to being accepted.

6. Disclosure of Advisors

The name of the advisor who assisted with the non-compliance should now be included in the application.

7. Cancellation of Previous Relief

The new VDP regulations provide the CRA with the ability to cancel relief which was previous provided to a taxpayer if it is subsequently discovered that a taxpayer’s application was not complete due to a misrepresentation.

8. Mandatory Waiver of Rights of Objection and Appeal

Under the Limited Program, participants will have to sign a waiver of their right to object and appeal in relation to the specific issue disclosed.

 

If you need assistance with a Voluntary Disclosure – at any time – we can help!

Email: info@intaxicating.ca

On the phone: 416.833.1581 (If you are outside of Toronto, and would like to speak to us live, please email us, and we will gladly call you at your convenience)

On our website: http://www.intaxicating.ca (Portal coming soon – currently under construction).

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Expected Changes to CRA’s VDP: Preview

On June 9th, 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched a 60-day online consultation with Canadians on the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP), in which the CRA is seeking input from the public to ensure that the program is more “responsive, innovative and fairer for all Canadians”.

One of the key asks by the CRA is this question; “We are asking you – when should the VDP apply? Should it apply only to those who knowingly choose to not pay their taxes or also to those who make mistakes on their returns?”

Based on that question, many organizations have been putting out materials stating that the CRA is changing the program and that it is already been decided, however that is not the case, yet, as the consultation period has not even ended.

What Is Voluntary Disclosure?

The Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) gives Canadian taxpayers a chance to change a tax return they have previously filed or file a return that should have filed and by making these changes through the VDP, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may give relief from prosecution and penalties.

By applying to the CRA under the VDP, a Canadian taxpayer might only pay the taxes owing plus interest.

The disclosure MUST meet all four of the following conditions to be valid;
1. A penalty would apply
2. It is voluntary, which means it is made before the CRA takes any compliance action against you
3. the information is at least one year overdue
4. it includes all the relevant information – meaning it is full and complete.

Anyone can use the VDP, including individuals, businesses, employers, payers, trusts and estates, whether a resident or a non-resident of Canada.

Why Changes to the VDP?

When the CRA found out that there were Canadian taxpayers hiding money offshore, they began to consider whether the current VDP was fair for all Canadians. Should a taxpayer who forgets to include an income source be granted the same relief as a taxpayer hiding money overseas and failing to disclose that income in order to reduce the amount of taxes they would have to pay in Canada?

The answer clearly is no, it’s not fair, and the CRA wants to change the program to make it easier for actual errors and omissions to be fixed, while making it much more difficult to allow tax evaders to utilize the program to avoid prosecution.

The most meaningful change expected in the VDP is the introduction of a two-track system:
1) the General Program, and
2) the Limited Program.

The Limited Program would limit the availability of the program in certain circumstances or where there is a “major non-compliance” as such relief for penalty and partial interest relief could be seen as “overly generous.”
Under the General Program, taxpayers who qualify for the VDP will not be charged penalties or referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure, and may be entitled to partial relief for any interest in respect of assessments preceding the three most recent years of returns required to be filed.

Whereas under the Limited Program, applications that disclose “major non-compliance” will not receive the same level of relief as they would under the current VDP. Taxpayers will not be referred for criminal prosecution and will not be charged a gross negligence penalty with respect to the disclosure, however, other penalties will be charged as applicable such as a late filing penalty, a failure to remit penalty, an instalment penalty or an omission penalty. Additionally, no interest relief will be provided.

What Might Constitute “Major Non-Compliance?”

Major non-compliance might look like this:
• Taxpayers who undertook active efforts to avoid detection through the use of offshore vehicles or other means
• Large dollar amounts being disclosed
• Multiple years of non-compliance
• A sophisticated taxpayer, or use of sophisticated tax avoidance techniques under the advice of a sophisticated professional, and
• The disclosure is made the CRA has released information aimed at cracking down on taxpayers failing to disclose all their income

The determination of whether an application should be processed under the Limited Program will be made on a case by case basis.

Other Considerations
While determining the status of an application to the VDP, the CRA will also consider;
• If they will require payment in full of the estimated taxes owing as a condition of acceptance
• If transfer pricing cases and applications from corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million qualify
• If applications that disclose income from the proceeds of crime will be allowed access to the program

The CRA will continue to cancel VDP applications if they learn that the disclosure was not full and complete, or if was intentionally inaccurate.

The release of the changes to the CRA’s VDP will be announced in the fall, and the above is speculation as to what the new program will look like. If you, or anyone you know has failed to fully or accurately disclosure income, it’s best for them to speak to a professional now, especially before there are changes to the program which might disqualify them.
At inTAXicating, we are always available to discuss the CRA’s VDP and you can find us at http://www.intaxicating.ca, or send us an email to info@inTAXicating.ca.

Proposed Changes to CRA VDP Should Go Further – Union.

The changes proposed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to the Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) have been described as an improvement, but no where close to what is needed to reduce tax evasion, according to The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) – one of Canada’s largest labour organizations.

VDP, as we all know, gives Canadian taxpayers who made mistakes or hid income on their taxes the opportunity to voluntarily come forward to the CRA and declare or correct the mistakes without fear of prosecution, and gross negligence penalties.

Some, however, feel the VDP has been overly generous in cases such as the deal offered to clients of the KPMG Isle of Man tax scheme.  The same people also believe that the CRA’s VDP has failed to differentiate between those who simply made errors in their tax return and “wealthy individuals” who wilfully evaded taxes using offshore tax havens.

While it can be very difficult to distinguish between someone who willfully evades taxes from someone who tried to but got caught, it is quite clear regarding the use of tax havens because either you report your offshore income (legal) or you don’t (illegal).

The union strongly believes that those caught “using a tax haven should be treated more severely than innocent mistakes.”

The Minister suggested that releasing the names of the participants and their advisors should be required although the CRA has always kept track of both scenarios once the disclosure has been approved.  Where a taxpayer received assistance from an advisor in respect of a VDP application, the name of that advisor should generally be included in the application.

The union expressed concern that the proposed changes fail to restrict access to voluntary disclosure in cases where leaks about tax havens are likely to provide the government with lists of Canadian account holders.  They feel that at that point, “it should be too late for wealthy individuals to take advantage of the VDP if they are already likely to be exposed.”

While I do agree the government should look at how they treat those who have not filed differently than those who store money offshore in hopes of evading the paying of taxes, I do not agree that in each and every case it is the “rich” or “wealthy” who are doing it.

In fact, I have encountered many Canadians of all races, religions and levels of income who have stuffed away money overseas and they range from being super-wealthy, to single parents on OAS or pension income who can barely make their rent.  It’s not just a “wealthy” issue.

Sure, it doesn’t read as well if its not an attack on the “rich” and yes, there are some who have complained that nowadays it is the unionized worker who is the “rich” in Canada, which is why I prefer to not paint everyone with the same brush, and group by filers and non-filers.

Under the program, any use of a tax haven scheme should mean less relief than for other forms of non-compliance, which makes a lot of sense.

For the union, they believe that; “the majority of Canadians feel that there are two tax systems, one for the rich and one for the rest of us.  It is very important for the government to get this right.”

NUPGE: Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.

Link to original article:

https://www.nupge.ca/content/proposed-changes-canada-revenue-agency%E2%80%99s-voluntary-disclosures-program-should-go-further