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).

Advertisements

Taxpayers Ombudsperson to Examine CRA Legal Warning Process

The Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, Sherra Profit has announced that the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson (OTO) will be undertaking an examination into the systemic issue of the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA’s) practices regarding providing legal warnings to taxpayers when collecting unpaid taxes.

Obviously, the OTO have received many complaints alleging that staff at the CRA have been taking legal actions – freezing and seizing funds from bank accounts, garnishing wages, taking refunds – without notifying taxpayers first, or without working to make a payment arrangement first.

Oh oh.

Apparently, the purpose of this exercise is to allow for the Ombudsperson to identify the current process the CRA uses in order to take legal actions, specifically to see if the notice being given is “sufficient”.

Additionally, there will also be a review of whether the CRA clearly identifies their entire collection process on their website.

Is it clear enough for the average Taxpayer to understand not to carry a balance with the CRA?

After the examination, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson will make her findings public in a report.

For those of you not familiar with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson (OTO), they “work to enhance the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) accountability in its service to, and treatment of, taxpayers through independent and impartial reviews of service-related complaints and systemic issues”.

The website can be found here; https://www.canada.ca/en/taxpayers-ombudsman.html

The OTO wants to initiate systemic examinations when complaints or questions are raised about a service issue that may impact a large number of taxpayers or a segment of the population, in order to keep on top of the pulse of Taxation and the CRA here in Canada.

Recommendations arising from these examinations are aimed at improving the service provided to taxpayers by the CRA.

Quotes
“While the CRA’s collections practices and collections officers’ behaviours are some of the most common complaints received in my office, we have received more specific complaints about the legal warnings aspect.  CRA collections officers generally try to work out an acceptable payment arrangement that will allow taxpayers to avoid undue financial hardship. Taxpayers who contacted my office indicated they were taken by surprise, and said they have faced financial hardship and stress because of the lack of notice prior to CRA taking legal action.”

Sherra Profit
Taxpayers’ Ombudsman

Well…

Let me tell you, Office of the Ombudsperson, that there are 3 important pieces to the puzzle that you do not know about or have overlooked;

  1. The issuance of the Notice of Assessment (NOA) comes with legal warning built right into the notice.  As the CRA’s collectors will tell you over and over again, the CRA is not a bank and thus, by issuing the NOA the CRA is demanding payment in full.  If, for whatever reason, a taxpayer cannot make payment in full, they are expected to contact the CRA and let them know.
  2. Recent attempts by the CRA to lower their workloads resulted in the creation of New Intake inventories where by the collectors were advised and trained to take immediate legal action against a taxpayer once the 90 days grace period granted upon the issuing of a Notice of Assessment has passed.  Day 91 = legal action.
  3. Trust accounts, situations where trust funds are due to the CRA as due right away and no collection restriction applies, ie/ jeopardy.

The answer here might include spelling out information on the CRA website a touch more clearly, and it should include having it in a few more places, maybe flashing and more noticeable because to educate and inform each and every Canadian Taxpayer all the time so everyone knows, just is not feasible.

Personal experience working at the CRA has afforded me a much different view of the CRA’s legal warning procedures and when I compare how I handled files to how others did, I get it… There are issues.

I cannot tell you the number of times I gave verbal legal warning, followed that up with written legal warning, then followed that up with another call and then upon freezing a bank account, got that call of surprise and shock.

However, I do know of a few others who froze bank accounts and instead of sending the legal document to freeze the account to the bank and the Taxpayer on the same day, held on to the Taxpayer’s copy for an extra day or 2 in order to prevent the Taxpayer from getting the notice first and emptying his / her bank account.

It’s not as clear as one might want it to be…

OTO… You’re going to be so disappointed with what you find, but you need to understand before you try to make the CRA A kindler and gentler place that everything is already in place, policy and procedurally, to do just that.

It could just be that people who are not informed do not feel they have a person or place to ask questions without fear of reprisal!