Don’t Forget The T3’s!

Are you a Canadian resident who also has an obligation to file in the US?  Before you send in your US taxes to meet the April 15th filing deadline, make sure to remember there is still one more tax slip on its way.

If you are set to receive a T3 for a Canadian trust, you have a little more time that your dual-filing counterparts.

T3 slips, otherwise known as the Statement of Trust Allocation and Designations (RL16 for Quebec residents), are being prepared and mailed – copies to the CRA – by the end of March.

A T3 slip reports how much income you received from investment in mutual funds in non-registered accounts, from business income trusts or income from an estate for a given tax year.

If you have not received your T3 tax slip – get in touch with the relevant financial administrator or trustee but make sure to file your income tax return by the deadline anyway to avoid late filing penalties.

You can find more information from the CRA website, here.

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Happy New Year (2016) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

On the Fence about FATCA? Canada and U.S. Sign Intergovernmental Agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

Ever since  I caught wind of  the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, back in 2010, FATCA has been near the top of my radar.  For those of you who are unaware what FATCA is, The Foreign Account Tax dept of financeCompliance Act (FATCA) requires citizens of the United States (present, past, those with citizenship who do not live there, those who worked there a specific number of day, and those who received “accidental” citizenship through birth), to report their financial assets held outside of the United States to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  If providing that information means that the IRS would be taxing you and you have been trying to hide these assets, FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report your information to the IRS.  The intent of FATCA was to combat offshore tax evasion and to recoup federal tax revenues.   FATCA is a portion of the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.

As the tax manager at Computershare Investor Services and the Assistant Vice President of Tax for CitiGroup (CitiFund Services) I got to know FATCA very intimately and at one point or another became the Canadian lead on information dissemination and compliance.  After almost 11-years of interpreting legislation at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) deciphering this text came second nature and thus taking the FATCA regulations and translating them into English was not a difficult task, but more something that I had to do in order to teach myself the requirements so I could pass along that knowledge to my employers and to my clients.

The interesting thing about FATCA from a Canadian side was that with over a million “US Persons” here in Canada (probably much more now) I don’t believe the IRS understood that the majority of them were paying taxes in Canada and since the Canadian tax rate is higher than the US rate, there was some hesitation on the Canadian side to provide all this data to the IRS for no net gain.  Other countries rushed to sign intergovernmental agreements with the IRS to meet deadlines which have now been pushed out again as a result of the July 2014 start date for FATCA, but Canada did not.

The Canadian government was hesitant to force Canadian financial institutions to provide the very detailed information on Canadian citizens for fear that they would be double taxed, something the Canada-US Treaty strove to avoid.   In addition, the Canadian side wanted the Canada Revenue Agency included so that information could pass through secure channels and potential breaches of security and privacy could be avoided.  There was even talk that Canada refused to sign an agreement with the IRS, instead forcing the IRS to seek their own tax cheats from their own side of the border.

Then something changed.

The IRS began ramping up their search for US Persons via every mean possible – whether it was checking Facebook accounts to see where people are born, cross-checking it with school records – or by allowing people who had no previous knowledge of FATCA some amnesty when catching up on their delinquent tax returns, but then hammering them on their filing of the Report of Foreign and Financial Assets to the tune of $10,000 per late return – with no maximum.

People became scared, and when scared you have two choices to make.  Either flee or fight.  In this case it’s either comply or pray.

Those who chose to file had to wade through unclear rules and regulations and a lot of unclear information floating around on the Internet.  Is there penalty, is there not?  Will I be charges criminally, or will the IRS understand that I was not aware of my obligations.  Do I have to file 3-years of past-due returns or 10 years?  When are FBAR’s due?  Should this cost me $10,000 or $100,000?

Many questioned the over-reach on the US side while others commented that as an US citizen, the requirements were there and you should have known.

But with all that being said, on February 5th, 2014, Canada and United States announced that they have reach an agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

The intergovernmental agreement lays out the details of how the US will be using FATCA to track down the Canadian financial activities of US persons to make sure they are paying required taxes to the IRS.

Under the terms of the agreement Canadian financial institutions will send some of the information they collect on their US clientele to the Canada Revenue Agency and the CRA will transmit the information to the IRS.

The agreement can be read in it’s entirety on the Canadian Department of Finance website.

My take from reading the release is that the Canadian government realized their hands were tied, however they were not going to allow the IRS to demand information which violates Canadian privacy laws and thus allowed the IRS to pursue their legitimate tax-base with the assistance of the CRA much in the same way the CRA and IRS work together to collect tax debts – through information sharing and not the actual collecting of debts for the other country.

Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, the Minister of National Revenue said; “This is strictly a tax information-sharing agreement. This agreement will not impose any U.S. taxes or penalties on U.S. citizens or U.S. residents holding accounts in Canada. The CRA does not collect the U.S. tax liability of a Canadian citizen if the individual was a Canadian citizen at the time the liability arose. This includes dual Canada-U.S. citizens. That will not change under this agreement.”

Changes to the FATCA legislation under this agreement include, but are not limited to;

  • Certain accounts are exempt from FATCA and will not be reportable, including Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP), Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), and others yet to be released.
  • Smaller deposit-taking institutions, such as credit unions, with assets of less than $175 million will be exempt from FATCA compliance.
  • The 30 percent FATCA withholding tax will not apply to clients of Canadian financial institutions, and can apply to a Canadian financial institution only if the financial institution is in significant and long-term non-compliance with its obligations under the agreement.

This intergovernmental agreement is only the beginning.  Recent G-8 and G-20 commitments agreed upon in September 2013, intended to fight tax evasion globally and to improve tax fairness, provide for an automatic exchange of tax information as the new global standard.  This agreement signaled an intention to begin exchanging information automatically on tax matters among G-20 members by the end of 2015.

So like it or not, FATCA is just the beginning of a world-wide crack down on tax evasion.

Still on the fence?

inTAXicating Tax Services works with several Canadian tax-preparation firms who specialize in US taxes, and FATCA compliance.  If you wish to get caught up, please feel free to reach out to us at info@intaxicating.ca.  If, you have further questions and wish to discuss your requirements, you can email, or call us at 416.833.1581.  If you wish to comment, you may do so below.

CRA Tightening the ship and tightening their grip…

Income tax
Income tax (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

I’m sure you have heard that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)is tightening the ship and cracking down on tax evasion, tax shelters and finding new ways to collect more tax dollars.  Well you can thank the IRS for that.  With the IRS predicting that there are billions and billions of dollars of offshore tax revenue that they expect to bring in through FATCA it’s no wonder revenue agencies throughout the world are looking at better ways to collect tax revenues from their citizens here and abroad.

Riding the wave of FATCA, the CRA has been making public information on ways they can collect tax revenues and highlight some techniques they have been using as far back as when I worked in the CRA but may not have been so widely known to the general public.  The point is that if you know all the powers the CRA has, and know they are cracking down, then you can conclude pretty quickly that you will get caught doing whatever you may be doing that is illegal; not remitting or reporting GST/HST, accepting cash for work and not reporting it, paying an employee under the table, not declaring all your income or just not filing and hoping to stay under the radar.

The CRA’s Snitch line / Informant Leads line has been a fantastic resource for the CRA and has brought in more leads than they ever could have anticipated when creating this line.

So what is the CRA doing that you might not know about?

Data Mining

The CRA can, and have been data mining publicly available property tax information to confirm that sales or transfers of real property have been properly reported by taxpayers and they are using this information to identify taxpayers who are incorrectly reporting property sales at the preferential capital gains tax rate, or who have been flipping properties for quick gain and should be reporting them as sale of inventory, or they have been aggressively claiming properties as their principal residences and avoiding paying taxes altogether.

Tax slip matching

Advances in technology now allow the CRA to quickly determine whether a taxpayer has reported all income listed on all tax slips. Every entity, whether it as a corporation, trust, financial institution or employer is required to issue a tax information slip to all its income recipients. Typically, the area where the CRA reassesses a tax return is on unreported employment income and interest and dividends. The CRA also focuses on sales of marketable securities reported to them on the T5008 information slip. If you’ve mis-reported income multiple times, you are subject to penalties which in some cases are as high as 20% of the omitted amount. For low income earners, this can add up to more than the tax itself.

The Construction Industry

The CRA has always been concerned about construction workers not reporting all of their income which is why they piloted and maintain “Construction Teams” in the Tax Services Offices.  The new information reporting requirement on form T5018, provides the CRA the ability to ensure the proper amount of tax is being paid by construction workers and frequent audits ensure payments to workers and amounts they reported fall in line as well.

Tax shelters / Off-shore Accounts

What was once considered a safe haven where wealthy investors could put monies out of reach of their governments has now become a bone of contention as investors want to pay as little tax as possible, governments want as much tax as possible – especially from these high net-worth people and the general public want the wealthy to pay more taxes!  FATCA got the ball rolling and now the CRA has followed suit, seeking information of the investors before then taxing them back on their offshore accounts.

Tax shelters, while shielding investors from paying tax on current income, likely will have to pay taxes at some point in time down the road as the CRA tightens the regulations on these investment tools to ensure they are not tax evading schemes.

Illegal activity / Informant Leads (Snitch) Line

The CRA has its ears on the ground more than ever and the Canadian Border Services Agency (who used to be part of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) are locating and turning up illegal activity and the CRA is following up that criminal activity with assessments and re-assessments.  Combine that with the Informant Leads line and you can quickly conclude that to the CRA crime does not pay, but criminals should pay taxes too.

Charitable donations

The CRA’s reach extends to the charitable sector as well.  Both donors and registered charities are heavily scrutinized for potential fraud especially around those donating non-cash gifts.  The CRA is looking to ensure that the amount reported on the donation receipt (and the corresponding credit claimed by the donor) accurately corresponds to the value of the donated item, and that the value is as close to fair market value as possible.

The CRA has been using these techniques for years to ensure taxpayers are paying their fair share on all sources of income and are doing so without increasing the number of employees dramatically which means a few things;  First, it may be worthwhile to review your previous filings and – if errors are identified as a result of that review – take advantage of the voluntary disclosure program.  Second, in the voluntary tax system we have in Canada, the onus is on you, the taxpayer to prove to the CRA that you are operating in line with CRA regulations which means keeping great records, having professional help and keeping receipts.  Thirdly, if you are off-side with CRA regulations and want to know what may happen to you if you get caught, you should give us a call.

Canada
Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

A very compelling article about the impact of FATCA. Worth the read, especially if you are a US person living in Canada.

U.S. Persons Abroad - Members of a Unique Tax, Form and Penalty Club

Almost all people (“Homelander Elite Corp” members excepted)  agree that FATCA is bad.

To be specfiic:

Everybody understands that FATCA is damaging to U.S. persons abroad.

Some understand that FATCA will result in GATCA which will damage the economy of the Homeland.

Few understand how FATCA is damaging the economies of other sovereign nations.

I came across this interesting post at the Isaac Brock Society:

View original post 660 more words

Ramping up for FATCA: Americans living in Canada

In case you have just starting to catch wind of FATCA and you are wondering if you are going to get caught up in its web, you might find this post very useful.  I have gone to the Internal Revenue service (IRS) website and pulled out their passages on American’s living in Canada and the expectations on how they will be handled under FATCA – coming globally January 1st, 2013.

The IRS has clearly stated that “All persons born in the United States are US citizens.  This is the case regardless of the tax or immigration status of a persons parents.  Furthermore, a person born outside the United States may also be a US citizen at birth if at least one parent is a US citizen and has lived in the United States for a period of time.”

This is the link to that information from the IRS website; http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=244868,00.html

If you are of the belief that as an American living in Canada that you do not need to file a US tax return because you do not generate any US source income in any way, that is also incorrect;  “The IRS reminds you to report your worldwide income on your US tax return and lists the possible consequences of hiding income overseas.”

More information on consequences of hiding income overseas (including Canada) in this link.  I have broken out some key facts below; http://www.irs.gov/businesses/article/0,,id=180946,00.html

As a US citizen living in Canada, the rules for filing income, estate and gift tax returns and for paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are living in the US or not.

Not reporting income from foreign (including Canadian) sources may be a crime.  The IRS and its international partners (including the CRA) are pursuing those who hide income or assets offshore to evade taxes.  Specially trained IRS examiners focus on aggressive international tax planning, including the abusive use of entities and structures established in foreign jurisdictions.  The goal is to ensure US citizens and residents are accurately reporting their income and paying the correct tax. 

In addition to reporting your worldwide income, you must also report on your US tax return whether you have any foreign (Canadian or international) bank or investment accounts.  The Bank Secrecy Act requires you to file a Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), if:

  • You have financial interest in, signature authority, or other authority over one or more accounts in a foreign country, and
  • The aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.

More information on foreign financial account reporting requirements is in News Release FS-2007-15, Foreign Financial Accounts Reporting Requirements and Publication 4261, Do You have a Foreign Financial Account?

This link below outlines the filing expectations for US Citizens and resident aliens abroad.  You have until June 15th to file your US tax returns each year:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=97324,00.html

Most common question I have been asked:

“I am a U.S. citizen who moved to Canada to live and work there as a Canadian permanent resident, do I pay both U.S. and Canadian Taxes?

Answer: As a U. S. citizen living in Canada you:

Are required to file annual U.S. income tax returns and may be required to file certain information returns if applicable (e.g. Form 8891, U.S. Information Return for Beneficiaries of Certain Canadian Registered Retirement Plans; Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts; TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)).

You must report your worldwide income on your US income tax return if you meet the minimum income filing requirements for your filing status and age.

You must contact the Canadian Government to determine whether you must file a Canadian tax return and pay Canadian taxes – unless you are already filing tax returns here in Canada, then this step is obvious.

You may be able to elect to exclude some or all of your foreign earned income, if certain requirements are met, or to claim a foreign tax credit if Canadian income taxes are paid.

Behind on your filing to the IRS, are you?

The IRS began an open-ended offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP) in January 2012, on the heels of strong interest in the 2011 and 2009 programs, which may end at any time.  The intent of this program is to offer people with undisclosed income from offshore accounts another opportunity to get current with their US tax returns.  The 2012 OVDP has a higher penalty rate than the previous program but offers clear benefits to encourage taxpayers to disclose foreign accounts now rather than risk detection by the IRS and possible criminal prosecution.

Rumour has it that in September, the IRS will be releasing some new documents (besides the final regulations) aimed at helping Canadians file their US tax returns up to date – the IRS wants the most recent 3 years and 6 years of FBAR information from Canadians.

My thoughts here are that the IRS thinks all Americans living in Canada are not paying taxes so that anyone with over $1500 owing will still be penalized.  Once these US persons provide proof of their filing of Canadian tax returns at a higher rate, then the best the IRS can get from these residents if valid certifications and by adding them to the database, another potential income source to track.

FAQ Offshore voluntary disclosure program:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=256774,00.html

So if after all this you are unsure if you need to file you might want to seek out an accountant or lawyer which a strong US presence to advise you.  Remember if you are a US person and you let your bank know, they are required under FATCA to notify the IRS.

At the very least you should preapare your US tax returns for the previous 3 years and include the Canadian taxes paid under “foreign tax paid” to see where you fall under FATCA.  Then take them to an accountant with a strong knowledge of US tax in order for them to ensure the US return is correct and have them advise you on where they feel you fall under FATCA.  From there… It’s up to you.

There is no hiding from FATCA, so prepare for now and prepare for the future before the IRS gets to you first.