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).

Statute of Limitations for Tax Debt: Canada

Statute of Limitations for CRA Debts – Truth vs Myth

There is a common belief that there is a statute of limitations on tax debts and that taxpayers can ride out these periods and ultimately pay no taxes.  Google it, and you will see all kinds of information out there, but it’s the Canada Revenue Agencies information which matters the most.

A Collections Limitation Period (CLP) is the time in which the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can begin actions to collect a tax debt.

Myth: After the CRA issues a notice of assessment, it has either 6 years or 10 years to collect the debt. If you don’t pay what you owe within that time, the CRA can no longer collect the debt.

Fact: Each tax debt has a 6 or 10 year collections limitation period (depending on the tax) and the limitation period can be restarted or extended by the CRA when certain events occur.  At that point, the total amount of time that the CRA has to collect the debt will be longer than 6 or 10 years.

Even after the collections limitation period ends, you can still have a tax debt and interest will continue to accrue until the tax debt is paid in full.

 

Start of the collections limitation period

The limitation period starts on the date that a notice of assessment or reassessment is sent, or 90 days after that date, depending on the type of tax debt.

 

Types of tax debt

The collections limitation period start date and duration will be different depending on the type of tax debt. Some tax debts are subject to collections restrictions, while others are not.

The following are some of the most common types of tax debt:

 

Individual (T1)

The Collections Limitation Period (CLP) starts on the 91st day after the CRA issues the notice of assessment – unless there is an objection filed.  There is a 10-year CLP on T1 debts which can be re-started and extended by the CRA.

 

Corporate (T2)

The CLP starts on the 91st day after a notice of assessment or reassessment is sent unless a NOA or appeal has been filed.  The 10-year CLP applies, however the CLP can be restarted and extended.

 

Large Corporations (as defined by the Income Tax Act)

The CLP starts on the 91st day after a NOA or reassessment is sent.   The 10-year CLP applies, however, the CLP can be restarted and extended.

This type of tax debt is subject to a 90-day collection restriction for the period after a notice of assessment or reassessment is sent, however, the CRA can act to collect 50% of the amount owing by a large corporation as soon as a notice of assessment or reassessment is sent.  The CRA can start collection action on the 91st day for the remaining 50% of the amounts owed by a large corporation, unless a notice of objection or appeal is filed.

 

Payroll (T4) Deductions

The CLP starts the day after the Notice of Assessment is sent.  There is a 6-year collections limitation period, however this CLP can be restarted and extended at any time.

NOTE: There is no collections restriction on Trust funds, so the CRA can begin collections actions the day after a Notice of Assessment has been sent.

NOTE: If a Notice of Objection or an appeal has been filed, the CRA can continue to collect the debt(s)

 

GST/HST

The Collections Limitation Period starts the day after the Notice of Assessment is sent and while the 10-year CLP applies, it can be re-started and extended at any time.

NOTE: Additionally, since GST/HST are also Trust Funds (funds held in trust for the Crown), there is no collection restriction once the Notice of Assessment has been sent.

NOTE: If a Notice of Objection or appeal is filed, the CRA can continue to collect the debt(s).

 

Collection Restriction Period

For tax debts subject to collection restrictions, the CRA cannot start collection action:

  • during the 90 days after a notice of assessment or reassessment is sent
  • during the time that you dispute your debt by filing a notice of objection or appeal

However, if the CRA determines that it might not be able to collect a tax debt because of collection restrictions, it can apply to the Federal Court (Canada) for a jeopardy order.  If granted, this order will let the CRA take collection action immediately.

 

Restart of the collections limitation period

The limitation period is restarted when either you or the CRA takes certain actions. Tax debts subject to the 6-year limitation period are restarted for another 6 years and tax debts subject to the 10-year limitation are restarted for another 10 years.

The following are examples of actions that will restart the collections limitation period. This is not a complete list.

 

Actions you initiate

The collections limitation period will restart when you:

  • Make a voluntary payment
  • Write a letter to the CRA proposing a payment arrangement
  • Offer to provide security instead of paying the amount owed
  • Make a written request for a reassessment of an amount assessed
  • File a notice of objection with the CRA
  • File an appeal with the Tax Court of Canada
  • Ask the CRA if you can make pre-authorized debt payments

 

Actions the CRA initiates

The CRA takes various actions to collect tax debts when taxpayers don’t make voluntary payments.

The collections limitation period will restart when the CRA:

  • Issues a garnishment or statutory set-off to collect an outstanding tax debt when you don’t make voluntary payments
  • Applies a refundable credit to your tax debt and notifies you by sending a letter or Statement Of Account
  • Issues a NOA or reassessment against a third party for amounts you owe
  • Certifies your tax debt in the Federal Court of Canada
  • Initiates seizure and sale action to collect your outstanding tax debt

 

Extension of the collections limitation period

The events listed below can extend the collections limitation period. When this happens, the clock stops running on the date that an event begins and it will not run during the event.

This has the effect of stalling the collections limitation period.

When the event is completed, the collections limitation period resumes where it left off.

Other events can then restart the limitation period.  It will end when the 6‑year or 10-year limit has been reached, even if it took more years than that to reach that limit if you include the stalled time.

The following events can extend the collections limitation period:

  • You file an assignment (bankruptcy or proposal) under the BIA, CCAA or FDMA.
  • The CRA accepts security instead of payment of a tax debt.
  • You become a non-resident of Canada after the CRA issues a NOA or reassessment.
  • The CRA postpones collection action without accepting security for an objected or appealed GST/HST debt. This applies only to GST/HST tax debts assessed under the Excise Tax Act.
  • You file a Notice of Objection with the CRA. This will extend the limitation period only for tax debts subject to collection restrictions.
  • You file an appeal with the Tax Court of Canada. This will extend the limitation period only for tax debts subject to collection restrictions.

 

NOTE: Filing a Notice of Objection with the CRA or an appeal with the Tax Court of Canada will restart the collections limitation period for all types of tax debts because both of these actions are considered acknowledgments of debt.

Similarly, if your tax debt is subject to collection restrictions, filing an objection or appeal will extend the collections limitation period.

 

End of the collections limitation period

Once the period ends, the CRA cannot take any further action to collect the debt, however, the tax debt still exists and you can make voluntary payments.  Voluntary payments you make after the limitation period ends will not restart it.

Full Disclosure Alert: Know Who You Are Dealing With!!

I had the most interesting comment sent to me today, by someone who used to work at the CRA.

She noticed on my blog, and on social media, that I “claimed” to have been a “Former CRA Employee of the Year” and she, having worked at the CRA, was not familiar with the award.

She questioned my legitimacy!

I love it.

It reminded me that I had not finished updating the “About Us” section on the inTAXicating website, and in doing so, I will include the details of this honour.

I was nominated for the “Most Valuable Player” award – which was the wording they used for the Employee of the Year – by a colleague of mine in 2002.

The nomination was his acknowledgement that I went way above and beyond the scope of my employment not only professionally but personally to support my colleagues, staff and to represent the CRA in a positive manner.

This was before my MBA, and before children.

I had recently started a Mentoring Program for the Collections division at our CRA office and the program was so successful, that we began running it through the rest of the departments in our building and in other Tax Services Offices. I was also responsible for overseeing the Write Off inventory, managing a New Intake collections / compliance team, heavily into training staff and had recently taken over the Director’s Liability inventory and was in the process of cleaning that up.

Personally, I had just gotten married, had been right in the middle of taking accounting courses towards my CGA designation and was volunteering my time with a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program here in Toronto.

I was also on the board of the Government of Canada Charitable Workplace Campaign, and in the role, I went to each and every employee in the Revenue Collections division in our office and spoke to them one-on-one about the program and their contribution.  They donated record amounts.

I had several inventories of business collections accounts, and when the office renovated floors and we had to move staff between floors, I was the coordinator.  I was also the employee who received the sensitive issues from the Director’s Office to hand, with care.

I was busy.  Could have been much busier, but certainly I was fully engaged.

I was nominated and both myself and the nominator received recognition for the honour.

I was deeply honoured and appreciative.

Then I won.

I was shocked.

I drove to Niagara Falls, accepted the award from then Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency Ruby Howard, and I drove back home to attend class later that evening.

The following day, the first person I met when I arrived into the building greeted me like this;

“Hey Warren. Congratulations on the award. I just don’t feel that you deserved it.”

“Thank you”, I replied to him. “Neither do I.”

“Sorry, that might have been harsh”, he said to me.

“I’d rather you speak the truth, than keep that from me” I said.

“You know what”, he said. “Maybe I just don’t know you well, enough, but time will tell.”

Just a year before this man passed away from a long battle with cancer, he said leaning over the cubicle right beside me where he sat; “You know what, Warren. I’m surprised you only won one of those things.”

That comment from one of the smartest people the CRA had ever employed, meant a lot to me.  Not many people got along with this gentleman because he was all business, all the time, but I deeply respected him and I let him know it.  He earned that respect from everyone, but few knew how to pass it along to him.

But, getting back to my “claim”…

I decided to attach the picture of my award;

Me accepting the award in Niagara Falls;

My certificate of my 10-year’s of service to the CRA;

…and a word of advice for anyone who has tax problems…

Know who you are dealing with. Understand their expertise in the field you are looking for expertise in.

What makes inTAXicating so successful is that Taxpayers, business owners and other professionals read my words, Google me, check out my LinkedIn profile and determine that I know my stuff.

Which I do.

Then they reach out.

I expect each and everyone of you to do the same.  Read some posts, Google me. Check out my LinkedIn profile and reach out for tax help, to have questions answered, to learn more about the CRA, or to help your clients so you can help them.

Email: info@intaxicating.ca

Why inTAXicating Tax Posts Rank Higher than the CRA?

Anyone else get a lot of SEO Spam?

SEO, in case you were not aware is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization, and is a marketing technique which focuses on growing the visibility of your web-site through non-paid search engine results.

To get a higher ranking website, you need a combination of good content and your site has to hit the right keywords.  Doing this will drive traffic to the website, and all of this helps the search engines know that your site needs to be shown to people searching for whatever you have written about.

It stands to reason then, that just because you created a web-site (or blog) it doesn’t mean that anyone will see it or read it.  The site has to be “indexed”, meaning that it needs to show up in search engines, and it gets indexed by having people show up and visit the site.

The more visitors, the higher the ranking.

What does SEO spam have to do with inTAXicating and the CRA?

Quite a lot, actually.

In and amongst the spam we get on our website, the majority of pitches are from SEO companies who promise to help me get this website on the “first page of Google”.

Now, I know that a lot of these inquiries are spam because they are fraudulent – trying to steal identities and money – however there are some real companies who reach out to help me improve my site’s ranking, and to those companies – and to ANY company who is going to take the time to make a pitch any company, I offer this advice.

At the very least, before you reach out, you really need to check to see that you are offering a service which they actually need?

You see, there are many inTAXicating blog posts which already come up on the first page of Google.  Some, in fact, come up first or second.  Many even come up before the Canada Revenue Agency!

So thank you for the offer to get me on the first page of Google searches.  If I was even going to consider using your services at any point in time, and you have not taken the time to see that, what less obvious things have you missed?

Business fail because they do not take the time to check their prospective client(s) out and they end up making a pitch which shows there is no attention to detail being paid.

In the meantime, if our blog posts are ranking higher on Google – and we do not promote, or pay for any ads – then you know where a large number of Canadians are going to find answers for their tax problems and to find resources to help them in their dealings with the CRA.

Even the CRA sometimes contacts us for feedback regarding the way they have written something to see if our understanding represents the message that the CRA is trying to get across.

If you, or anyone you know has a tax issue with the Canada Revenue Agency, then they need to contact us, at inTAXicating Tax Services.  We rank higher than the CRA on CRA tax matters for a reason.

Email us here: info@intaxicating.ca

 

CRA Charge 4 “Tax Protestors” in Quebec with Tax Evasion

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have charged a quartet of “tax protesters” in Québec with tax fraud, alleging that the 4 operated a scheme which helped over 50 participants evade more than $1 million in federal income tax.

Allegations, not yet proven in court, claim that they advised 50 taxpayers to claim losses totalling more than $19 million in losses, or close to $1.08 million in federal income tax.

Pierre Cardin and Sylvain Quirion of Montreal, Jean-Marc Paquin from Laval, and Contrecoeur resident Guylaine Tremblay were arrested and released with a promise to appear, and court-imposed conditions, the CRA reported.

The CRA used this opportunity to reiterate its warning against getting involved with tax protestors, noting that Canadian courts have consistently rejected these schemes.

“For those involved in tax protester schemes, the CRA will reassess income tax, calculate interest and impose penalties,” the announcement says. “In addition, upon a conviction for tax evasion, the court may impose a fine between 50% and 200% of the tax evaded and a jail term of up to five years.”

Earlier this year, the CRA issued an alert about tax schemes claiming that, “natural people” are not subject to tax laws, because it’s not true.

“Individuals who promote such views are “tax protesters” who not only fail to report their own earnings, but they also try to convince others to engage in these illegal activities,” the CRA said in the alert.

The CRA has always kept an eye on these sorts of schemes and regularly uses the opportunity to promote situations where charges are laid, or where the court charges fraudsters in order to remind Canadians to steer clear of this type of tax evasion.

Recently, the CRA reported that, between 2006 and 2017, 75 promoters had been convicted in connection with these kinds of schemes, resulting in $7.15 million in fines and a total of 936 months of jail time.

If someone is charging you money to teach you how to pay less tax, you might want to steer clear.

If, however, you have taken part in a scam, or scheme, or if you believe that you are a “natural person” and that taxation does not apply to you, please send me an email to info@intaxicating, so we can discuss the very significant consequences which you can face.

I won’t judge you.  I’ll listen, and I’ll explain and answer questions.

 

 

 

When is the Best Time to Resolve a CRA Tax Problem?

If you live in Southern Ontario, you are in the middle of a heat wave.  Summer came back bigger, badder, stronger than it had all summer, and with humidex readings in the low 40’s, all the talk is about cooling off and extending the cottage season.  Thinking about Tax Debt with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is the last thing on your mind.

There is nothing wrong with that.

But as the calendar creeps towards October, we enter the last quarter of the year and this is traditionally the best time of year to finally seek resolution on that nagging Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax problem.

The tax problem that causes you so much stress that you cannot open the brown envelopes from the CRA.

The tax problem which resulted in the CRA freezing your bank account or garnishing your wages.

That nagging tax issue which prompted the CRA to register a lien against your property.

The one that prevents you from having a full night’s sleep.

Yes, that one.

Well worry no more because help is here.

No matter how big, or small, complex or simple, we have seen them all, and resolved them all.  At the very least, after a meeting with us, you will understand the truth behind your tax problem – whether you have a chance of having it overturned or whether you actually are on the hook for the balance.

After a meeting with us, you can finally start on the pathway to resolving your tax troubles and no longer worry that when you try to use your debit card it might not work because the CRA froze your bank account and withdrew all of the funds.

inTAXicating Tax Services

Contact us: info@intaxicating.ca

Toronto-based.  Canada-wide Tax Liability Specialists.

CRA Taxpayer Relief Information Moved from cra.gc.ca to canada.ca

Looking for information related to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Taxpayer Relief Program?

It’s moved!

Here is the information that matters! Link is at the bottom.

Taxpayer Relief.

Important note: A request for relief from penalty and / or interest amounts does not stop or suspend collection activity on an account or the accrual of interest.

Information you must include with your request

It is important that you provide the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with a complete and accurate description of the circumstances to explain why your situation merits relief.

In order to support a request, you should provide all relevant information including the following, where applicable:
• your name, address, and telephone number;
• your social insurance number (SIN), account number, partnership number, trust account number, business number (BN), or any other identification number assigned to you by the CRA;
• the tax year(s) or fiscal period(s) involved;
• the facts and reasons supporting that the interest or penalty were either mainly caused by factors beyond your control, or were the result of actions by the CRA;
• an explanation of how the circumstances affected your ability to meet your tax obligations;
• the facts and reasons supporting your inability to pay the penalties or interest assessed or charged, or to be assessed or charged;
• any relevant supporting documentation such as death certificates, doctor’s statements, or insurance statements;
• in cases involving an inability to pay or financial hardship, full financial disclosure including a statement of income, expenses, assets, and liabilities (to help individuals provide full financial disclosure);
• supporting details of incorrect information given by the CRA in the form of written answers, published information, other evidence; or when the incorrect information given by the CRA is of a verbal nature, you should give all possible details such as date, time, name of CRA official spoken to, and details of the conversation; or
• a complete history of events including any measures that have been taken, e.g., payments and payment arrangements, and when they were taken to resolve the non-compliance.

Note: You may submit photocopies of supporting documents. During the course of our review, the CRA may contact you if they need additional information or documentation, however that is not common.

Other considerations
• Indicate with your request if this is the first or second review request. A second review request is when you ask the CRA to reconsider its original decision.
You must include Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief – Cancel or Waive Penalties or Interest to make a request to cancel penalties or interest.

You can also write a letter marked “Taxpayer Relief”.

Submitting the Application

You can submit your request to cancel penalties and / or interest and all supporting documents:
• online at My Account, My Business Account, or Represent a Client, by selecting the “Submit documents” service; or
• by mail at one of the designated offices below.
For more information on the Submit Documents online service, go to Submit documents online.

Designated offices:
• British Columbia and Yukon
Vancouver Tax Services Office
9755 King George Boulevard
Surrey BC V3T 5E1
• Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
Winnipeg Tax Centre
66 Stapon Road
Winnipeg MB R3C 3M2
• Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island Tax Centre
275 Pope Road
Summerside PE C1N 6A2
• Quebec
Shawinigan-Sud Tax Centre
4695 Shawinigan-Sud Boulevard
Shawinigan QC G9P 5H9
• Non-resident or international taxpayers (individual, corporation, trust, and part XIII and non-resident withholding accounts)
International and Ottawa Tax Services Office
P.O. Box 9769, Station T
Ottawa ON K1G 3Y4
CANADA

 

Link to CRA website: 
https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/forms/rc4288-request-taxpayer-relief-cancel-waive-penalties-interest.html

 

inTAXicating – Your Canadian Taxpayer Relief experts!  Don’t believe us?  Contact us and find out why!  info@inTAXicating.ca

 

Lack of tax knowledge could be costing Quebecers: C.D. Howe Institute reports

I came across this article from the Montreal Gazette;

I strongly recommend that you take the time to read it.  It is brief, but very informative as it tells the story that I have been trying to tell for the past 20-plus years!  There is that there is a significant percentage of, not just Quebecers, but Canadians who leaving money on the table because they don’t understand the tax system, according to a report released by the C.D. Howe Institute last week.

The report — which bases many of its conclusions on a survey of 1,000 Quebecers — suggests that lack of knowledge is one of the reasons many people don’t take advantage of credits and savings vehicles, like RRSPs, which could reduce their tax burden.

“People might be missing out on benefits that they’re entitled to,” said Antoine Genest-Grégoire, a tax policy researcher at the Université de Sherbrooke and one of the authors of the report.

“It can take various forms, people can simply not know about the existence of the credit … sometimes, they know it exists but they don’t know how to use it or they find it too complicated.”

Survey participants were asked a series of questions about how the tax system works and the average score was just 55%.

It wasn’t just tax credits that left participants stumped. Respondents scored poorly on questions about progressivity — the idea that people with higher incomes pay a higher tax rate, a core principle of the Canadian income tax system.

While almost 90% of respondents knew that income tax rates differ based on how much people make, many struggled with the concept of bracketing — when different segments of an individual’s income are taxed at different rates.

“We hear a lot of people thinking that once you reach the top income brackets, you essentially pay close to 50% of your income in taxes,” Genest-Grégoire says, when in reality, it’s only the income above the cut-off for the highest tax bracket that’s taxed at the highest tax rate.

Only 26% of survey respondents were able to answer a question about that correctly.

While survey respondents generally had a good sense of whether they pay sales tax on everyday purchases, like groceries, prepared food and clothing, there were some exceptions.

For example, Quebec provincial sales tax doesn’t apply to books, a decision made to encourage literacy and support book publishers in the province. Only 21% of survey respondents knew that.

The result, Genest-Grégoire said, is that the public policy objectives of the tax exemption are unlikely to be realized.

The lack of tax literacy doesn’t just affect individuals pocketbooks, Genest-Grégoire said.
“People who don’t understand taxes tend to have lower trust in the tax system.  The Canadian tax system, even though you’re obligated by law to produce a tax return, works on trust.  The government doesn’t audit everyone,” he said. This lack of trust “makes tax avoidance, tax evasion more probable.”

Genest-Grégoire said the provincial and federal revenue agencies have taken steps to put more information online, but the system itself remains complex. One solution would be to make benefits that are currently provided through the tax system more accessible and for government to automatically enrol people, as is already the case with many benefits for children.

Warren Orlans, a former CRA Collections Employee turned Taxpayer Advocate has been saying for over a decade that the CRA needs to continue putting out information on the Internet, however it needs to be available in many different formats in order to be most effectively accessed by Canadians everywhere.  “Not everyone learns the same way, so having a concept explained in text, showing steps, and possibly with an example and even with little videos would expose the greatest number of Canadians to the message at once.”

“Every day, I deal with Canadian taxpayers and corporations of all sizes as they try to understand and interpret the CRA.  My 11-year’s experience at the CRA and 10-years outside the CRA have afforded me the ability to diagnose and resolve even the most complex of tax matters”, Orlans said.

If you need help understanding the CRA, or interpreting their letters or actions, contact the best, at inTAXicating.  Email: info@inTAXicating.ca. Or call us at 416.833.1581.

Toronto-based, Coast-to-coast tax liability expertise.

 

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.

“New” CRA Powers are Not so New after all! Unless…

Recent radio advertising and newspaper or online articles would have you believe that the CRA has been ramping up staff in order to break down your door in the middle of the night and arrest you for tax fraud.

Deep down inside you knew that you should have opened a BN number and GST/HST account for your child\s lemonade stand because even though they were significantly under the $30,000 sales threshold, if registered, you could have claimed the Input Tax Credits – but you didn’t and the CRA wants their money!

You also know that if you had a question, the CRA call centre were going to mislead you, or lie to you so that you would be forced to pay even more money.

You also know that you might need help for a tax accountant, tax lawyer, tax broker, tax solutions firm, or tax audit specialist… but you cannot choose because the different names must mean they do different things and you don’t know which category you fall into, and … the CRA are so coming to get you… now!

(Is that rustling in the bushes in front of my house?)

spyingWell all of these new powers and the threats that they are going to break-down your door and arrest you on the spot are not really true.

You only have to fear the CRA breaking down your door (really the RCMP, but I’m sure the CRA would be there somewhere along the way) if you have done something wrong.  Very wrong.  Criminally wrong.

You should be concerned if the CRA knows you’ve done something criminally wrong, or have been involved in terrorist financing or activity because they’ll pass that along to the police.

The Canada Revenue Agency gained the little-noticed new authority, which does not require a judicial warrant, through an amendment tucked into the government’s most recent budget bill.

Previously, confidentiality provisions in the law prevented the CRA from handing information about suspected wrongdoing, on its own initiative, to law enforcement.

The exception was information that pointed to tax-related crimes.

The new provisions apply to offences including breaking and entering, vehicle theft, arson, corruption and kidnapping and in return, the CRA can now receive information from local authorities about any offence with a minimum prison term, or one with a maximum sentence of 14 years.

The list of offences is broad and is a significant shift in confidentiality policy allowing the CRA to pass along information to law authorities without a court-ordered warrant, even when the alleged crime(s) have nothing to do with taxes.

Interim procedures for administering the new powers were issued to all CRA employees in June 2016 not too long after the legislation received royal assent.

The intended use of this new tool, is that an exchange should occur when an employee gathers information in the course of their regular duties.

This information exchange was intended to be one-way and would be closely controlled through a set of strict criteria.

As an aside, it would have been nice to know who might be carrying on criminal activity, when I was working at the CRA and went to visit a business to determine why they stopped filing GST returns, only to learn that they were conducting illegal activities and was physically threatened before getting the heck out of there.

The following day the RCMP showed up, cleaned out the place and arrested the operators.

I never did get my outstanding GST returns, however, which could have been prosecuted as a criminal offense (but was not).

All potential referrals to police will be vetted by the agency’s criminal investigations personnel and must be approved by the assistant commissioner of the department’s compliance programs branch, CRA has reported.

The key points to remember are this;

  1. If you happen to have partaken in a criminal activity, you might not want to disclose that to the CRA collector.
  2. Make sure to stay compliant!  File up to date and don’t give the CRA reasons for looking for stuff.
  3. Take all of the tax-related advertising with a grain of salt.  Their intention is to scare you and force you to drop a ton of cash at their business.  Instead, I recommend you do your research, ask questions and get the solution that fits your tax problem.
  4. If you’re not sure… Ask.  Then use your judgement.