Tips To Keep the CRA Collections Group Happy!

The following are tips to keep the CRA’s collections department happy.

This list in not fully inclusive of everything that you can do because you cannot send them gifts, they have to reject or toss them, and if you do their work for them – they might like that for a bit – until there are no more accounts, and then they will have no more work to do, and then no job.

 

So here are a few tips to keep CRA happy…

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  If they have to contact you, they’re already angry.
  2. Don’t be a jerk on the phone to them.  Everything you say goes into a permanent diary and that diary is summarized semi-annually.  You don’t want anyone who accesses your account to think you’re a jerk
  3. Don’t accuse them of being out to get you…  They likely have 400-500 accounts and their goal is to collect some, write some off and let the others pay or go bankrupt.  Just show them some progress on any of those fronts and you’ll be in much better standing.
  4. Ask for the best and lowest settlement offer.  The CRA does NOT do that unless it is through insolvency or a formal proposal in bankruptcy.  The IRS settles debts, but this is not the IRS… The CRA is WAY better!
  5. If you enter into a payment arrangement, ensure there are sufficient funds in the account to pay the cheques. If a cheque is returned NSF (not sufficient funds), then the CRA collections officer will take immediate collection actions and getting those Requirements to Pay removed can be next to impossible.
  6. Keep current!!!  Whether during the period of a payment arrangement, or just through discussions with the CRA make sure you are up-to-date on all filings and payments (including GST/HST, income tax, payroll taxes, etc).   If you fail to remain current, the CRA can – and likely will – end the payment arrangement and pressure you for more.
  7. Understand that the CRA is not your bank, and treat them that way.  At a bank, you are earning credit, but at the CRA, in collections, you are paying 10% interest compounding daily… It’s not in your best interest to take your time re-paying them.
  8. If you have nothing to hide (and even if you do have something to hide), be honest with the CRA collections officer. Things you say may cause the CRA collections officer to become concerned.
  9. Provide the information that is requested by the CRA collections officer. If the CRA collections officer trusts you, he/she will be more likely to exercise discretion before pressing confirm on that Requirement To Pay.

Lien on Me: Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Policy and Procedures around Property Liens

Quite a few questions this morning surrounding liens and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

I thought a re-post of this article I wrote might provide some clarity.

When searching for lien information relating to the CRA in Ontario, this post comes out 1st in Google, for obvious reasons as it mixes CRA policies with their internal procedures.

 

 

Lien on Me: CRA Policy and Procedures around Property Liens.

Not All Tax Information Found on the Internet is true! Are you shocked?!?

Did you know that not all the tax information and suggestions you find on the Internet are true?

Of course you knew that!

I’ve joked with everyone from my children, to family, friends, employers, employees and even director’s and CEO’s of huge organizations that tax information “must be true!  It’s on the Internet”, no matter how absurd it might appear to be.

We all know, or should know to take everything we read with a grain of salt… and that fact-checking is critical when trying to decide if information is legitimate, completely made up, or aimed to scare you.

Sources

As we scroll through pages and pages of information, reading about situations and stories about how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers tax law here in Canada it is easy to lose sight of goal, which is to get a better understanding of what is acceptable and what is not regarding so many aspects of taxation.  The best indicator of how close to the truth an article is can be determined by the sources cited in that piece.

An article about the CRA with a link to the CRA website (which backs up the facts) is the best indicator that the author knows their stuff.

If, however, you come across an article which has no references, no supporting links to the originating source, or links from a website titled something like “I_want_to_stop_the_CRA.org” then you can be assured the information is not going to be accurate, it is not going to help you, and more likely it was written to scare you, or present a horror story to get you to contact them to help you.

Don’t waste your time on those… Ever!

When a prominent tax lawyer wanted everyone to stop looking for solutions on the Internet it was presented that the CRA could find out you have a tax problem by sneaking into your house, taking your computer, breaking in to it, and seeing that you have been looking for tax help online.

GASP.

Well, guess what?

If the CRA has to come and seize your computer, they already know you have a tax problem!  They cannot seize your computer unless it’s part of a criminal investigation.

The true intention of these ads is not to warn you about a new power that the CRA has secretly acquired, but rather this firm doesn’t want you seeing that there are options available for you online to fix the problem yourself.  So they scare you away from the Internet so you won’t find helpful tips and solutions at firms like this one, inTAXicating.

Better to hire them then get advice from a real former CRA Collection employee to help get you back on track.

In a capitalistic marketplace I don’t blame them, but I am concerned.  Tax is confusing, especially when a tax problem suddenly arises and the CRA is pressuring you to fix it quickly in one of their 3 ways:

1) Pay it

2) File up-to-date and watch the balance go away, or,

3) Go bankrupt.

How can you be expected to make that sudden choice which has significant short and long-term implications on you, your business, your family and your life, without having the facts, all the facts, and not just the facts the CRA wants you to have, or that you believe they are telling you.

That’s where I come in, specifically, this blog, this business and this business model.

I want you to know the truth.

I want you to be able to make an informed decision whether that decision is made via information found on this blog, or on my website, or through an email to me.  I want you to be able to understand the CRA and their collection, enforcement, audit, filing process and administrative process as well as I do.

I want you to understand the corporate culture there and that very infrequently is there an agent on the other side of the phone with your picture on a dart board in their cubicle.

I want you to know your options, your best next steps and that your long-term plan of action will not only help you resolve your tax situation but also keep you and the CRA happy.

I want you to know that in situations where I feel that you cannot do this alone, that I can help you, and will help you, make matters right, and I want you to know that a tax problem does not occur overnight and resolving them can take a long-time.

I have the knowledge and understanding that no-one else can claim to possess about the CRA collections policies and process and I don’t say that to boast, but rather to inform.  I don’t profess to have an “army” of “real” CRA staff with me, nor do I pretend that background is in any area other than where it shows on my web-site, blog, and on my LinkedIn profile.  Collections, collection, collections.

I’m also not going top pretend that a background in Appeals or Audit is going to help you better than a back ground in Collections.  To each their own.

I write my blog posts myself and where possible I cite everything I can to the CRA website so that you can be comfortable knowing that information you read on my social media platforms are sourced from the people who want you to pay your taxes and question your deductions and filing deadlines.

I don’t write my posts in order to scare anyone or to force them to use my services, because quite frankly, I want everyone to be able to navigate the Canadian tax system without ever having problems and running afoul of the CRA and in a perfect world, one day I’ll be able to provide a users guide to the CRA to allow people to file, re-file and pay without incurring penalties and / or interest and where the CRA understands why people can’t, won’t or are unable to do so and then have the CRA deal with them in an understanding manner.

But for now, we have to take it one day at a time, and one situation at a time.

The best day to start fixing tax problems is today.  There are always solutions and there are always options.  In deciding what you want to do, you need to make sure you are getting the right information and from the right sources.  Be wary of what you read on the Internet because it can make you want to close your blinds, change you name and hide from the CRA when all they want you to do is to close an account or file a nil return.

Get the facts!

inTAXicating Tax Services offers a free 15-minute consultation to determine how to best proceed with a tax situation.

From there if’s decided that a written plan of action is needed, I can produce one for you.

If from that, a decision is made to engage inTAXicating to represent you in your dealings with the CRA, then we determine if the hourly or fixed plan works best for you.

You don’t have to worry about opening those brown envelopes.  Help is here!

http://www.intaxicating.ca

http://www.intaxicating.wordpress.com

info@intaxicating.ca

Think the Canada Revenue Agency Treats Employees Differently? Think Again!

Former CRA employee fined and sentenced to 18-month conditional sentence for income tax evasion

Surrey, British Columbia.   The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced today that Maria Victoria Banhaw of Burnaby, British Columbia, was sentenced on October 3, 2014 in Vancouver Provincial Court, after pleading guilty to one count of income tax evasion. Banhaw was fined $47,580, representing 75% of the total federal income tax evaded. She was also ordered to serve an 18-month conditional sentence, which includes 9 months of house arrest.

A CRA investigation determined that Banhaw, while employed at the CRA, prepared and filed personal income tax returns for herself, her husband and 34 family members and friends for the 2005 to 2009 tax years. On these 96 returns, Banhaw overstated the amount of Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions in order to reduce taxable income and increase refund amounts payable. Banhaw’s family and friends were unaware that she made false claims on their returns. In total, Banhaw reported $389,417 in false RRSP contributions, resulting in $63,438 in taxes evaded.

The preceding information was obtained from the court records.

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

If you have ever made a tax mistake or omission it is prudent to speak to us right away so that we can help you understand where you stand in the eyes of the CRA.  We will help you determine if you can handle it on your own – and set you up to do so, or recommend our services or the services of others to assist you through the process.

Can You Describe What You Do To A Stranger? Tell People What You Do!

If you have been reading my posts on The Urban Daddy, or on inTAXicating, you will know that I sometimes put on my MBA-hat and question everything about the way we do business.

One of the questions I have had for a long time has to do with how businesses choose to identify themselves to the public. We all know that keeping customers is much easier and much cheaper than getting new ones – so they say – which makes the next example even that much more puzzling to me.storefront without sign

Storefronts, in particular, have very limited space to let potential customers / clients know a whole lot about what they do, so that you will use their goods and services, yet many businesses continue to put their brand name on the store, or use an unreadable font which limits their ability to get new customers who are not walking by the store and who have the time to look in the window and walk in.

As I question this, I think back to one of the more complex collections cases that I handled while working at Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and how after years of being unable to get a cent out of this establishment, I had much different results.  This case had to do with a very large restaurant just North of Toronto which had fantastic food, very positive reviews, incredible decor, and $3,000,000.00 owing in taxes, without a single payment made to arrears in years.

The owners of this restaurant were perplexed at the spiralling debt and their bleak prospects for operating in the future because what started off as a very profitable business venture went south, quickly and at massive costs – both personal and professional.  When their debt grew, they started to cut costs, but it was the wrong costs – like having fresh food on the premises daily, reducing the variety and portion size on their menu and by running out of options at meal time.

Regular patrons became frustrated with the frozen additions or the cutting out of their favourite meal choices and as their clientele dwindled to handfuls of patrons during the day and at night, it only made matters worse.

With their personal assets fully leveraged to keep the business running, they were steps away from bankruptcy and losing everything.  They also were not paying their tax debts, but they were staying current on their filing obligations, and between the threats from previous collectors and their power being turned off all the time, they knew the end was near.  After hearing this, I thought I would need to see it myself, so I took my newly earned MBA and headed out to have a conversation with them about what they had intended to do with these debts.

But I could not find the restaurant.

It was supposed to be 15,000 square feet, and I knew the intersection quite well, but could not for the life of me find their establishment.  I called the owner and while I was circling the plaza on the corner he was frazzled about how I could not see their fantastic place, which I found to be very bizarre.

I ended up parking on the plaza on the corner and walked past a couple of stores before finally seeing what I had been circling for the better part of 20 minutes.  Their restaurant.

The outside of the building looked run-down and there was no name on the building.  I could not even tell where the front door was, and once I got to the door, I didn’t even know if it was open.  There was no sign that even said “Restaurant” or specified the type of food that was in there. There was some very hard to read script writing near the top of the building and near the door, but it looked more like graffiti than it did, a brand name.

Having been there a couple of years, locals knew about them, ate there but to an onlooker, there was no way of knowing there was a restaurant there.  I started to see a pattern emerge.

Upon sitting down with the owners I immediately suggested they perform a search on the business on the Internet (Alta Vista, I believe) and there right in front of their eyes, were people commenting about how they had made reservations but could not find the building, so did not go, or that they arrived but could not tell if the place was open, or where the front door was.  There was obvious frustration.

To me, it was common sense, that this building needed a sign that read “Italian Restaurant”, so at least people would know where they were going, or people who drove by or walked in the plaza would know there was something there.  On a more obvious scale a giant arrow pointing at the building would have been better but this was a very classy place, and that would cheapen the brand, they felt.

Needless to say, I spent 3-4 hours there, we talked about everything relating to their business, their debts – business and personal, and at the end of the day I decided to give them a couple of months to sort things out, reduce some costs, and try to attract more business which they knew they needed.

All of this effort was rewarded when they sent in a cheque for $250,000 at the end of the following month to the CRA.  By the end of the year, they had paid off $1.8 million dollars of their debt, and by the end of the next year, they were fully paid up (including penalties and interest) and business was booming.

Is it 100% a result of something I said? Probably not. Did I afford them the time to make money and pay off the debt, yes I did, but I also went through their options should they have chosen bankruptcy, a proposal, or to ignore the CRA completely and wait for their assets to seized and the directors assessed.

With all that information they were able to make an informed decision, the most obvious to me being that they improved their signage, cleaned up the outside, and put a neon sign which flashed “OPEN” on a very visible spot near the sign and near the door (with a classy arrow pointing towards the door).

But how does this apply to you and to me?

I recently took part in a challenge on LinkedIn to say what I do for a living in one sentence. I thought how hard could it be, and I wanted to check out what others had written before me. With over 300 respondents, I would have plenty of samples to review before taking the plunge, but I was shocked by what I saw.

I saw people – people I do not know – in businesses I did not know who wrote things like this;

“I solve all of your problems.”
“I get you want you need at the price you want.”
“I’m what you need.”
Even, “We’ve got you covered.”

I looked further at their business profile to see if I could tell what they did, however their business name, or description was equally as vague.

I read and read and read, almost 100 of them by now, and when I came to a comment by a lawyer, I was dumbfounded when I saw this; “I practice law.”

I immediately thought about what I would do if I came to this networking group for a professional to hire in a very specific area and I saw “I practice law” as someone’s description… Would I contact them to find out what kind of law? Or would I go to the next person.

I went to the next person.

Then the next and the next and the next.

Then I posted challenging people to go back and edit their posts. Be proud of who you are and the services you offer. Tell everyone what you do, be clear, but be brief, and if someone has more questions or wants information, they will reach out to you.

So what about my post?

Now I had a lot to live up to, because I called out the patrons of the group and if my post sucked, boy would I be the biggest hypocrite in the world.

So I posted this;

“My expertise is with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and their Collections / Enforcement division and I use this knowledge to help people and business understand taxes and pay only what they owe, on their terms.

Then I said, “please read this and if you do not know what I do, or if there is feedback – positive and negative – please provide it. I too would love the perfect pitch and I appreciate any input from this fantastic group.

So next time you are looking for a restaurant to take your family and you drive by one which only has a name and not a type of food, think about how much business they could be losing by placing their focus on themselves and not on the service or product their offer.

#Tax

Reminder: If Extreme Weather Conditions Affected your Ability to File or Pay Taxes, the CRA wants you to apply for Taxpayer Relief.

If the recent extreme weather conditions affected your ability to file or pay taxes, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) wants you to remember about the Taxpayer Relief program.

From the CRA website, Dated June 27th, 2014.

“The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, today reminded taxpayers affected by recent extreme weather conditions, as has been seen in recent days in Alberta and Ontario, that the taxpayer relief provisions of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are available to them if they are unable to meet their tax obligations.”

Corporations who are unable to file their T2 returns by the filing deadline of June 30, 2014, due to flooding or other circumstances beyond their control can apply to have interest and/or penalties waived or cancelled using Form RC4288, Request for Taxpayer Relief.

Business owners and self‑employed individuals who are unable to meet their filing and payment obligations may also be eligible for relief.  The CRA understands that natural disasters may cause great difficulties for affected taxpayers whose primary concerns during this time are their families, homes, and communities.

The taxpayer relief provisions provide a balanced approach to assist taxpayers in resolving tax issues that arise due to circumstances beyond their control.   Under these provisions, taxpayers can apply to the CRA to have interest and/or penalties waived or cancelled in situations where they are unable to file a tax return and/or make payments on time because of a natural disaster, such as tornadoes, floods, landslides, hurricanes, or forest fires, or as a result of other extraordinary circumstances.

The CRA will consider these requests on a case-by-case basis and during the time it takes for the CRA to review the application, it is likely that there will be notices sent to the taxpayer / organizations which have a penalty / interest balance.  It is always recommended where possible to pay these amounts owing as soon as possible as doing so stops the interest from continuing to accumulate on the balance.

Paying off the penalty and interest balance does NOT impact the decision made by the Taxpayer Relief group.

Also keep in mind that it can take the CRA upwards of 9 months to complete a review under the Taxpayer Relief program and that full relief of penalties and / or interest are not guaranteed.

If the initial request is denied, the CRA will send a letter indicating why, and what information is missing.  Taxpayers have another opportunity to apply for relief before considering whether a 3rd review – judicial review – is required.

 

For all your tax needs, contact inTAXicating at info@intaxicating.ca.

The Elevator Pitch! How Important Is It?

The elevator pitch, otherwise known as your ability to tell someone what you do for a living in 15-20 seconds without leaving out any critical details.

Wikipedia calls it this; “An elevator pitchelevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.”

The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride of around 30 seconds.

The term originates from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator where after the brief pitch, the other party is interested in learning more. thus continuing the conversation after the elevator ride or through en exchange of a business card or smart phone details.

As a tax consultant, I thought I had the perfect elevator pitch that went something like this; “I help people who have problems with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  I worked in the CRA for over 10-years – pretty much out of university – and worked my way up through the collections division until leaving for the private sector.”

I found it to be too long, and open for interruption so much that I would add details, such as that I completed 3-years of my accounting (CGA) designation and a 3-year MBA before leaving, or that I spent a significant part of my time at the CRA training the staff, handling the most complex accounts in the office and helping improve processes.

Then it became an elevator pitch for a 65-story building ride… To the top and all the way back down to the bottom.

Then I found an article in Forbes magazine which provided 6 alternatives to the elevator pitch so I tried them out to see if they worked better for me.  The list is below:

1. The One-word pitch – for me, it is “TAX”.  Then I watch their eyes gloss over.

2. The Question pitch – “Have you ever had (or have clients who had) problems with the Canada Revenue Agency (or Revenu Quebec, or the IRS, or WSIB, or the CRTC?)

3. The Rhyming pitch – Could not even try this.

4. The Subject line pitch – like sending an email to someone – mine would read something like “Former CRA collections officer helping people with CRA problems.”

5. The Story form pitch – I have thousands of stories… Literally.  I usually break into one of these after my introduction.

6. The Twitter or 140 character or less pitch #WhatIAmAllAbout.   I like this because it’s like using Twitter except that you really cannot tell someone that you “hashtag” Help People.  But it does give you the opportunity to state your case in a brief number of words.

So practice your pitch – no matter which method you choose – and practice them out on people to see if it gets across the message you want it to.  If not, maybe you would benefit from a different pitch or by adding or removing information to your existing pitch.

As for me… “I’m a former CRA officer who knows the CRA collections process, policy and procedures better than they do.  I help people with a variety of tax issues including but not limited to negotiation, payment arrangements, liens, RTP’s assessments, and getting them current and out of debt.  If there is a CRA issue, I have already seen it, and I know how to fix the problem.”

#x-taxer

Others make promises.  I fix problems.

If the conversation continues I explain my services are for individuals, businesses, and professional organizations who cannot proceed further with a client due to their tax issues – ie/ getting a bank loan, renewing a mortgage, confirmation of actual amounts owing before filing for bankruptcy, wage garnishments on employees, or cleaning up past tax issues for separation agreements or divorce.

#inTAXicating

Free consultation.

info@intaxicating.ca

416.833.1581