Common CRA Audit Triggers

Common Audit Triggers

Audits in Canada are typically assigned randomly. There are, however, some reasons as to why some taxpayers are audited more often that others.

Here are some of the most common factors which may increase the chance of being audited by the CRA, from most common to least:

 

Screwing around with Trust Funds

Sorry to be so blunt, but there is nothing that raises the ire of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) more than finding out, or suspecting that you have been less than honest with Trust Funds – the money taken from employees or customers and held in trust for the CRA.

In these instances, the CRA comes to audit fast, and leave no stone unturned.

Self-employment income

The addition of self-employment income, along with or instead of T4 income is an area of significant concern for the CRA.

Earning T4 income, means is likely that the sufficient amounts of tax, CPP and EI have been withheld and remitted to the CRA on your behalf and on behalf of your employer, making it low-risk.

Self-employed individuals, on the other hand, do not, in most cases, have taxes withheld at source, making it more under the scope of the CRA.

The Industry you operate in

This is a two-fold flag because not only are some sectors audited more than others – dentists, real estate agents, restaurants, construction companies, and corner stores that take cash, for example, but the CRA also uses the industry that all businesses / taxpayers operate in, and compares the numbers reported to those of the others in your industry.

If you stand out for one reason or another, expect to be asked why, in the form of an audit.

Additionally, in around November of each year, the CRA computers match and compare many pieces of taxpayer information, looking for slips which were not declared, or for outliers.

3rd Party audits

Often times taxpayers are audited simply because a related party is being audited. Sometimes this means that family members or shareholders of a closely-held corporation are audited in the course of the audit of the corporation. Other times various corporations in a supply chain may be audited because of the audit of one of them. Sometimes contractors are audited because of a payroll audit at the corporate level.

There is nothing that can be done to minimize this risk factor. Unfortunately, the more businesses and taxpayers that a particular taxpayer is involved with, the greater likelihood of a CRA audit.

We represented a construction company which had immaculate books and records, yet were under audit by the CRA for almost a year. It made no sense, because every single item requested by the auditor matched and was reported correctly.

It finally came to light that a customer of this company from 8-years-ago had tried to commit fraud and claim a receipt for services which were never performed by this company (they had changed the date and written “CASH” across the invoice).

After proving the invoice was fraudulent, the audit suddenly ceased and the taxpayer who changed the invoice was charged with fraud.

You just never know!

Informant Leads Line Tips

The Informant Leads Line / or Tips line or Snitch line, has provided way more tax and audit leads that the CRA could have ever imagined – and still does.

In light of the fact that tips relating to offshore tax evasion may yield a reward for the informant, it may never end.

Moral of the story: taxpayers who are cheating the system should not count on staying under CRA’s radar forever. They should also be careful as to who has incriminating evidence which could be reported to the CRA.

Common leads come from; ex-spouses, former employees, and neighbours. So the next time you piss someone off, you might want to make sure they don’t reported you to the CRA.

Living Beyond your means – Net Worth Assessments

Taxpayers who live in a $4 million dollar house, and who report income of $1/year, can expect to have caught the attention of the CRA. The same goes for taxpayers who have debt to the CRA and are unable to pay, yet post publicly on their social media of their travels and lavish expenditures.

Lifestyles which appears to be incongruent with the amount of declared income can expect to be audited.

Using your Vehicle for business / Claiming vehicle expenses

Vehicle expenses are often arbitrarily determined. When preparing their tax return, often times taxpayers and their accountants pick a reasonable number for vehicle expenses based on an estimate of the percentage of the vehicle usage used for business purposes.

Few taxpayers actually keep a log of every trip, yet every one should!

Not having a log, and corresponding calendar means that few taxpayers can prove to the CRA with absolute certainty, the use of a vehicle for business purposes – thus making it easy for the CRA to deny the expenses.

Real estate transaction

Thank you Liberal government and your out of control spending.

As a result of the need for tax revenue to pay down the debt and deficit, the CRA began cracking down on real estate transactions in the past 5-years. Had the Liberals won a majority government in the 2019 Federal election, there would be capital gains taxes on the sale of principal residences. Right now, it is a requirement for Canadians to track and list on their tax returns the sale of their principal residence.

To say that the CRA pays careful attention to real estate transactions would be an understatement. The CRA frequently audits HST rebates, pre-sale condo flips, new home construction, principal residence exemptions, and many other real estate transactions.

Being involved in multiple real estate transactions sharply increases the chance of being audited.

Home office expenses

The CRA loves auditing home office expenses. Home office expenses are often arbitrary and over-declared, along with the percentage of time the home office is actually used, and the percentage of the house used for the purpose of earning income.

Operating a cash business

When there is a lot of cash being received by a merchant, there is more opportunity for the CRA to recover taxes on undeclared cash income. One common trick the CRA will perform involves the deposits going into the business or personal bank account which are significant, repetitive or unsupported. In these instances, they are declared as income, and a 50% gross negligence penalty is applied.

Adjustments / Amending returns

The CRA is on top of the business or taxpayer who declares a little income and then amends their returns after the fact to report the actual, and much higher balance. Not only is the prohibited, but it’s a great way to be audited.

If the amending  results in a refund, or a refund is issued and then the correct filing results in a balance outstanding, then – you can expect an audit.

Donations – Large and Tax Shelters

If charitable contributions are suspiciously large and do not seem to be possible or likely within the confines of a taxpayer’s income, such donations or contributions are very likely to be audited.

As well, charitable contributions made to organizations suspected of being involved in tax schemes are even more likely to be subjected to an audit.

As long as there are taxes there will be individuals and organizations selling (and conning) taxpayers into participating in tax schemes to reduce taxes. Some of these schemes are outright frauds, while others have no fraudulent intent, but for one reason or another fail.

The Canada Revenue Agency actively and aggressively audits taxpayers who are involved in a tax shelter, a gifting program, or any other tax scheme.

In many circumstances, taxpayers are able to receive refunds and benefits from these programs for several years prior to the CRA auditing, and then reassessing the donation. Unfortunately, since it can take a bit for the CRA to learn of the scheme, and refunds are issued / debts reduced, the participants often bring in family and friends and get them caught up in the program.

Typically, in these schemes, taxpayer may receive tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of CRA refunds to which they were never entitled only to have the CRA come back and audit and reassess years later, along with gross negligence penalties and interest. $100,000 in illegitimate refunds can turn into more than $200,000 once penalties and interest and the passage of time have been taken into consideration.

The rule of thumb is that if it appears too good to be true, it is.

Shareholder loans

Shareholder loans which are not repaid within a year after the year-end of the corporation are often audited, because the CRA suspects they are not legitimate and were simply paper transactions.

Loans where shareholders took revolving loans from the corporation, paying each off just prior to the deadline and then taking a new loan, are also on the CRA’s radar for audit due to their tax benefits.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but taxpayers who are both shareholders and employees of the corporation should be very careful with shareholder home loans, and should have all supporting documentation available.

In order for a home loan to be treated as an employee home loan rather than a shareholder loan, the loan must be made because the person is an employee, rather than because they are a shareholder and should be available to all other employees.

Child-care costs

The CRA regularly conducts mini-audits to ensure that parents who claim childcare expenses maintain proper documentation, and that the children actually attend the establishment for child care and not just for playdates. Claiming childcare for children who hang out with their grandparents a few days a week while the parents are not both working out of the home, would prompt an audit.

Employment expenses

Employees who are issued a T2200 form by their employer are entitled to deduct certain employment expenses from their income. Perhaps the employee has to pay for their own vehicle to travel to sales calls, or perhaps they have to maintain a home office. As long as the employer requires that the employee pays these expenses in respect of their job, they likely can be deducted from income.

Since this is an abused area (each expense is paid for with pre-tax dollars and reduces the overall tax paid by the taxpayer) the CRA audits many employees with the T2200 to ensure that a) their form is properly completed and may be used to deduct the expenses in question and b) each of the expenses claimed was legitimate and for the purposes of their employment, as outlined in the T2200.

Previous audits

If the CRA keeps coming back and auditing and re-auditing every aspect of a business – and if they keep finding issues – that business or taxpayer can expect to be on the audit list for each and every year.

Criminal activity

All business profits are subject to taxes. This includes both legitimate and illegal businesses. As far as the CRA is concerned, if you are earning income you should pay taxes. Period.

So if a taxpayer is accused of or convicted of a crime and the CRA learns about the illegal business which was taking place, they often audit and reassess the taxpayer for taxes on the proceeds of crime – whether or not the taxpayer still has such proceeds. Often times, criminal activity is weeded out during an audit, as opposed to the CRA knowing there is an illegal business and pretending that it is legitimate.

These audits usually require the supporting documentation to justify expenses, and often there are none provided resulting in extremely large assessments.

 

Conclusion:

Keep your records together by year, and expect to be audited each and every year. When you are not, be thankful.

 

CRA’s Offshore Informant Leads Line Succeeding

A vast majority of Canadians pay their fair share of taxes, but those who don’t put an increased burden on the rest of us. That is why the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has implemented initiatives to help Canadians participate in the efforts to help fight offshore tax avoidance and evasion. The Offshore Tax Informant Program…

via Federal programs in place to address offshore tax avoidance and evasion — National Post – Top Stories

Your Questions Answered About The CRA’s Informant Leads (Snitch) Line

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has employed the Informant Leads Line, or “Snitch Line” for a very long time, and with incredible results.Snitch line

The snitch line has been so successful that the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) have constantly reduced their investigations workforce because they get more detailed information through tipsters than they would if they had employees trying to locate this information on their own.

Who uses this line?

The majority of calls to the Snitch line still come from ex-wives (and some ex-husbands), former business partners and neighbours who have been confided in and either felt compelled to notify the government of the fraud being committed or who were hurt, harmed or cheated by the person who has been committing the fraud.

The line is used to ”get even”, or have someone “pay their fair share”.

How private is the line?

It is important to know should you decide to call the Canada Revenue Agency’s Informant Leads Line that the CRA takes your privacy VERY seriously and they will never notify the person(s) / organization(s) that you call on that it was you who called their line.

The CRA will cite their “Privacy Notice”, meaning that they regularly collect personal information under the authority of the Income Tax Act (ITA) and the Excise Tax Act (ETA) and they will use that information as the justification for following up on information provided by callers to the Informant Leads Line to determine if there is an element of non-compliance with tax legislation, and if applicable provided to the corresponding compliance program for appropriate enforcement action.

Does this just go to the CRA?

Information provided on this line may also be referred to the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) or Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), in the event that the lead relates to one of the programs they administer.

Does it impact me?

The information provided is voluntary and will not affect any dealings you may have with the Government of Canada / Revenue Canada.

 

Here are some answers to the most common questions asked of me, relating to the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Informant Leads / Snitch Line, starting with:

1) When should I call the CRA’s Informant Leads Line:

When there is “Tax Evasion”, which is an illegal practice where a person or business avoids paying taxes or reduces their taxes by misrepresenting their activities.

2) How can I report tax evasion?

Over the Internet (I have linked the CRA page and provided it here in case you’re nervous about clicking the link)

Link: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/nvstgtns/lds/menu-eng.html#ntrnt

By phone, mail or fax

Phone: 1-866-809-6841 (toll free)

Fax: 1-888-724-4829 (toll free)

Office hours: 8:15 am. to 5:45 pm. (Eastern Time).

Mailing address:

National Leads Centre
Business Intelligence & Quality Assurance Division
Canada Revenue Agency
200 Town Centre Court Scarborough ON M1P 4Y3

3) Some examples of tax evasion are:

  • Not reporting all income
  • Claiming deductions for expenses that were not incurred or are not legally deductible
  • Claiming false GST/HST tax credits
  • Failing to remit source deductions
  • Providing false information on marital status or children to obtain benefits and credits

4) What happens to the information provided to the CRA?

The CRA diarizes everything and determines if they need to take immediate enforcement action or if they need additional information before moving forward. Either way, you will never be notified as to whether or whether not the CRA took action as they are prohibited from doing so under section 241 of the ITA and section 295 of the ETA.

5) Does the CRA pay for the information I provide?

No. The CRA does not pay for information received from informants who call the Snitch line.

The CRA does now have the Offshore Tax Informant Program (OTIP) which offers financial awards to individuals with information about major cases of international tax non-compliance resulting in more than $100,000 of additional federal tax being assessed and collected.

For more information, please visit the OTIP website, including how to make a submission.

6) What do I get for reporting tax fraud?

Well, besides feeling great, you are helping to ensure that all Canadian taxpayers are paying their fair share of taxes and this benefits all Canadians. The CRA will tell you that if everyone pays what they owe taxes might go down… I’m not holding my breath, but you never know.

7) Will the CRA ever reveal who provided the information to them?

Never!  However, you can provide them with consent to release your identity, should you want that person(s) / organization(s) to know. The CRA has a legal obligation not to disclose the identity of informants, any information that might disclose an informant’s identity or even information that might reveal the existence of an informant is removed, even in the case where an Access to Information request is made.

8) How can you send information by email?

You can submit general informant information to the CRA using their secure Internet portal. If you want to provide supporting documentation you are best to mail or fax it.

9) Does the CRA really look at EVERY lead, and take them seriously?

YES.

10) If I submit a lead, then want to revoke it, is there a way to do that?

NO.

11) What stops someone from phoning in a fake lead?

Well, before the CRA is able to take any action, they require more information that just “My ex has a job working for cash.” The CRA would need some or all of the information listed below to help them prioritize the severity of the tax evasion and let them know if they need to get more information or if they can get working on it right away.

Helpful information includes:

  • Names and contact information for the person(s) / organization(s) you suspect
  • Address of business / Taxpayer, phone numbers, email, etc.
  • Social insurance number (SIN) / business number (BN)
  • Date of birth
  • Spouse’s name
  • Business name – the registered name and / or the operating as name
  • Names of shareholders if a corporation is involved
  • Any related companies
  • Type of fraud you suspect:

     

    • Income tax (personal – T1 or corporate – T2)
    • Provincial tax (PST)
    • GST/HST
    • Non-filing
    • Fraudulent refunds
    • Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)
    • Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
  • Details of your observations
  • Documents: have you seen these documents? Do you know where they’re kept?
  • Does the person deal in cash only? Do you know what they do with the cash?
  • Net worth information, such as assets, including those outside Canada (cash, name and address of banks, house, land, cottage, vehicles, boats, etc.)
  • Liabilities (loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.)
  • Personal expenditures (food, housing, trips, restaurants, hobbies, etc.)
  • Your name and phone number (this is optional)

The CRA will ask you if they can contact you if they require more information. That is up to you.

If at any point, the CRA determines this information is incorrect, fabricated or provided to them for the purposes of committing fraud, not only will they indicate the details on your permanent diary record, but they will also take actions against you.

Once you have submitted a lead to the CRA, it’s good to have an understanding of the fines and/or penalties which can be levied upon the individual / organization, as they can be as high as 200% of the taxes which were attempted to have been evaded.

In addition, the CRA publishes the results of its prosecution activities on its Convictions Web page.

Concerned that someone will call the CRA on you?

If you have found yourself to be in violation of any of these requirements and are worried that the CRA will find out, or that someone will call the snitch line on you, you should contact us at inTAXicating, and we can begin to discuss the steps to help you which may or may not include the CRA’s Voluntary Disclosure Program.

info@intaxicating.ca

http://www.intaxicating.ca

Remember:

It is ALWAYS better to get to the CRA before they get to you!