“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.

 

Tax Freedom Day, 2017. Working For Ourselves Now… Theoretically.

June 9, 2017 is Tax Freedom Day!

What is Tax Freedom Day?

Does it really exist?

What might it mean to me?

In their annual report, the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank added up all forms of taxation — from income and sales taxes, to more hidden costs such as gasoline taxes, carbon taxes, tobacco and alcohol taxes, municipal property taxes, payroll taxes and even CPP and EI premiums — to come up with a figure for the overall tax burden for Canadian families, and this year, they have determined that the average Canadian family with two or more people will earn $108,674 and pay 43.4% in taxes.

Based on the Fraser Institute math, 100% of income earned thus far in 2017 has been gobbled up by government in taxes, and only now are you working for yourself until the end of the year.

Last year, in 2016, it came a day earlier, on June 8th and because of variances in all types of taxes in different provinces, Tax Freedom Day differs across the country, ranging from May 21st in Alberta to June 25th in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the reasons for the extra day is to account for the fact that Canadians’ tax bill has risen, on average, by $1,126 this year, according to the Fraser Institute. Of that increase, $542, came from higher income taxes, but sales taxes (up $311) and other energy-related taxes (up $204) also took a bigger bite while liquor, tobacco, amusement, and other excise taxes, payroll and health taxes, and import duties all decreased.

The Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, however, disputes the math behind the annual Fraser Institute report, because the Fraser Institutes uses “average” tax rates instead of median tax rates.

To come up with its “average” tax rates, the Fraser Institute simply adds up the amount of cash income earned by a taxpayer, and then divides that by the number of people. It then takes “outliers” and excludes those extremes from the calculations.

The Broadbent Institute said that skews the numbers in a certain way, and a better way than the average would be to use the median — the exact mid-point between the top and bottom and the rationale behind this surrounds the fact that the average income of Canada will always be higher than the median because of the small number of very high-income earners in Canada, which skews the average income amount higher.

Adding up only federal and provincial income taxes, the “average” Canadian in prime working years (between 25 – 54 years of age) earned $62,600 last year, and paid $12,000 in taxes, or around 19%, according to tax filings. Using the Broadbent method of calculation, the median for that group earned $50,500 last year and paid $7,000, or 14%, in income taxes.

Another main difference is that the figures used by Fraser Institute report doesn’t just include income taxes. It tabulates all sorts of fees that taxpayers don’t directly pay, such as payroll taxes and resource royalties that companies pay when they extract things like oil, minerals and timber.

It also only considers what it calls “cash income” on the other side of the ledger. That excludes employee benefits, investment income from pension plans and other forms of cash income.

The Fraser report also takes into consideration indirect costs like payroll taxes and other taxes which businesses pay in their calculations because even though businesses pay these taxes directly, the cost of business taxation is passed on to Canadians.

So now that we’re working for ourselves, let’s push all levels of government to treat our tax dollars more wisely, and let’s earn as much as possible (while continuing to pay our taxes on time!)

Canada Turns 150, the Income Tax Act turns 100

Bob Hamilton, the Commissioner and Nancy Chabwan, the Deputy Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Celebrates 100 Years of Taxes with #Canada150

2017 marks not only Canada’s 150th Birthday, but also the 100th Anniversary of the Income Tax Act (ITA).

To mark this anniversary, the CRA has put together a video that highlights the history of income Taxes in Canada and the role they play in building the country and lifestyle of Canadians – as well as how the CRA has evolved to meet the needs of Canadians over the years.

The 150th birthday of Canada is July 1st.

The 100th anniversary of the ITA is September 20th

Watch the video, and share with a de-taxer near you.

Insolvent or in Tax Trouble? Don’t Let the CRA Decide.

Insolvent or Tax Troubles?  Don’t Let the CRA Decide!

In my experiences which includes almost 11-years working in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), you should never allow the CRA to decide whether you can fix your tax problems or whether you should go bankrupt.

From the stand-point of a CRA Collections officer, going bankrupt is great because it removes the account from their inventory of accounts to collect / resolve.

Your file disappears from their inventory and re-appears in the CRA’s Insolvency Unit inventory.

From the perspective of the Collections Department, it’s case closed!

 

There are 3 ways a CRA Collections Office resolves one of their accounts;

1) Collect it / fix the compliance issue(s)

2) Write it off because they cannot collect it

3) Move the account to the Insolvency unit

 

Go Bankrupt!

The CRA’s Collections Officers are not allowed to tell you to go bankrupt. In fact, they are taught in their training that they are not allowed to do that, and that sentiment is reinforced at all future training they attend.  As someone who trained CRA Collections staff for 5-years, I can confirm this fact.

Collections staff are not allowed to even suggest that you go bankrupt.  They might confirm it, but that’s all they can do.

What CRA Collections can do, however, when they feel you are insolvent, is to force you into bankruptcy via their collection actions, which include but are not limited to;

  1. Bank garnishment
  2. Wage garnishment
  3. Lien on a property
  4. Enhanced garnishment to accounts receivables (in the case of a business)

All the while, why applying these garnishments, the CRA refuses to release the hold on the accounts.

They freeze every source of income that you might have and you are faced with the decision to come up with the funds to pay them, or file for a proposal or an assignment in bankruptcy.

In some cases, a bankruptcy is unavoidable and the right solution, but not in every case, which is why I strongly recommend speaking to someone who is looking after your interests first and foremost.

There are tax-related companies who are fronts for insolvency firms, so they might appear  to want to help you, but they want you to file for bankruptcy, and there are other tax-service firms which gather your information and they unable or unwilling to help you, pass you along to a trustee.

You don’t want or need either of those.

You need a tax firm which has the experience in CRA’s collections, and who have the relationships with not only Insolvency firms, but mortgage brokers, reputable accountants and investment professionals so that you’re options are laid out for you to decide the best option.

Not the CRA.

In order to resolve your tax issues you need to disclose the details so your options can be determined, and you need your tax help to do the same.

Ask your tax-help the following questions;

  1. Are you committed to finding me a tax-solution first.
  2. If that solution is not going to be accepted by the CRA, what other options do you feel would work.

Don’t be weary if a firm wants to charge you a small fee to diagnose and plan out your solution.

You should be weary if they want to charge you a significant amount of money to diagnose it  and not give you a plan.  If they want to keep the plan a secret, and not educate you along the way, it’s because there is no plan.

Likely their solution it to drag you along the process knowing that the CRA will come along and lower the boom and then suggest to you that your only option is to conveniently have them file bankruptcy for you.

Don’t ask the CRA if you should go bankrupt.  You might not like the answer.

If you owe money to the CRA and you’re not sure if the debt is a tax matter which can be resolved, or if bankruptcy or a proposal are better options, just ask!  Send an email to info@intaxicating.ca and let’s talk!  We’re here for you.

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.

Director’s Liability Overview, Plus A Due Diligence Defense We Are Unlikely To See Used Again

I had a nice long conversation with a client the other day regarding the potential that either the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or the Provincial government (in Ontario) were going to pursue a Director’s Liability assessment against him for the debts of his now-deceased corporation.  Part of the discussion surrounded how the Canada Revenue Agency and the former Ontario Retail Sales Tax (RST) group handled assessments, and the criteria they used when reviewing whether or not to pierce the corporate shield, plus the importance of a due diligence defense.

Director's Liability Section from the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act.
Director’s Liability Section from the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act.

During my employment at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), I felt I needed to gain a more thorough understanding of Director’s Liability and figure out why there were so few assessments raised in our office compared to other offices.   I personally had not raised any Director’s Liability assessments mainly because I was effective on the phone and combined with meetings, was able to resolve many debts prior to the assessment stage.  Still, Senior Management encourage the Collections staff to utilize this collection tool more, so as the Resource and Complex Case Officer, I asked for, and was given, the Director’s Liability inventory to control.

By controlling the Director’s Liability inventory, that meant I needed to know the ins and outs of Director’s Liability – section 227.1 of the Income Tax Act and section 323 of the Excise Tax Act, because if anyone in our office wanted to raise an assessment, I would have to review their account, ensure all of the much-needed grunt work had been completed, then ensure they had spoken to the Director(s), given them sufficient notice, provided them time for a Due Diligence Defense, at which point I could sign off and begin to track the file.

After organizing that inventory and rolling out the new procedures, I began to scour the accounts in our office for potential Director’s Liability assessments, then, in addition to my other inventories, provide recommendations and suggestions to the staff on how to proceed if I felt there was a possibility for an assessment.  Management decided instead of burdening the staff, I should just take those accounts I felt were ready for Director’s Liability assessments and work them, plus all of the other accounts I was tracking where assessments were raised too.

It was a fair amount of work, but more importantly, it was very enlightening, to review the government’s policies on Director’s Liabilities plus review the procedures in place, compare that to how other office’s handled their files and really tighten up the process.  If an account was a sure-fire Director’s Liability assessment, it was raised, and if there was no chance, or not the right time, the file was returned to active collections.

I found the first common misconception around Director’s Liability was that the issuance of the Director’s Liability Pre-Assessment Proposal Letter (which notifies director’s that we are reviewing them for Director’s Liability) was being used as just another letter by the Collections staff to remind directors of their obligations, when in fact the CRA intended on using this letter to notify Directors’ that an assessment was beginning.  Internally, the Canada Revenue Agency was actually starting to investigate the personal ability to pay of the director(s) at the time this letter was issued.

Going forward, that letter was not to be used lightly, and it was not to be sent to the Director(s) numerous times.  A Director would then have the assessment raised against them and wonder why it was raised this time, and not earlier when one of those letters went out, so in order to prevent a possible loss in Tax Court, the decision was made to send it once, and then follow-up with the Due Diligence defense letter before raising the assessment.

Ignoring the Due Diligence defense letter (which happens often) meant the one opportunity a Director had to start their case on the record was lost, and with the CRA building their case in the permanent diary, the Director(s) stood little chance of preventing the Canada Revenue Agency from raising the Director’s Liability.

Once that waiting period passes, the file usually gets very quiet…

From the Director’s point of view, either the assessment is raised and they receive a letter from the CRA stating that, or the assessment is raised and the letter gets lost in the mail (tossed out), or the assessment is raised and before the Director is notified, their personal assets come under fire.  There is of course, the possibility that nothing happens and the Director(s) are left in limbo, but without having a dialogue with the CRA, or experience around the policies and procedures, there is no way that the Director(s) will know when and if the CRA is coming – if at all.

Once raised, the Director(s) have quite limited options.

A recent court case, which I will highlight below demonstrates a situation where an assessment was raised, and in Tax Court, the decision was turned over and the assessment cancelled.  I guarantee it won’t happen again, as the CRA will ensure their processes are tightened even more to close this loophole.

The case was Bekesinski V The Queen.

The link to the case on the website for the Tax Court of Canada, is here.

In this case, Bekesinski was the Director of a corporation who was personally assessed by the Minister of National Revenue (CRA) in the amount $477,546.08 for the corporation’s unremitted income tax (T2) and employer contributions of CPP and EI for payroll (source deductions) plus penalties and interest for the 2001, 2002 and 2003 fiscal years.

Under Director’s Liability, the CRA can assess directors for payroll and for GST/HST, but not Corporate Tax liabilities.

The Tax Court of Canada held that since the taxpayer had resigned as a director of the corporation more than two years after the CRA’s assessment, the CRA was statue barred from raising the Director’s Liability assessment.

This was something the CRA should have known before raising the assessment and something that the director (or his representatives) should have mentioned at any point during the pre-assessment proposal period, especially at the due diligence defense stage, but was never mentioned.

Brief Overview of the Facts

In 1992 the taxpayer purchased D.W. Stewart Cartage Ltd., a general cartage, trucking and warehousing company where he served as a Director of the corporation.

When the corporation fell behind on filing obligations and as the balance owing to the CRA began to grow, the Director began to receive numerous letters from the CRA warning him that he could be held personally liable for the corporation’s tax debts as a Director of the corporation.  He did not notify the CRA at any time that he had resigned as a Director of the corporation.

On October 15, 2010 the CRA raised Director’s Liability and issued a Notice of Assessment (NOA) to the taxpayer for unremitted income tax, employer contributions plus penalties and interest in the amount of $477,546.08.

The Director then argued that he should not have been assessed as a Director because he resigned as Director of the corporation on July 20, 2006 by way of a Notice of Resignation which would have made the raising of the assessment statute barred.

The CRA argued that the taxpayer was in fact a director and that the taxpayer had backdated the resignation to qualify for the exception, which happens more than you could imagine, and to counter this trick, the CRA often requests an “ink date test” to determine the authenticity of the Notice of Resignation.

Unfortunately for the CRA, the results from the ink date test was excluded by the Tax Court because the CRA did not advise the Court that they felt the Notice of Resignation was back-dated.  Even the judge felt the Notice of Resignation was backdated, however since the CRA failed to mention it, it was not open for review in the Court.

In summation, Bekesinski avoided Director’s Liability for the corporate tax debts due to a litigation misstep on the part of the CRA, a mistake they are unlikely to be repeat.

It is highly advisable for corporate directors to carefully document their resignations so as to avoid potential future Director’s Liability assessments, because I guarantee, the CRA will challenges to the authenticity of backdated resignations on each and every case going forward.

I am Writing a Book to Help Canadians Deal With Tax Problems. Preview Inside.

I have always wanted to write a book to help Canadians deal with tax problems, or tax debts with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

There is no better time than the present, so here is a preview;

Chapter 1.

Call me!

Chapter 2.

If you have a tax debt, tax problem, are behind on filing, made errors on your return, missed deductions or slips or if you owe money and cannot pay. You need a straight shooter who can tell you what to do and do so without costing you an arm and a leg.

Welcome to my company.

It is my goal to help each and every Canadian who has a tax problem through either a free 15-minute consultation, a one-hour meeting or through engaging my services.

I’m going to tell you what you need to know and not what you need to hear. If you are exposed to the CRA, I will tell you. If you are not legally required to pay a debt, I will tell you that too.

What I won’t do is mislead you into thinking that the CRA spends all day searching your keywords looking for you, unless you have done something criminally wrong, then I am recommending you speak with one of Canada’s top tax lawyers who will treat you in the same no-nonsense manner.

I also won’t lead you to believe that I have an army of former CRA staff at my disposal or that the CRA likes being referred to as the “taxman”. They do not.  My network of CRA tax experts is vast and reside all over Canada.  I have friends still working in the CRA and many who have left.  I firmly believe that knowing what questions to ask is much more valuable than the answers given.  I know what questions to ask, and I will ask them for you.

I do, however, have 10-years of experience at the Canada Revenue Agency – as a collector – and as a resource officer, field officer, team leader, and I have significant experience in fairness / taxpayer relief, managing the Director’s Liability and s.160 inventory, and for 5-years, I trained the collections staff at Canada’s largest Tax Services Office how to do their jobs.  I cannot and will not list all the areas of the CRA that I worked in, because I wanted to learn, experience and help taxpayers while working there and I still want to do the same now that I am on the other side of the negotiating table.

Common sense tells me that if you have a tax, collections, or enforcement problem, you do not need a trustee, or a tax lawyer, or an accountant, but you need a former CRA collections expert to steer you clear of trouble.

Don’t let the CRA or other “tax” firms decide that you need to go bankrupt. You decide!

If you need forms filed with the CRA, or tax returns prepared for individuals or businesses, I work with the best accountants and accounting firms who share my philosophy of putting you first.  Together we make sure your past filings are accurate and that you have claimed the correct amounts legally allowed.  We don’t add things or make up deductions because that is what gets you in trouble.

My firm is Toronto-based, however accessible throughout Canada and around the world – as my clients have found out.

I’m not going to pull out a horse and pony show and try to entice you with fancy expensive ads which I will need to charge you extra to pay for – but I’m going to listen, process, and advise you what to do based on my experiences and based on 17-years of handling matters with the CRA, IRS, Revenu Quebec and with WSIB and the CRTC.  I spent the majority of my time at the CRA working on the corporate side, so GST/HST, payroll, corporate tax and personal taxes are all in my areas of expertise.

I will tell you what the CRA is doing, and what they will be doing next. It’s nice to be a step ahead!

And throughout this whole process, you have to understand that the CRA will be working with us to resolve your tax matter and not working against us. It’s what they get paid to do. The only difference is they do it with us and not against us.

Conclusion:

So, why reach out to me? Why not!

I can be reached at info@intaxicating.ca, or by phone at 416.833.1581.