Key Deductions and Tax Credits for Persons Older Than 65-Years of Age

With the 2014 Tax Filing season rapidly approaching, I think it is important to keep track of key deductions and credits that Canadians older than 65-years-old should be thinking about when they file their Canadian tax returns this year and all years going forward.

The Canada Revenue Agency set up their own webpage dedicated just to this very topic: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/seniors/ which I recommend bookmarking, but I have summarized their points below for ease of access.

Common credits which may be claimed by seniors

  • Age amount
  • Pension income amount
  • Disability amount (for themselves)
  • Amounts transferred from a spouse or common-law partner
  • Medical expenses

Age amount

You can claim this amount if you were 65 years of age or older on December 31, 2013, and your net income (line 236 of your return) is less than $80,256. If your net income was:

It is important to remember to enter your date of birth in the “Information about you” area on page 1 of your tax return.

Remember to claim the corresponding provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credit to which you are entitled, on line 5808 of your provincial or territorial Form 428.

Tip: You may be able to transfer all or part of your age amount to your spouse or common-law partner or to claim all or part of his or her age amount. See line 326 – Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner, for more information.

Pension income amount

You may be able to claim up to $2,000 if you reported eligible pension, superannuation, or annuity payments on line 115, line 116, and/or line 129 of your return.

Eligible pension income does not include the following income amounts:

  • any foreign source pension income that is tax-free in Canada because of a tax treaty that entitles you to claim a deduction at line 256;
  • income from a United States individual retirement account (IRA); or
  • amounts from a RRIF included on line 115 and transferred to an RRSP, another RRIF or an annuity.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) income does not count as eligible income here.

Pension income splitting

If you qualify to claim the pension income amount, discussed above, then you are often able to report up to one-half of that pension income on your spouse or common law partner’s tax return, which will save you tax as a couple if your spouse is in a lower tax bracket.

Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner

If your spouse or common-law partner does not need to claim some or all of certain non-refundable tax credits to reduce his or her federal tax to zero, you may be able to transfer those unused amounts to your return.

Split CPP income

If you and your spouse are at least 60 years of age, and one or both of you receive CPP benefits, each spouse may be able to apply to split their benefits with the other (i.e., report half on each other’s tax returns), which can save tax if one of you is in a lower tax bracket.

CPP contributions

If you are 60 to 70 years of age and employed or self-employed, you have to make CPP or Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) contributions, even if you’re receiving CPP or QPP benefits.

You can claim a tax credit for these contributions. However, if you’re at least 65 but under 70 years of age, you can elect to stop making contributions (use Form CPT30, the applicable part of Schedule 8 to your tax return, or Form RC381, whichever applies), but don’t just stop making the contributions without that election!

Medical expenses (for self, spouse or common-law partner, and your dependent children born in 1996 or later)

On line 330 of your personal tax return you can claim the total eligible medical expenses you or your spouse or common-law partner paid for:

  • yourself;
  • your spouse or common-law partner; and
  • your or your spouse’s or common-law partner’s children born in 1996 or later.

Medical expenses for other dependents must be claimed on line 331.

Tip:

You may be eligible to claim a variety of medical expenses, perhaps even previously unclaimed amounts, as long as the expenses were incurred in any 12-month period that ended in 2013. The list of eligible expenses has continued to expand slowly over the past few years.

It is wise tax-strategy to claim medical expenses on the lower-income spouse’s return to maximize your tax relief.

Disability amount (for self)

You can claim the disability amount of $7,697 on line 316 once you are eligible for the disability tax credit (DTC).

Tip:

If you were eligible for the DTC for previous years but did not claim the DTC when you filed your return, you can request adjustments for up to 10 years under the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Provisions. To claim the disability amount for prior years, you will need to file Form T1-ADJ, T1 Adjustment Request, for each year you need to amend.

If you or anyone else paid for attendant care, or for care in an establishment, special rules may apply. For more information, see Attendant care or care in an establishment.

If you have a severe and prolonged physical or mental impairment, you may be eligible to claim $7,697 if a qualified practitioner certifies, on Form T2201 – Disability Tax Credit Certificate, that you meet certain conditions.

Public transit amount

You can claim the cost of monthly (or longer duration) public transit passes for travel on public transit within Canada for 2014. The cost of electronic payment cards can also be claimed when conditions are met.

Work force credits

If you’re still working, even part time, you may be eligible to claim the Canada employment amount (maximum $1,117) and the Working income tax benefit (see Schedule 6 of your return).

Registered plans

You’re entitled to make contributions to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) until the end of the year in which you turn 71-years-old.  Don’t forget to claim a deduction if you have made a contribution for 2014.

And if you’re eligible for the disability tax credit it is possible to make contributions to a registered disability savings plan (RDSP) to shelter income on those contributions from tax.

OAS clawbacks

Some seniors must pay back all or a portion of their Old Age Security (OAS) benefits if their income exceeds $70,954 (for 2013). If you’re in this boat, examine the types of income you’re earning to see if you can change the type of income earned to reduce the impact of these clawbacks going forward.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) also administers the Ontario Trillium Benefit (OTB) which is the combined payment of the Ontario energy and property tax credit, the Northern Ontario energy credit, and the Ontario sales tax credit. The annual OTB entitlement is usually divided by 12 and the payments issued monthly. Your 2015 OTB payments, which are based on your 2014 income tax and benefit return, will be issued on the 10th of each month, starting on in July 2015.

Exceptions:

Starting with your 2014 income tax and benefit return, you can elect to receive your 2015 OTB in one payment at the end of the benefit year. If your annual 2015 OTB entitlement is over $360 and you make this election, you will get it in one payment in June 2016 instead of receiving monthly payments from July 2015 to June 2016.

If your 2014 OTB annual entitlement is $360 or less, it will be issued in one lump-sum payment in the first payment month (usually July).

 

These items often changes and some situations may be applicable to you, while other’s may not.  Please speak to your accountant or tax professional to be sure they apply.  If you claim a credit you are not entitled to, the CRA will disallow the credit and charge you interest from the date the returns were due.

 

#inTAXicating

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The Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) Sought Voluntary Revocation of Charitable Status From CRA

The voluntary revocation of the registered charitable status of The Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) as a result of a CBC investigation could leave Canadian Taxpayers who donated to this organization owing back monies to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Almost one year ago, the CBC Investigates reported on accountability issues at the Newfoundland charity after former members of the Board of Directors raised concerns about the operation of the group, which at the time continued to take donations from the public 18 months after closing its flagship horse sanctuary.

As a result of strict confidentiality guidelines, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are unable to say who made the request to have HAPPA’s charitable status removed, however after the CBC investigation was published, the website was removed, and further investigation turned up a significant breach in reporting requirements on behalf of the charity as it would appear that they filed incorrect information with federal charity regulators, claiming that all board members are “arm’s length” from each other.

According to the CBC, the only current active members of the Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) board are what appear to be a mother and daughter and what appear to be a long-time couple.

Family members and common-law partners are considered “not at arm’s length” by the Canada Revenue Agency — something that can affect how the agency assesses a charity’s status.

Charities are required to file a form outlining those relationships and the CBC reported that on HAPPA’s website they found their filing for the year ending December 31st, 2011 in which there were 8 directors listed as being “at arm’s length” from each other.

The significance of the revocation of charitable status is that anyone who donated to the charity after that date, will not be allowed to claim the donation as a deduction from their income. If they do so anyway, the CRA will re-assess them plus penalties and interest. The Taxpayer Relief program will not granted penalty and or interest relief to those who donated to this charity, and in situations like these, as there are no categories to apply under.

Once the revoked, the charity should have transferred all of its remaining property — including cash — to an eligible donee, or be subjected to a revocation tax equal to the property’s full value.

If you have donated to this organization and are concerned that the CRA may disallow the charitable receipt, it is best to not submit it with your taxes. You have 4 years to claim charitable deductions.

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!

Why Getting the Largest Tax Refund Possible from the CRA is NOT a Good Idea

After spending close to 11-years working in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), I have a very good idea what gets people into tax trouble.

Okay, I know exactly what gets people into tax trouble, and while it’s nearly impossible to list them all, I can tell you that there are ways to get out of tax trouble which many have never considered.

I also know that getting a refund back from the CRA isn’t always a good idea.  More on that later.

I can honestly say, without any prejudice that the main problem has to do with firms advertising at tax time about getting the most money in the fastest way possible.  These ads are aimed at people who equate getting their money back fast through the quick, cheap filing of tax returns.

The ads go something like this;

“Get the Largest Tax Refund Possible”.

“Get the Most Back.”

“Get the Most You Are Entitled To.”

“Get your Money Back Now!”

Just hearing those advertising slogans scare me, and it should scare you too.

Getting money back from the government at tax time, does not mean what you might think it does.

You are not getting money from the government because you fell into a threshold, but what you are doing is getting your money back from the government.

Your money that you overpaid (or were over-deducted at source) which the government kept during the year – held interest-free in fact – which you are asking for back.

Amazing.

It’s akin to lending someone money for a year – they use it, or invest it and make money off of it – and then a year later you ask for it back and you get it, while they made money off of it.

So how does this tied into tax debt?

History has shown me that people do not wake up in the morning and decide that they want to start carrying a balance owing to the Canada Revenue Agency.  Nobody wants to worry when they go to use their debit card that there might not be funds there as a result of a CRA bank garnishment, or when they go to sell their home find out that there is a lien on it.

Tax problem occur over time and as the time passes and interest accumulates, people find their ability to deal with it declines and before you know it, the amount owing is massive and the CRA is breathing down your neck.

So imagine if after rushing to have your tax return completed – so you can get back a couple of hundred dollars – you find out that you owed money instead.  Now you have a tax problem.  A tax problem that you have not budgeted for.  Now in collections, you have time find a way to pay off this amount owing, and fast, before the CRA takes legal actions.  You can ask friends and family for money, or consider a second job to pay that off.  It can be done, it can take time, or it can snowball and you become a chronic tax debtor in the eyes of the CRA.

Now the fun starts.  Visits to your house, your employer and notices to your bank or clients all run the risk of causing you long-term embarrassment.

If only there was a solution available to help out the repayment.

Well, there is.

This scenario could be completely different if you have taken the time to speak with an accountant, or a reputable tax firm and knew in advance that you might owe and together you had the opportunity to determine the best way to handle this impeding debt by placing money into your RRSP, or applying for, and claiming deductions to reduce your amount of taxes owing at year-end.  With a good accountant, your tax planning is not just for the current year, but also for future years.  

Wouldn’t that make more sense?

One of the first questions I ask a prospective client, or anyone who comes to me for tax advice, is who completed your tax return and what are their credentials.  It’s important because I have taken tax returns which owed the CRA $3000, $4000 or $5000 each year and turned them in to $4000 and $5000 credit returns just by claiming deductions and tax credits available to those taxpayers which their tax preparation service either didn’t know about or didn’t care about.  You only get so much service for $50.

There is nothing illegal in doing that, and provided that there is legitimate supporting documentation, the CRA wouldn’t reject the claim.

So instead of rushing to have your return completed for $40 or $50, think about spending the extra money this year and take advantage of an accounting firm which will sit with you, determine how to minimize your tax expenditures for this year and for future years.

Pay what you owe and not a cent more, and if you’re getting money back every year find out why.  Learn which deductions you may be eligible for and start keeping your receipts.

Take control of your year-end tax filing and stop sending the CRA penalty and interest revenue.

If you already have a tax problem, you need to have tax experts review your prior year tax returns to look for missed deductions and credits.  With a simple amending of the return, your balance could be reduced or wiped out completely.  This really is the best way to start resolving your tax problem.

It’s what I do.  For you.

It’s worth the money!

If you are looking for an alternative, some assistance, or have tax questions, contact us at info@intaxicating.ca and let’s get the ball rolling.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Then something changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still on the fence?

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

A Lesson in POWER: How to ALWAYS Level the Playing Field with the CRA.

Power is a funny thing.

Pretty much everyone wants it at some point in their life.

Most of the people who have it do not know how to use it properly.

To be honest, few will ever get it.

The most important thing to know about power is that it is most successful when used in two ways; either by declaring yourself King and having your cronies keep everyone else at bay by whatever means possible, or secondly by taking the time to get key players on your side and using your network to help you maintain power but all along helping those around you learn and grow, and they help everyone else under them do the same.

Which model do you think is most often associated with government tax collections agencies?

Having spent a lot of time working at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in the collections and enforcement division and being responsible for training collections, enforcement and audit staff there I can honestly say not as many staff there who feel you have to do what they say no matter the consequences as you would think.

It is true that there are employees of the CRA who feel that being in a position of power allows them to do things, say things and act in a manner which is improper or unjustified.  There are also staff there who take their positions of power to a whole new level and they let their egos control their decision-making process which means they wield power in order to realize an outcome in their best interest, not yours.

I have seen how power corrupts and the result is never easy to correct.

The CRA has a lot of power.

Throughout my decade of employment at the Canada Revenue Agency I was surprised with how much power the Agency has and how many taxpayers feared this power.  I could hear collection officers tell taxpayers that they could clean out their bank accounts like “this!” (Insert snapping of fingers sound here), which is true, but also not true.  I learned to be subtle in my use of my apparent super-powers and the way I used my power was to visit my clients and by always making sure that when sitting with a taxpayer / representative that my chair was at its highest so that I would be looking down at them.  It was all I needed when dealing with the career tax evaders because it worked, but it was a tactic not necessary when dealing with 99% of the people I met with.

However, we already know that the CRA has a lot of power and in most cases before they use it, they are going to let you know first by phone, letter or a visit to your home or place of employment.  Once the CRA has decided they need to use their powers they are bound by the guidelines set out in the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act and by policies and procedures set out in their tax office.  The extent to which they use their powers is either their decision or it is influenced by their team leader or manager.

Once the CRA starts using their powers, your ability to control the outcome diminishes greatly. What you can control, is how much power you will ALLOW the CRA to use against you.

This is done by being proactive – reading notices, asking questions and keeping all your paperwork in one spot where you can access it once it is asked for.  But if you are past that point, or if it is just not possible, then you can take power back by enlisting the help of people who know the CRA policies, procedures and most importantly, their techniques and tactics.

If the CRA knew they were dealing with someone who knew more about their job, more about their techniques and more about how quickly they need to take an action which they claim is urgent, then the playing field is changed forever.

Having someone there to look after your best interests, who will tell you what the best plan of action for you, and you only, then taking that plan to the CRA and telling them the same is the best way to always level the playing field.  Negotiating is always easier when you know more than your opponent.

So please, if you have a tax problem, old or new, and you have been spinning your wheels with the CRA, the IRS, the MRQ, WSIB or the CRTC, don’t let it continue any longer.  Come visit inTAXicating.ca, or send us an email at info@intaxicating.ca and take advantage of our free consultation to leave how to put these issues behind you once and for all.

Have you ever been put in a position where you accepted something which was not in your best interests because the other side had all the power?

Happy to read your comments below.

Ramping up for FATCA: Americans living in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most common question I have been asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind on your filing to the IRS, are you?

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

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

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

FAQ Offshore voluntary disclosure program:

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

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

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

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