The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Knows Who Cheats on their Taxes!

Are you on the Canada Revenue Agencies radar?  How about on the CRA’s Audit Radar?  Have you been “flagged”?

Have you ever wondered how the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) decides who to audit?  Are there red flags?  Or does the CRA know how you operate your business which makes you more or less likely to be audited?

Here is the answer that you might be looking for;

The CRA knows who Cheats on their Taxes!

Do you fit their profile?

Are you at risk?

First, some background.

While I was still working at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), we released the results of a study that was put together to profile what kind of person poses the most risk for the CRA’s collections and audit groups.

The CRA spent a lot of time going through the main accounts; personal tax, payroll, GST/HST, and Corporate Tax, and we looked at who filed on time, who filed late (and how late they filed), and who was regularly compliant, and who needed a follow up verification audit, and what the result of those audits were.

This study focused on Tax Compliance, specifically;

  • Percentage of Taxpayers who accurately reported income and expenses (95%)
  • Percentage of Taxpayers who file on time (93%)
  • Percentage of Taxpayers who made payments on time with their filing (91%).

When it comes to reporting compliance or honestly reporting all your income and/or expenses, this study found that males are more likely to underreport their tax owing than females.

The study also found that underreporting is highest among taxpayers aged 35 to 54 and lowest among taxpayers under 35.

Underreporting of tax was also lowest for taxpayers who are married and highest for those who are separated, with single taxpayers somewhere in between.

Not surprisingly, underreporting of tax is higher among taxpayers whose main source of income is either capital gains or self-employment income versus taxpayers whose main source of income is wages, where most of the tax is withheld at source by the employer.

So who is on the CRA’s radar?

The prime candidates for the CRA to audit, or perform a desk review of expenses, are the separated or divorced males between the ages of 35-54 years old.

Do you fall into that category?

If so, know that the CRA is keeping one eye on you and the other on what you report and when it is reported.

Contact us at inTAXicating, and let us help you ensure that you remain compliant, and ensure that you have the knowledge necessary to organize your records so that you can quickly and easily get through a CRA audit.

EXAMPLE:

Here is an example of a case where the CRA used the criteria identified earlier to quickly descend on a taxpayer who fell behind in his filing and remitting duties.

Case: Tax Cheat?  Or Disorganized Business Owner?

I was approached by a business owner who ran very loosely with his books and records.  He kept a box of receipts and while most of the business receipts made the box, many got lost along the way.  Additionally, this business owner charged business expenses on his personal credit card, and personal expenses on his business card.  He travelled quite a lot for work, and he posted a lot of content on social media, but he failed to keep a thorough and accurate log documenting his personal versus business travel.

Additionally, because he was always on the go, had no time to review the details of the tax side of his business.  He had money in his business bank account, then he knew he was earning money.  At year-end, he would bring his half-completed records and his shoebox to his accountant for the preparation of his returns.

In June he would receive a refund.

A series of events, however, changed his life forever.

  1. His accountant began to get busy
  2. As a result, he was late getting payroll figures, and was late making the payroll remittance
  3. Then the GST/HST numbers were delayed, so that filing was late
  4. His personal tax filings were delayed
  5. His business tax filing was delayed.
  6. His business made money.
  7. While all of this was going on – he continued to send his info to the CA, and pay the CA’s invoices.  He would get the odd notice from the CRA and send it to his accountant to “take care of”.

This is very typical and a common occurence.

What he didn’t know was that everything was not okay.

One day a CRA field officer showed up to discuss his non-compliance and to arrange a payroll audit because the company was 6-months behind on remittances.  There was also a balance owing to the CRA of over $35,000.

Shocked, he contacted his CA who said that she would look into it, that it was going to take some time and she felt the CRA was completely wrong.

Convinced that the accountant was right, the business owner went back to work, and the accountant was going to find the error and fix the problem.

Only problem that he didn’t know was that there was no “error”.  The balance owing to the CRA was legitimate.  By filing late over that 6-month period, the accountant had amassed a significant balance due to late filing penalties and the balance was jumping by leaps and bounds as a result of the 10% interest the CRA charges on outstanding balances (compounding daily).

Then one day he received a call from one of his main suppliers who was concenred because not only did he cheque bounce, but there was a CRA officer there earlier in the day asking questions.

He contacted his accountant.

She appeared stunned and said that she would call the CRA and fix it.

She was just buying time.

A week later, the garnishment was still on the account, interest was accruing, and the accountant was telling stories of the CRA being unfair, and mean, and not listening or returning calls.

Frustrated and panicked that he might have to close his business without a bank account, he contacted his CA and asked for his books and records.

She refused.  Realizing that this was the end of the relationship with her client, she told him that she had done a lot of work with the CRA and she demanded payment before she would give up his information.

He refused to pay – how could he?  He had no access to his bank account and the CRA had taken all of his funds.

In fact, it took him 8-months and a small claims court date for this process to resolve itself.  She took him to court for unpaid work, and thankfully, the judge was wise to this CA and her practices and awarded the client his books and records in return for payment of the work actually completed, not the entire invoice.

The damage was done.  The business was also close to being done.

The CRA doesn’t care about the reasons why someone becomes non-compliant – they look at the business, the owner, and then set their course to fix it.

The fact that this business owner fit the category did not help him at all, as the CRA quickly and aggressively went after every asset that he had, raised assessments for the missing payroll and GST/HST figures, and sent Requirements to Pay to his business bank account, contacted his receivables (clients) and quickly moved to raise director’s liability so they could go after his personal assets.

Conclusion

Running a business is difficult.

Running a business without a business bank account is also difficult.

Running a business without a bank account, after the CRA notified your clients that you owe considerable amounts of tax money is next to impossible.

What killed this business was a combination of bad accounting, bad advice, lies, deception and some really bad luck.

The reality is that many, many businesses and individuals have this experience on a daily basis.  It is next to impossible for the CRA to determine if the information being told to them is legitimate or a made up story – but when the owner of the business is a perfect fit for commiting tax fraud – the CRA takes notice.

Could this have been fixed?  Of course.

If you owe money to the CRA, or if you have fallen behind on compliance, or if you suspect that your tax advisor is giving you bad advice, contact us now.  At inTAXicating, we’ll look at the facts, and help you run your business while we work on solving the problem.

Visit our website @ www.intaxicating.ca.

Send us an email to: Info@intaxicating.ca

 

 

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CRA Press Release: Tax preparer extradited to Canada (from Italy) for tax fraud in Canada

The following news items was released by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on September 8, 2015, regarding a former Tax preparer from Vaughan, Ontario, who was convicted of Tax Fraud for adding fictitious deductions to 4,200 tax returns from 2003 – 2005.  She was sentenced to 10-years in jail and fined almost $700,000.

The news release read:

“The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced today that Ms. Doreen Tennina was extradited to Canada from Italy on September 4, 2015, and is now in custody serving a 10-year sentence for tax fraud.

On May 31, 2013, Ms. Tennina was found guilty in the Superior Court of Justice in Oshawa, Ontario, on two counts of fraud over $5,000 under the Criminal Code and was sentenced in absentia to the maximum period of 10 years in jail on each count to be served concurrently.  A news release publicizing Ms. Tennina’s conviction and sentence was issued on June 4, 2013.

Ms. Tennina, a former Vaughan, Ontario tax preparer, fraudulently claimed carrying charges and charitable donations totaling $58,500,000 in 4,200 tax returns prepared on behalf of her clients from 2003 to 2005, inclusive. The false claims reduced the amount of federal taxes owed by over $10 million. She was also ordered to pay a fine of $699,608 for causing her company, Executive Accounting, to fail to report income received from the tax evasion scheme.

The preceding information was obtained from the court records.

Taxpayers who claim false expenses, credits or rebates from the government are subject to serious consequences. They are liable not only for corrections to their tax returns and payment of the full amount of tax owing, but also to penalties and interest. In addition, if convicted of tax evasion, the court may impose jail time and fine them up to 200% of the tax evaded.”

Remember, taxpayers who have not filed returns for previous years, or who have not reported all of their income, can still voluntarily correct their tax affairs if the CRA has not contacted them first for the returns.  If applicable, the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) allows for filing / amended filing without penalty or prosecution provided the disclosure is full and complete.  These taxpayers may only have to pay the taxes owing, plus interest.

More information on the Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) can be found on the CRA’s website at www.cra.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures.

A link to the news release is below;

Proposals Not Just For Marriage

Most people are familiar with the concept of bankruptcy. Creditors are owed money, assets are liquidated and the liquidation proceeds are paid to creditors. The process is usually very difficult for the person filing bankruptcy as his/her assets may consist of a family home or a cottage, which possibly has been in the family for generations. The disruption can be devastating for the family and their children.

The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA), the federal statute that governs bankruptcy and restructuring in Canada, provides an option other than bankruptcy.

The BIA allows an insolvent person whose aggregate debts are less than $250,000 (not including mortgages on residential property) to file what is known as a “consumer proposal”. A consumer proposal is not the same as bankruptcy, even though they are both governed by the same laws.

A consumer proposal is a formal settlement between a debtor and his/her creditors of all unsecured debts for an agreed upon amount. The settlement does not have to be for the full amount of all debts but can be for a fraction of the total owed. The debtor makes one monthly payment to the administrator of the proposal, who in turn makes dividend payments to the creditors.

More specifically, a person who is unable to meet their monthly debt payments meets with a qualified professional, who administers consumer proposals, and they discuss the ability of the debtor to make monthly payments. Together, they review the monthly income and expense statement of the debtor, as well as his/her net worth, to determine how much the debtor is able to pay each month. Once a monthly amount is determined the administrator notifies the creditors and helps to finalize a settlement agreement between the debtor and the creditors. Fifty percent (in dollar value) of the creditors must vote to accept the proposal for it to become binding on all.

The main difference between a consumer proposal and a bankruptcy is that in the case of the proposal the debtor’s assets are not liquidated. The debtor receives the same protection from creditors and collectors but retains control of his/her assets. The two obvious benefits are that there is no loss of assets and no family disruption.

One might ask “Well why don’t I just call all my creditors and work out my own settlement?” This will not necessarily work because, for example, if you have five creditors and you are able to settle with only
three of them, the remaining two are not forced to settle. They can still pursue you for the amounts they are owed. In a consumer proposal, all creditors are dealt with together and receive the same payment plan. As consumer proposals are governed by federal law, any settlement is enforced by the courts and creditors are required to accept the settlement in full and final satisfaction of all debts. So the debtor gets to keep his/her assets, he makes monthly payments to satisfy all debts over time and the creditors receive payments, which are greater than what they would have received if the debtor had filed bankruptcy.

Consumer proposals comprise an increasingly large percentage of overall personal insolvency filings in Canada. For records ending November 30, 2010, 31% of all consumer insolvencies in Canada were
consumer proposals. This is up dramatically from ten years ago when the majority filed for bankruptcy, having had no knowledge of the alternative.

In today’s economic environment, it’s important that people know what options they have to deal with debt. Canada’s insolvency laws mean that today, “Proposals are not just for marriage anymore”.

 

Reference:
Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Insolvency Statistics in Canada – November 2010. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/bsf-osb.nsf/eng/br02528.html

TODD HOWELL
Todd Howell is a licensed Trustee in bankruptcy and has over 13 years of experience in the bankruptcy and insolvency field. Todd is also a certified Insolvency Counsellor and a member of the Canadian
Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals.

Connect with Todd at: 416.963.7198 or todd.howell@crowesoberman.com.
http://www.linkedin.com/in/toddhowell1

 

 

This article was originally published in Crowe Soberman’s quarterly business newsletter – Comments and is intended for clients of the firm. inTAXicating has been granted permission to repost this article solely for informative purposes. Should you require any assistance, we encourage you to contact the author(s) toll free at 1.877.929.2501, or in the GTA at 416.929.2500.

 

More articles can be found here; http://www.crowehorwath.net/SOBERMAN/services/advisory/Personal_Insolvency/Personal_Insolvency.aspx

 

CRA Tightening the ship and tightening their grip…

Income tax
Income tax (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

I’m sure you have heard that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)is tightening the ship and cracking down on tax evasion, tax shelters and finding new ways to collect more tax dollars.  Well you can thank the IRS for that.  With the IRS predicting that there are billions and billions of dollars of offshore tax revenue that they expect to bring in through FATCA it’s no wonder revenue agencies throughout the world are looking at better ways to collect tax revenues from their citizens here and abroad.

Riding the wave of FATCA, the CRA has been making public information on ways they can collect tax revenues and highlight some techniques they have been using as far back as when I worked in the CRA but may not have been so widely known to the general public.  The point is that if you know all the powers the CRA has, and know they are cracking down, then you can conclude pretty quickly that you will get caught doing whatever you may be doing that is illegal; not remitting or reporting GST/HST, accepting cash for work and not reporting it, paying an employee under the table, not declaring all your income or just not filing and hoping to stay under the radar.

The CRA’s Snitch line / Informant Leads line has been a fantastic resource for the CRA and has brought in more leads than they ever could have anticipated when creating this line.

So what is the CRA doing that you might not know about?

Data Mining

The CRA can, and have been data mining publicly available property tax information to confirm that sales or transfers of real property have been properly reported by taxpayers and they are using this information to identify taxpayers who are incorrectly reporting property sales at the preferential capital gains tax rate, or who have been flipping properties for quick gain and should be reporting them as sale of inventory, or they have been aggressively claiming properties as their principal residences and avoiding paying taxes altogether.

Tax slip matching

Advances in technology now allow the CRA to quickly determine whether a taxpayer has reported all income listed on all tax slips. Every entity, whether it as a corporation, trust, financial institution or employer is required to issue a tax information slip to all its income recipients. Typically, the area where the CRA reassesses a tax return is on unreported employment income and interest and dividends. The CRA also focuses on sales of marketable securities reported to them on the T5008 information slip. If you’ve mis-reported income multiple times, you are subject to penalties which in some cases are as high as 20% of the omitted amount. For low income earners, this can add up to more than the tax itself.

The Construction Industry

The CRA has always been concerned about construction workers not reporting all of their income which is why they piloted and maintain “Construction Teams” in the Tax Services Offices.  The new information reporting requirement on form T5018, provides the CRA the ability to ensure the proper amount of tax is being paid by construction workers and frequent audits ensure payments to workers and amounts they reported fall in line as well.

Tax shelters / Off-shore Accounts

What was once considered a safe haven where wealthy investors could put monies out of reach of their governments has now become a bone of contention as investors want to pay as little tax as possible, governments want as much tax as possible – especially from these high net-worth people and the general public want the wealthy to pay more taxes!  FATCA got the ball rolling and now the CRA has followed suit, seeking information of the investors before then taxing them back on their offshore accounts.

Tax shelters, while shielding investors from paying tax on current income, likely will have to pay taxes at some point in time down the road as the CRA tightens the regulations on these investment tools to ensure they are not tax evading schemes.

Illegal activity / Informant Leads (Snitch) Line

The CRA has its ears on the ground more than ever and the Canadian Border Services Agency (who used to be part of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) are locating and turning up illegal activity and the CRA is following up that criminal activity with assessments and re-assessments.  Combine that with the Informant Leads line and you can quickly conclude that to the CRA crime does not pay, but criminals should pay taxes too.

Charitable donations

The CRA’s reach extends to the charitable sector as well.  Both donors and registered charities are heavily scrutinized for potential fraud especially around those donating non-cash gifts.  The CRA is looking to ensure that the amount reported on the donation receipt (and the corresponding credit claimed by the donor) accurately corresponds to the value of the donated item, and that the value is as close to fair market value as possible.

The CRA has been using these techniques for years to ensure taxpayers are paying their fair share on all sources of income and are doing so without increasing the number of employees dramatically which means a few things;  First, it may be worthwhile to review your previous filings and – if errors are identified as a result of that review – take advantage of the voluntary disclosure program.  Second, in the voluntary tax system we have in Canada, the onus is on you, the taxpayer to prove to the CRA that you are operating in line with CRA regulations which means keeping great records, having professional help and keeping receipts.  Thirdly, if you are off-side with CRA regulations and want to know what may happen to you if you get caught, you should give us a call.

The Truth and Myths Around the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Program

There is quite a lot of information on the Internet around the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Taxpayer Relief Program (formerly known as fairness).  Understandably, there is also a lot of misinformation around this program.  After having spent almost 11 years working in the CRA – beginning as an entry-level collector and working my way up through the division to a team leader before taking my MBA and heading into the private sector –  I have learned quite a lot about how the Taxpayer Relief program actually works.Myth vs Reality

This post will identify the key objectives of the program straight from the CRA, and then highlights some common myths about the program and the actual fact about why it makes sense to invest considerable time and effort into an application, or engage the services of someone who knows the program inside and out.

The Taxpayer Relief program was set up to allow for the Minister of National Revenue to grant relief from penalty and/or interest when the following types of situations prevent a taxpayer (individual or corporation) from meeting their tax obligations:

  • extraordinary circumstances;
  • actions of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA);
  • inability to pay or financial hardship;
  • other circumstances

The program distinguishes between “cancelling” and “waiving” of penalties and/or interest as the CRA understands that granting relief to a taxpayer only to see them smothering in penalties and interest again is an exercise in futility.  The term “cancel” refers to a penalty or interest amount that is assessed or charged for which relief is granted, in whole or in part, by the CRA.  The term “waive” refers to a penalty or interest amount that is not yet assessed or charged for which relief is granted, in whole or in part, by the CRA.

The term “Taxpayer” includes individual, employer or payer, corporation, partnership, organization, trust, estate, goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) registrant or claimant.

Now you or your client has been charged penalties and / or interest and you want to know if you qualify.  Look no further than the CRA website, and their section on Taxpayer Relief, here.

Circumstances that may warrant relief include;

Extraordinary circumstances

Penalties or interest may be cancelled or waived in whole or in part when they result from circumstances beyond a taxpayer’s control.  Extraordinary circumstances that may have prevented a taxpayer from making a payment when due, filing a return on time, or otherwise complying with a tax obligation include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

  • natural or human-made disasters, such as a flood or fire;
  • civil disturbances or disruptions in services, such as a postal strike;
  • serious illness or accident; and
  • serious emotional or mental distress, such as death in the immediate family.

Actions of the CRA

The CRA may also cancel or waive penalties or interest when they result primarily from CRA actions, including:

  • processing delays that result in taxpayers not being informed, within a reasonable time, that an amount was owing;
  • errors in CRA material which led a taxpayer to file a return or make a payment based on incorrect information;
  • incorrect information provided to a taxpayer by the CRA (usually in writing);
  • errors in processing;
  • delays in providing information, resulting in taxpayers not being able to meet their tax obligations in a timely manner; and
  • undue delays in resolving an objection or an appeal, or in completing an audit.

Inability to pay or financial hardship

The CRA may, in circumstances where there is a confirmed inability to pay amounts owing, consider waiving or cancelling interest in whole or in part to enable taxpayers to pay their account. For example, this could occur when:

  • a collection has been suspended because of an inability to pay caused by the loss of employment and the taxpayer is experiencing financial hardship;
  • a taxpayer is unable to conclude a payment arrangement because the interest charges represent a significant portion of the payments; or
  • payment of the accumulated interest would cause a prolonged inability to provide basic necessities (financial hardship) such as food, medical help, transportation, or shelter; consideration may be given to cancelling all or part of the total accumulated interest.

Consideration would not generally be given to cancelling a penalty based on an inability to pay or financial hardship unless an extraordinary circumstance prevented compliance, or an exceptional situation existed. For example, when a business is experiencing extreme financial difficulty and enforcement of such penalties would jeopardize the continuity of its operations, the jobs of the employees, and the welfare of the community as a whole, consideration may be given to providing relief of the penalties.

Other circumstances

The CRA may also grant relief if a taxpayer’s circumstances do not fall within the situations described above.

The CRA expects these guidelines to be used when applying for relief and that the requests are made within the deadlines for requesting relief, which is limited to any period that ended within 10 years before the calendar year in which a request is submitted or an income tax return is filed.   The 10-year limitation period rolls forward every January 1st.

If filed using the correct form, with sufficient supporting documentation, a response from the Taxpayer Relief Program can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years due to the amount of requests.  In order to ensure that you are making the best claim possible, you really should engage the services of a professional, as they would be able to assess whether or not your request is sufficient, and they would ensure that you meet all the other conditions which must be in place for the CRA to review and consider your application.

At the end of the day, if you have a reasonable chance of being successful under this program, the investment made to have it written, reviewed or monitored by an expert is a worthwhile expenditure.

Now let’s have a look at some common myths around this program which are floating around the Internet.

Myths:

Myth: That the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief program is a one time program and that you had better take your best shot the time you decide to apply.

Reality: Not true,  This program is available to all Canadians who have been charged penalties and / or interest and as such, they have the right to ask for relief each and every time it is warranted.  The Taxpayer Relief Group do not maintain collection inventories and as such they review each case on the merit of its submission without any influence from the permanent collections diary or the collector assigned to the case.

Myth: That the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Program is used in order for the CRA and a taxpayer to negotiate a deal which would resolve the taxpayer’s debt issue by settling the debt and accepting less than the actual amount owed to them.

Reality: Never, ever, ever!  The CRA does NOT settle debts outside of bankruptcy or a proposal, and they certainly do not use the taxpayer relief program for this purpose.  As a matter of fact, I can speak of a first hand experience where a collector used the word “settle” in the permanent collection diary of a corporation which had paid a principle tax debt of $650,000, because they wanted to fight the $775,000 in penalties and interest through Taxpayer Relief.  The CRA sent back the $650,000 and re-opened negotiation with the corporation because they did not want to set the precedent of settling tax debts through the Taxpayer Relief Program.

Myth: I cannot afford to pay my taxes, so I am not going to file my tax return, and then when I have a debt, I can ask for relief because I had no money?

Reality:  Failure to file a tax return is a criminal offence which can result in prosecution, so you should always file, and be clear to the CRA upfront that money is tight.  But before an application is made to the Taxpayer Relief Program, all outstanding returns must be filed up to date, and all instalments must be accounted for.  Otherwise, the application is set aside until everything is current.

Myth:  Having a disability or illness from birth qualifies me for Taxpayer Relief.

Reality: Probably not.  If you have managed to conduct your affairs for a period of time without any tax issues, but then something happens which cases the accumulation of penalties and interest, you cannot use your disability or illness when applying for relief, unless something happened during the period in which the penalties and / or interest were applied as a result of a worsening of your disability / illness.  In that case, you would need to substantiate this with supporting letters from your doctors and specialists.  

Myth:  I met with someone who is going to write a letter to the CRA asking for relief and they have sent me the letter to review.  If I sign it, and they send it off, am I now being considered for relief?

Answer:  Not any more.   Years ago, taxpayers were able to send in letters to the fairness department which contained their reasons for asking for relief and some would include supporting documentation, while others would not.  However, since the CRA revamped the Taxpayer Relief Program, they require that the form RC4288 be included in the package or the claim will be rejected.

Myth:  I need to be pre-qualified for the CRA Taxpayer Relief Program.

Reality: No.  You can determine if you may qualify, or you can seek a professional to help you determine if you have grounds for relief, but there is no pre-qualification of this program.

Myth: If my claim is rejected, then I have to pay the penalties and interest.

Reality:  You should make arrangements to pay the penalties and interest in any case in order to stop the interest clock from ticking should the claim be denied – wherever possible, however, the Taxpayer Relief Program allows for a second-level review to be performed (usually with additional information provided) and there is an option for judicial review should the second level review be unfavourable.

 

So take some time to look around when you are considering an application under the Taxpayer Relief Program and make sure that if you engage someone you do so for the right reasons.