How To Avoid The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Phone Scam

As a former Canada Revenue Agency Business Collections employee – almost 11-years – from collector to Resource Officer and Manager, I understand the fear people have when they receive calls from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

I also understand how scary it is when someone calls you, or leaves a recorded message for you, claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and demanding payment with threats of jail or immediate legal actions. I’ve been called as have many of my clients.

With a little knowledge and understanding of the CRA and the people who work there, I am going to list 10 signs that every Canadian needs to be made aware of in order to not be caught up in this scheme.

10 Facts Every Canadian NEEDS to Know About the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

 

10. Yelling and Screaming are NOT permitted, nor tolerated.

Regardless of what you have heard or experienced, the people who work in the Canada Revenue Agency are everyday people like you and I. If we yelled and screamed at our “client base” we would be disciplined or fired. They are no different.

9. Threats are NOT allowed.

The staff at the CRA will not threaten you with jail time, to send in the Sheriff, have you deported or to take every penny that you have.  Even is the call is not a scam you do not have to tolerate any threats from anyone at the CRA.

If you have been evading the paying of taxes, you already know that you could be charged and that jail time is possible. Any other type of collection action usually comes with pre-warning by a letter, Notice of Assessment or is started once you file / pay your taxes.

The CRA will not seize your principal residence!  Your cottage, rental properties, maybe, but house you and your kids live in… No.

8.  The Element of Surprise

If the call catches you by surprise, AND the person on the end of the phone is screaming at you, threatening to take your

7. Ask Questions.

In the instance you get a live person on the phone and they are trying to give you a hard time and force you to pay money, turn the conversation back to them and ask lots of questions. Ask them what the account number / social insurance number is, what periods or years the debt relates to (the debt they want you to pay). Ask them for a break-down of the total tax owing and the amount of penalties and interest – either the total amount or broken down by period or year. (They have this at their finger tips). Ask them what Tax Office they are calling from, and what the address and phone number is at that office. Ask them to send you a remittance voucher so that you can make that payment at the bank.

6. Defer

Tell them that while you would love to speak to them, you have an accountant who handles all your tax information and you would like to take down their information so your representative can call them back.

5. Do NOT Agree to Pay anything over the phone!

This rule applies not only to the CRA but to anyone else who ever calls your home / phone asking for money. Never, ever make a payment over the phone with your credit card.

4. Receipt Please!

If you are self-employed, you understand the importance of getting and keeping receipts.  Why would you buy a pre-paid gift card or charge card to send to some stranger who is not going to give you a receipt for payment?

You wouldn’t.

The CRA has recently allowed payment of some taxes by credit / debit card.  They will likely NEVER accept payment via gift cards, etc.

3. If you get such a call, hang up and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can be found online at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or toll free at 1-888-495-8501.

If you believe you may be the victim of fraud or have given personal or financial information unwittingly, contact your local police service.

2.  Confirm, Confirm, Confirm.

If you want to confirm the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, call the CRA by using the numbers on its Telephone numbers page. The number for business-related calls is 1-800-959-5525. The number for calls about individual concerns is 1-800-959-8281

1.  The CRA NEVER…

Requests prepaid credit cards;

Asks for information about your passport, health card, or driver’s licence;

Leaves personal information on your answering machine!

Asks you to leave a message containing your personal information on an answering machine.

Emails seeking information or asking for payment.

 

 

So when in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:

Is there a reason that the CRA may be calling?

Do I have a tax balance outstanding?

Is the requester asking for information I would not include with my tax return?

Is the requester asking for information I know the CRA already has on file for me?

Are they too mean / demanding / aggressive?

 

It’s always better to defer the conversation than make the mistake of giving information or money to criminals.

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Are There Really “Red Flags” At the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Are there “Red Flags” at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

How not to get noticed for the wrong things, this Tax Season.

One of the most commonly asked questions of me is about being “flagged” by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and how to avoid getting flagged, or, what gets your flagged.

I hate to break everyone’s bubble, however, there are no red flags!

For the majority of Canadians who file their taxes year-in, year-out, and who make remittances, make their payments, open businesses, close businesses, make money, lose money, and everything in between, your tax account is just a record of transactions, conversations and payments received and made.  Even for those Canadians who should be doing the above and don’t or who fall behind and catch-up on one mass filing, their accounts have a bit more information due to CRA research, however, No flags.

For those engaged in criminal behaviour, however, there are no “flags”, because you are being investigated criminally and whether you know it or not, the CRA knows you and is watching your activities and comparing that to what you file.  Your tax account is known because it is being actively worked by someone.  There are words or phrases placed in your permanent diary which tell anyone who reviews your account what you are up to, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve been red flagged.

So why do people talk about flags?

They’re actually talking about stuations like some described below which catch the attention of the screeners on a case-by-case basis, and could result in them being audited outside of their normal audit review period.

1) When you get your tax returns completed and filed for the year, and there are issues, possibly mistakes, which the CRA catches and in anticipation of getting the solution, have a hard time getting a hold of you.

2) You are suddenly self-employed and you are not sure what to claim, or how much you are entitled to, or you claim things or amounts different from your industry standard.   The CRA compiles industry profiles which they use to assign you a “SIC Code” and they compare your returns with the Industry Standard to ensure you fall in line.

3) The dreaded “Net Worth Assessment”.  If you appear to the CRA to be unable to afford the lifestyle that you are currently living in, then the CRA can, and will, issue a Net Worth Assessment and force you to prove that you are not hiding income.  Yes, this can be a challenge, especially in light of the assessments being done from tax centres outside of the Greater Toronto Area who cannot fathom a million dollar house and a $75,000 income.  They don’t take too kindly to the concept of being being helped by family or personal wealth.  Just be warned that a tax return showing $1.00 of income for the year and an address in a wealthy neighbourhood is cause for further questioning.

4) Big changes from year-to-year.  If there are major changes in your income or expenses whether personal or business-related, are going to draw the attention of the CRA.  The CRA wants to make sure that you have not made a mistake, or worse, that you have bought into a tax scheme.  Expect questions, so get proof ready!

There are some tax situations that are just automatically looked at closer – each the year the CRA with the help of the Department of Finance choose a sector of industry to look at in closer depth usually because something has been detected in previous years or because there is a lot of cash floating around these business, such as construction, or dentists, doctors, IT consultants…

Home office deductions for example are frequently looked into as this is often a common problem for taxpayers claiming the home office in order to use deductions without actually utilizing their home as their office.

Even if you honestly never ever use your company vehicle for personal use, it will take some hard doing to prove to the CRA that this is true. Just driving back and forth to work in the business vehicle is classed as personal use. Your best protection here is to keep very detailed records concerning the business vehicles.

6) Renting for income:  Do not assume that rental losses are going to be accepted at face value by the CRA.  While the CRA will give you some grace time to start generating a profit from your rental business, it will still be watched with a close eye based on your industry, location and address(es).

7) Who prepares your return matters!

The CRA is starting to follow the IRS and taking a long hard look at tax accountants and tax preparers to see if there is a pattern among certain firms / indivuduals who either claim deductions they are not allowed to claim on your behalf, or who are missing certain expenses or deductions.  The CRA’s hope here is to weed out the bad apples, and educate the current crop to ensure they take advantage of the deductions and tax credits available to each client.

Should be a valuable change to the Canadian tax filing scheme.

But at the end of the day, doing it right, and on time, is the best way to stay out of the CRA’s bad books.

If, however, you have any questions, concerns or comments, please feel free to reach out to me at any time, at worlans@intaxicating.ca.

 

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