Lack of tax knowledge could be costing Quebecers: C.D. Howe Institute reports

I came across this article from the Montreal Gazette;

I strongly recommend that you take the time to read it.  It is brief, but very informative as it tells the story that I have been trying to tell for the past 20-plus years!  There is that there is a significant percentage of, not just Quebecers, but Canadians who leaving money on the table because they don’t understand the tax system, according to a report released by the C.D. Howe Institute last week.

The report — which bases many of its conclusions on a survey of 1,000 Quebecers — suggests that lack of knowledge is one of the reasons many people don’t take advantage of credits and savings vehicles, like RRSPs, which could reduce their tax burden.

“People might be missing out on benefits that they’re entitled to,” said Antoine Genest-Grégoire, a tax policy researcher at the Université de Sherbrooke and one of the authors of the report.

“It can take various forms, people can simply not know about the existence of the credit … sometimes, they know it exists but they don’t know how to use it or they find it too complicated.”

Survey participants were asked a series of questions about how the tax system works and the average score was just 55%.

It wasn’t just tax credits that left participants stumped. Respondents scored poorly on questions about progressivity — the idea that people with higher incomes pay a higher tax rate, a core principle of the Canadian income tax system.

While almost 90% of respondents knew that income tax rates differ based on how much people make, many struggled with the concept of bracketing — when different segments of an individual’s income are taxed at different rates.

“We hear a lot of people thinking that once you reach the top income brackets, you essentially pay close to 50% of your income in taxes,” Genest-Grégoire says, when in reality, it’s only the income above the cut-off for the highest tax bracket that’s taxed at the highest tax rate.

Only 26% of survey respondents were able to answer a question about that correctly.

While survey respondents generally had a good sense of whether they pay sales tax on everyday purchases, like groceries, prepared food and clothing, there were some exceptions.

For example, Quebec provincial sales tax doesn’t apply to books, a decision made to encourage literacy and support book publishers in the province. Only 21% of survey respondents knew that.

The result, Genest-Grégoire said, is that the public policy objectives of the tax exemption are unlikely to be realized.

The lack of tax literacy doesn’t just affect individuals pocketbooks, Genest-Grégoire said.
“People who don’t understand taxes tend to have lower trust in the tax system.  The Canadian tax system, even though you’re obligated by law to produce a tax return, works on trust.  The government doesn’t audit everyone,” he said. This lack of trust “makes tax avoidance, tax evasion more probable.”

Genest-Grégoire said the provincial and federal revenue agencies have taken steps to put more information online, but the system itself remains complex. One solution would be to make benefits that are currently provided through the tax system more accessible and for government to automatically enrol people, as is already the case with many benefits for children.

Warren Orlans, a former CRA Collections Employee turned Taxpayer Advocate has been saying for over a decade that the CRA needs to continue putting out information on the Internet, however it needs to be available in many different formats in order to be most effectively accessed by Canadians everywhere.  “Not everyone learns the same way, so having a concept explained in text, showing steps, and possibly with an example and even with little videos would expose the greatest number of Canadians to the message at once.”

“Every day, I deal with Canadian taxpayers and corporations of all sizes as they try to understand and interpret the CRA.  My 11-year’s experience at the CRA and 10-years outside the CRA have afforded me the ability to diagnose and resolve even the most complex of tax matters”, Orlans said.

If you need help understanding the CRA, or interpreting their letters or actions, contact the best, at inTAXicating – a member of Goldhar TAX Solutions.  http://www.goldhartaxsolutions.ca.  Email: tax@goldhar.ca.  Or call us at 647.812.0181, or Toll Free at 1.877.TAX.AID1.

Toronto-based, Canada-wide tax experts.

 

Happy Canada Day! Don’t Forget About Taxation!

Happy Canada Day, Canada.  You don’t look a day over 150-years-old!

Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

There are so many things to be thankful of this Canada Day, beginning with Tim Horton’s and hockey and ending with socialized medicine and peace.  But in between there is a whole lot of taxation.  Taxes you pay which go to build new arenas, which pay for medicine, which support the troops who keep us safe, and fund programs which integrates youth of all backgrounds, races, religions and income levels together in order to keep violence as low as possible.

These are the taxes we cannot avoid paying – unless we stop spending – and they are the consumption taxes (GST/HST), gas tax, liquor tax, and many more, and there are taxes on wealth, like personal income tax, as well as Corporate taxes.  There are also payroll taxes and any other fee, levy or revenue tool (all taxes but given a different name).

For the most part, these taxes are unavoidable, and as Canadians we pay them knowing that money goes back into the economy and helps people.

What I do not understand, however, is why people pay more taxes than they are required to pay, or can afford to pay, and these taxes are viewed by people in the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as a “stupid” or “lazy” tax and what they are referring to are penalties and interest.

It is my belief that no one should pay any penalties or interest.  Ever.  Why give the CRA more money than they are seeking through the Income Tax Act or the Excise Tax Act.

If you work with an accountant or tax preparer, there should be no reason for late filings or late remittances, or for missing out on key deductions because that representative should know you, and the industry you work in, and be able to keep you current and free of penalties and interest.

But there are many legitimate reasons why people file late, and incur penalties and watch interest accrue on their tax accounts, and these people are then hammered by the CRA and need help, which is why I created inTAXicating.  My goal here is to help you get out of the troubles that you have gotten into and by help, I mean rehabilitate you and get you current on your filings, help you reduce your balance owing, apply for taxpayer relief (fairness) if it applies to you, and get you on a remitting and reporting schedule which ensures you are never late again.

Too many firms out there have watered down the “Tax Solution” process to the point where you pay them a ton of money, they “fix” your issue and then another one pops up, all because they are experts in taking money and not experts in resolving CRA debt issues.

The best part about working with inTAXicating is having the expertise where you need it.  If your problem is with collections or enforcement then you need the person who worked in that area, and trained and managed the collectors and who can tell you the CRA’s next move before they can.

Being audited?  Recently assessed?  Don’t understand a letter?  Balance looks too high?

There is no tax situation too scary, or too difficult to figure out.  Business taxes, personal taxes, GST/HST, payroll, T2’s, provincial, federal, liens, RTP’s, appeals, VDP… We’ve seen it all, handled it all, and have been successful with it all.

Just because it’s July 1st and summertime doesn’t mean the CRA stops working too.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  With more time on their hands, the CRA’s collections staff have the time to thoroughly research tax files which have balances on them to see what they can do to ge the account paid in full.

My experience working in the CRA for almost 11-years, tells me that the majority of in depth investigations occurs during the summer months.

Make summertime the best time to resolve that nagging tax problem.

If you have a tax problem, we have a tax solution.

inTAXicating is a part of Goldhar Tax Solutions, and you can find us at http://www.goldhartaxsolutions.ca

You can also find us on twitter @GoldharTAX, or call us at 647.812.0181, or Toll Free @ 1.877.TAX.AID1 (1.877.829.2431)

Or email us: Tax@Goldhar.ca

 

What are you waiting for?

Proposed Changes to CRA VDP Should Go Further – Union.

The changes proposed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to the Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) have been described as an improvement, but no where close to what is needed to reduce tax evasion, according to The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) – one of Canada’s largest labour organizations.

VDP, as we all know, gives Canadian taxpayers who made mistakes or hid income on their taxes the opportunity to voluntarily come forward to the CRA and declare or correct the mistakes without fear of prosecution, and gross negligence penalties.

Some, however, feel the VDP has been overly generous in cases such as the deal offered to clients of the KPMG Isle of Man tax scheme.  The same people also believe that the CRA’s VDP has failed to differentiate between those who simply made errors in their tax return and “wealthy individuals” who wilfully evaded taxes using offshore tax havens.

While it can be very difficult to distinguish between someone who willfully evades taxes from someone who tried to but got caught, it is quite clear regarding the use of tax havens because either you report your offshore income (legal) or you don’t (illegal).

The union strongly believes that those caught “using a tax haven should be treated more severely than innocent mistakes.”

The Minister suggested that releasing the names of the participants and their advisors should be required although the CRA has always kept track of both scenarios once the disclosure has been approved.  Where a taxpayer received assistance from an advisor in respect of a VDP application, the name of that advisor should generally be included in the application.

The union expressed concern that the proposed changes fail to restrict access to voluntary disclosure in cases where leaks about tax havens are likely to provide the government with lists of Canadian account holders.  They feel that at that point, “it should be too late for wealthy individuals to take advantage of the VDP if they are already likely to be exposed.”

While I do agree the government should look at how they treat those who have not filed differently than those who store money offshore in hopes of evading the paying of taxes, I do not agree that in each and every case it is the “rich” or “wealthy” who are doing it.

In fact, I have encountered many Canadians of all races, religions and levels of income who have stuffed away money overseas and they range from being super-wealthy, to single parents on OAS or pension income who can barely make their rent.  It’s not just a “wealthy” issue.

Sure, it doesn’t read as well if its not an attack on the “rich” and yes, there are some who have complained that nowadays it is the unionized worker who is the “rich” in Canada, which is why I prefer to not paint everyone with the same brush, and group by filers and non-filers.

Under the program, any use of a tax haven scheme should mean less relief than for other forms of non-compliance, which makes a lot of sense.

For the union, they believe that; “the majority of Canadians feel that there are two tax systems, one for the rich and one for the rest of us.  It is very important for the government to get this right.”

NUPGE: Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good.

Link to original article:

https://www.nupge.ca/content/proposed-changes-canada-revenue-agency%E2%80%99s-voluntary-disclosures-program-should-go-further

 

 

Common GST / HST Questions asked this past week

Below are some common GST/HST questions ask by readers of this blog through either email, Facebook comments, Tweets, or search queries.  I wanted to share the question, and provide the answer to save readers some time.

Q: Can you charge HST without an HST number?

A: No.

Q: Collecting GST when not registered?

A: Don’t.

Q: When do I have to start charging GST?

A: When you register or when you earn more than $30.000.00, or $2500 in HST.

Q: Do I have to charge HST under $30 000?

A: Yes, if you’re registered.

Q: Can you charge HST without a HST number?

A: No.

Q: What is the GST $30000 threshold?

A: It is the threshold that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) states determines when you must register for the GST/HST.  Under $30,000 in taxable sales, registration for GST/HST is voluntary.  Once you hit $30,001, then it is required.

Q: Do I charge HST if I make less than 30000?

A: Earn, not make, and you don’t have to, but I strongly recommend it.

Q: What are the CRA invoice requirements?

Better worded as what are the invoice requirements if I am registered for the GST / HST?

A: To have your GST / HST number clearly displayed on the bottom of your invoices so people who pay you GST / HST know you are actually registered.

Q: How does GST or HST work?

A: Basically, if you sell or provide goods and services in Canada, you must charge customers the Goods and Services Tax (GST) or the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) unless your business qualifies as an exception.

If your Canadian business fits one of the exceptions, it won’t have to charge, collect and remit GST/HST.
The two possible exceptions are:
1. You sell or provide a good or service that the CRA has classified at being “zero-rated” or “exempt”
2. You are a small supplier

Zero-rated goods and services, such as exports, medical devices or basic groceries, are charged 0% HST. Exempt goods and services, such as golf or music lessons, child care, etc., are exempted from GST/HST, so they are not subjected to the tax.

A small supplier is one who has total taxable revenues before expenses from all your businesses of less than $30,000 or less in the last four consecutive calendar quarters and in any single calendar quarter.

Q: Any industries or professions have to apply for GST / HST right away?

A: Yes. Taxi and limousine operators and non-resident performers have to charge GST/HST even if they are small suppliers.

Q: Do I want to register for GST / HST even though I’m considered a small supplier?

A: Yes

Q: How do I register for GST/HST?
CRA makes registration easy for Canadian’s. You can register by phone (call the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-5525), online, by mail or even in person at a tax office.
(Note that if your business is in Quebec, you need to contact Revenu Quebec instead at 1-800-567-4692 as they deal with GST/HST in that province.)

If your small business starts out as a small supplier and you make more than the small supplier limit ($30,000) you’ll want to register for GST/HST right away; in the eyes of the Canada Revenue Agency, you are now a GST registrant and you:
1) have to collect GST/HST on the supply that made your revenue go over $30,000;

2) have to register within 29 days of the day that you made the supply that made your revenue go over $30,000.

What causes problems for small businesses is they don’t realize they’ve gone over the limit until some time later when they’re doing the books and then discover they didn’t charge the GST/HST when they should have.  Small suppliers must watch their revenue carefully.

Q: What is a BN?

A: When you register, your business will be assigned a business number (BN); this is the number that you and the CRA will use to identify your business. (You’ll be using it on all your invoices, in your accounting system, and in all your tax-related correspondence with the CRA.)

Q: Do I need to charge the GST/HST?

(Answers the question whether or not you need to charge GST/HST on your sales of goods or services.)

A: Sales of zero-rated or exempt goods and the small supplier exception are discussed later.

Q: Shipping Out of Province: Should You Charge GST/HST?

A: Yes.  Depends on the province you are shipping to.  They pay the applicable rate in their province.

Q: What’s the difference between zero-rated and exempt goods and services?

A: These are two special classes of goods and services that the customer does not pay GST/HST on but in the case of zero-rated goods you, the provider of goods or services, can still claim input tax credits.

Hope this helps!

If anyone has any questions, concerns or comments about the GST/HST and need additional assistance, please contact us at tax@goldhar.ca.

 

 

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.

Voluntary Disclosure Program Screening

I received an interesting call late Friday afternoon from a Canadian taxpayer who wanted to know more about the Canada Revenue Agency’s Voluntary Disclosure Program.

She said that she thought she was being “swindled”.

She called a “tax solution” type business and they said that for $3,000.00, they would “investigate” as to whether or not she qualified for the program.

To which I asked her this question;

“Has the CRA tried to get you to file outstanding returns, either by phone or by sending letters to you?”

“Yes”, she replied.

“Then you do NOT qualify for the program” was my response.

And I saved her $3000.00.

If the CRA has already reach out to you – or attempted to reach out to you – regarding unfiled returns or unreported income, then your disclosure is no longer voluntary.

For more information, read up on the CRA’s Voluntary Disclosure Program, through the CRA’s website, here.    Or Google “CRA VDP” and refer to the websites beginning with http://www.cra.gc.ca, or http://www.CRA-arc.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures

 

July 9, 2016: The Canada Revenue Agency Revokes the Registration of the ACTLAP Children’s Foundation (A.C.F.)

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has posted on their website that they will revoke the registration of ACTLAP Children’s Foundation (A.C.F.), a charity based in North York, Ontario, effective July 9, 2016. The notice of revocation has been published in the Canada Gazette.

On May 3, 2016 the CRA issued a notice of intention to revoke the registration of the ACTLAP Children’s Foundation (A.C.F.) as a charity, in accordance with subsection 168(1) of the Income Tax Act (The Act). The letter stated, in part, that:
“The audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has revealed that the Organization operated primarily for the non-charitable purpose of furthering a tax shelter donation arrangement, the Pharma Gifts International Inc. program. The Organization agreed to accept alleged gifts of property from participants and to act as a receipting agent for this donation arrangement. For the period of June 16, 2012 to June 15, 2014, the Organization improperly issued receipts totalling over $64 million for purported donations of cash and pharmaceuticals, which were not legitimate gifts. Of the $1,724,814 in cash contributions it received, the Organization paid $1,289,385 to the promoters of the tax shelter. Of the $62,315,818 million [sic] worth of tax receipts issued for the gifts of pharmaceuticals, the CRA determined that the Organization significantly over-reported the value of the alleged property, resulting in grossly inflated tax receipts to participants.

The audit has shown that the Organization has failed to comply with several requirements set out in the Act. In particular, the Organization issued donation receipts for transactions that did not qualify as gifts, issued receipts otherwise than in accordance with the Act and its Regulations, did not devote all its resources to charitable activities and failed to maintain proper books and records. For all of these reasons, and for each reason alone, it is the position of the CRA that the Organization no longer meets the requirements necessary for charitable registration and should be revoked in the manner described in subsection 168(1) of the Act.”

Registered charities perform valuable work in our communities, and Canadians support this work in many ways. The CRA regulates these organizations through the Act and is committed to ensuring that they operate in compliance with the law. When a registered charity is found not to comply with its legal obligations, the CRA may revoke its registration under the Act.

Registered charities receive generous tax incentives under the Act including the ability to issue official donation receipts. To maintain this privilege, charities must continue to meet all the requirements of the Act.

The CRA is committed to preserving the integrity of Canada’s tax system.

The CRA audits every gifting tax shelter that offers official donation receipts in excess of the value of any property donated.

The CRA has also repeatedly warned Canadians of the consequences of participating in abusive tax shelters that it holds to be non-compliant with the Act.

There is a substantial amount of information on the CRA’s website and the CRA has published information, including warnings about tax shelters and donating wisely, in a variety of newspapers, magazines and various other media sources.

For more information, go to Tax shelters and Donor Beware, a special report from the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman.
An organization that has had its registration as a charity revoked can no longer issue donation receipts for income tax purposes and is no longer a qualified donee under the Act. The organization is no longer exempt from income tax, unless it qualifies as a non-profit organization, and it may be subject to a tax equal to the full value of its remaining assets.

For more information about the registration of Canadian charities or to find out more about a registered charity, go to the CRA’s Charities and Giving webpage.

Quick Facts on charities:

• As of March 31, 2016, there were 86,191 registered charities across Canada.
• Canada’s approximately 86,000 registered charities issued receipts worth more than $15.7 billion in 2014.
• In the 2015-16 fiscal year (April 1 to March 31), the CRA’s Charities Directorate completed 726 audits of registered charities chosen using a variety of methods – including random selection, follow-up on possible non-compliance or complaints, and based on a review of annual information returns. During that same period, 20 charities had their registered status revoked by the CRA as a result of an audit.
• As of March 31st, 2015, the CRA reassessed more than 195,000 taxpayer returns, denying in excess of $6.6 billion in donation claims mostly due to tax shelter gifting arrangements.
• A copy of the Notice of Intention to Revoke and other letters relating to the grounds for revocation are available to the public on request, in the language in which they were originally written, by going to Request for registered charity information.

Related Products

Canada Revenue Charities Listings: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html
Charities Media Kit: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/md-kt/menu-eng.html

Stay connected

To receive updates when new information is added to the CRA website, you can:
• Follow the CRA on Twitter – @CanRevAgency.
• Subscribe to a CRA electronic mailing list.
• Add the CRA’s RSS feeds to your feed reader.
• You can also watch the CRA’s tax-related videos on YouTube.

In a nutshell, this charity received $1,724,814 in cash contributions.
It paid $1,289,385 of that money to the promoters of the tax shelter who were bringing in the people to donate.
This charity issued donation receipts totalling $62,315,818 million dollars.
It failed to keep adequate books and records.
It failed to devote 100% of its efforts to charitable work.

As a result, any of the taxpayers who have filed their tax returns claiming any of the donation deductions from this charity should hope that the CRA offers them a deal to accept the money donated on a dollar for dollar basis, or they should use the Voluntary Disclosure Program to amend their returns! (Just not the current year return).

Note: Please use common sense when making a donation! If you make a $100 donation and receive a donation receipt for anything more than that amount understand that the CRA will deny it… eventually.