“New” CRA Powers are Not so New after all! Unless…

Recent radio advertising and newspaper or online articles would have you believe that the CRA has been ramping up staff in order to break down your door in the middle of the night and arrest you for tax fraud.

Deep down inside you knew that you should have opened a BN number and GST/HST account for your child\s lemonade stand because even though they were significantly under the $30,000 sales threshold, if registered, you could have claimed the Input Tax Credits – but you didn’t and the CRA wants their money!

You also know that if you had a question, the CRA call centre were going to mislead you, or lie to you so that you would be forced to pay even more money.

You also know that you might need help for a tax accountant, tax lawyer, tax broker, tax solutions firm, or tax audit specialist… but you cannot choose because the different names must mean they do different things and you don’t know which category you fall into, and … the CRA are so coming to get you… now!

(Is that rustling in the bushes in front of my house?)

spyingWell all of these new powers and the threats that they are going to break-down your door and arrest you on the spot are not really true.

You only have to fear the CRA breaking down your door (really the RCMP, but I’m sure the CRA would be there somewhere along the way) if you have done something wrong.  Very wrong.  Criminally wrong.

You should be concerned if the CRA knows you’ve done something criminally wrong, or have been involved in terrorist financing or activity because they’ll pass that along to the police.

The Canada Revenue Agency gained the little-noticed new authority, which does not require a judicial warrant, through an amendment tucked into the government’s most recent budget bill.

Previously, confidentiality provisions in the law prevented the CRA from handing information about suspected wrongdoing, on its own initiative, to law enforcement.

The exception was information that pointed to tax-related crimes.

The new provisions apply to offences including breaking and entering, vehicle theft, arson, corruption and kidnapping and in return, the CRA can now receive information from local authorities about any offence with a minimum prison term, or one with a maximum sentence of 14 years.

The list of offences is broad and is a significant shift in confidentiality policy allowing the CRA to pass along information to law authorities without a court-ordered warrant, even when the alleged crime(s) have nothing to do with taxes.

Interim procedures for administering the new powers were issued to all CRA employees in June 2016 not too long after the legislation received royal assent.

The intended use of this new tool, is that an exchange should occur when an employee gathers information in the course of their regular duties.

This information exchange was intended to be one-way and would be closely controlled through a set of strict criteria.

As an aside, it would have been nice to know who might be carrying on criminal activity, when I was working at the CRA and went to visit a business to determine why they stopped filing GST returns, only to learn that they were conducting illegal activities and was physically threatened before getting the heck out of there.

The following day the RCMP showed up, cleaned out the place and arrested the operators.

I never did get my outstanding GST returns, however, which could have been prosecuted as a criminal offense (but was not).

All potential referrals to police will be vetted by the agency’s criminal investigations personnel and must be approved by the assistant commissioner of the department’s compliance programs branch, CRA has reported.

The key points to remember are this;

  1. If you happen to have partaken in a criminal activity, you might not want to disclose that to the CRA collector.
  2. Make sure to stay compliant!  File up to date and don’t give the CRA reasons for looking for stuff.
  3. Take all of the tax-related advertising with a grain of salt.  Their intention is to scare you and force you to drop a ton of cash at their business.  Instead, I recommend you do your research, ask questions and get the solution that fits your tax problem.
  4. If you’re not sure… Ask.  Then use your judgement.

 

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

June 9, 2017 is Tax Freedom Day!

What is Tax Freedom Day?

Does it really exist?

What might it mean to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We Help: GST/HST, Deemed Trust, s.160 Assessment and T2’s

A couple of months ago, I received a call from a senior law partner at one of Toronto’s top law firms asking me if I could help out a client of theirs with a messy tax problem because their firm was just too expensive for the couple.

I was told there was a balance owing to the CRA for GST/HST, and that the firm was essentially bankrupt, they feel they don’t owe the money and the CRA was threatening to raise a Deemed Trust followed by a s.160 assessment.

All over $30,000 owing to the CRA.

Sounds simple enough…

Confirm the amounts, then figure out if the balance is actually owing, tie up loose ends then make arrangements between the client and the CRA to resolve both matters.

I connected with the couple, got their side of the story, then met their wonderful accountant and got her side of the story.  I took all of that information, and had a nice long chat with the Collector at the CRA.

Here is the CRA’s side;

The couple owned a business, which accumulated debt through the filing of GST/HST but never paying it.  They also failed to file T2 returns.

The company had at one point in time sought financing and ended up pledging their inventory in return.  When the business began to slow down, the lender took the assets, and sold them to pay back the money they had lent to the business.

There was a shortfall.

The CRA did not like this at all.

With money owing to the CRA, they used their Deemed Trust provision and raised a s.160 non-arms length assessment against the lender for taking the inventory and disposing of it without paying the CRA.

The CRA were just waiting for the corporations director to file for bankruptcy before they actioned the s.160 because that would survive the bankruptcy and would result in the CRA getting paid on all fronts.

But logic sold me that a business which was struggling would not have significant amounts of GST/HST owing in its final years.

Something did not seem right.

I called back the CRA Collections office who, quite frankly, was extremely unhappy about having to answer additional questions about the origin of the debts… Again.

I had asked her to go through the last 3-years worth of filed GST/HST returns and give me verbal figures for Total Sales, GST Collected, and Input Tax Credits.

She started.  The first year was fine.

The second year was fine.

The third year, she started, “Total Sales were $25,000”, “GST Collected was $1,500” and ITC’s were …

… she paused…

“No ITC’s, eh?” was my response.

“No.  No ITC’s”, she said, completely puzzled.

“So I don’t expect there to be any ITC’s on any of the returns going forward, is that accurate?” I asked.

“No ITC’s on any of the returns going forward… That’s so unusual”, was her response.

We re-filed the last 6 GST/HST returns to include the ITC’s.  They went through a desk audit quickly because of the notes indicating someone missed ITC’s, and upon posting knocked down the balance owing considerably.

The s.160 assessment was cancelled and the remaining, much smaller balance was paid in full.

I introduced them to one of the fantastic accountants in my network who quickly completed the T2’s for them.

Everyone left happy.

That’s how we help!  Knowing the ins and outs of the CRA’s collections department and even think that something might have posted incorrectly, 4-years ago.

inTAXicating by Goldhar!

 

 

Your Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Tax Collections Questions Answered

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked CRA Tax collections questions from the past weekend:IMG_7817

  1. Can you bribe a CRA officer in Canada?

Answer: NO.

First off, bribing a CRA officer is a criminal offense and you could quickly wind up with the RCMP at your door, or under investigation, but more realistically, the staff at the CRA tend to be lifelong civil servants and one of the great benefits of working in the civil service is the great pension.  Few civil servants are willing to even entertain the thought of giving up their pensions, let alone going to jail for someone when they have hundreds of other people to collect from.

2.   Is there GST/HST on a lien?

Answer: Let’s presume that the question is asking if there is additional GST / HST on a lien, and the lien has been registered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  In that scenario, the answer is no.

The CRA would register a lien for unpaid or unfiled (and assessed) GST / HST, and the amount used for the lien is the amount owing on the day it has been registered in Federal Court.  This fact is important because from that day forth, interest continues to accrue and accumulate on the tax account with the CRA, but the lien only reflects the amount owing at a point in time.

Often, a lien will get paid out and then the CRA’s computer system kicks out an update Notice of Assessment with an additional balance owing  and taxpayers are puzzled having just paid off a lien.

They did pay the lien.

Now they pay the rest of the balance owing.

3.   Where can I get the truth about Voluntary Disclosure?

Answer: From the CRA website, of course.  The link to the VDP section of their site is here;  http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures/

4.   Can I claim mileage drive to and from work at the CRA?

Answer: I hope you enjoy your career at the CRA and are not an auditor, because you should know this answer!  You cannot claim mileage driving to and from work.

From the CRA website; http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/229/slry/mtrvhcl-eng.html

“If you use a motor vehicle for both employment and personal use, you can deduct only the percentage of expenses related to earning income. To support the amount you can deduct, keep a record of both the total kilometres you drove and the kilometres you drove to earn employment income. We consider driving back and forth between home and work as personal use.”

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Ways to Know You Need New Tax Representation.

Since today is Thursday, I thought a Thursday Thirteen themed post might be a good change of pace!

Here are 13 things that should NEVER be said to someone with a tax problem, from someone who claims to want to help (or just your money).

Each quote below was an actual quote uttered by a tax solution representative or accountant to a prospective client in my presence.

Sit tight, and get ready to shake your head in disbelief…

13.  “GST, HST, PST… They’re all the same.”

12.  “CRA Collectors don’t care about you.  They treat their clients like a ‘whack-a-mole’ game.  You pop your head up and they smack you on the head with a hammer.  We provide you with a helmet or advise you to stay underground until the game is over.”

11.  “You’re an alcoholic? GREAT!  Substance abuse qualifies for relief!!”

10.   “I can tell you for a fact that the Auditor General requires the CRA to close files, NOT collect money.  The benchmark is 7-years.  We can close your file in 7-years!”

9.   “You’re just a little guy! Nobody cares about you.”

8.   “If you tell the CRA anything you are shooting yourself in the feet.  That’s dumb and it hurts.”

7.   “I know the CRA have won in Tax Court, but they are wrong, and this time we have everything we need to prove them wrong!”

6.   “Just ignore them and it will all go away.”

5.   “You don’t need to speak to a Tax lawyer, or an accountant.  They’re useless.  You should never talk to the tax preparer.  Just pay us $5,000 and we can make it all go away.”

4.   “The Taxman…”

3.   “I don’t care what the CRA wants, and how soon they want it.  They’re getting what I want to give them, when I’m ready to give it to them, AND they’re going to see that I’m right and they are wrong.”

2.   “We need to reduce the amount that you owe, so I’m going to create a T2200 for you, and claim a lot of expenses that your employer has not deducted like mileage, phone, and parking.  They’ll never know its not true and on the off-chance that they ask, I have hundreds of parking receipts in my car I can give them.  It’s perfectly fine…”

  1.   “Don’t even bother opening that envelope… Just throw it out.”

 

Just missing this list, but barely, is the commonly uttered line; “Quick, transfer the house out of your name before the CRA registers a lien against it!”

 

 

Tips To Keep the CRA Collections Group Happy!

The following are tips to keep the CRA’s collections department happy.

This list in not fully inclusive of everything that you can do because you cannot send them gifts, they have to reject or toss them, and if you do their work for them – they might like that for a bit – until there are no more accounts, and then they will have no more work to do, and then no job.

 

So here are a few tips to keep CRA happy…

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  If they have to contact you, they’re already angry.
  2. Don’t be a jerk on the phone to them.  Everything you say goes into a permanent diary and that diary is summarized semi-annually.  You don’t want anyone who accesses your account to think you’re a jerk
  3. Don’t accuse them of being out to get you…  They likely have 400-500 accounts and their goal is to collect some, write some off and let the others pay or go bankrupt.  Just show them some progress on any of those fronts and you’ll be in much better standing.
  4. Ask for the best and lowest settlement offer.  The CRA does NOT do that unless it is through insolvency or a formal proposal in bankruptcy.  The IRS settles debts, but this is not the IRS… The CRA is WAY better!
  5. If you enter into a payment arrangement, ensure there are sufficient funds in the account to pay the cheques. If a cheque is returned NSF (not sufficient funds), then the CRA collections officer will take immediate collection actions and getting those Requirements to Pay removed can be next to impossible.
  6. Keep current!!!  Whether during the period of a payment arrangement, or just through discussions with the CRA make sure you are up-to-date on all filings and payments (including GST/HST, income tax, payroll taxes, etc).   If you fail to remain current, the CRA can – and likely will – end the payment arrangement and pressure you for more.
  7. Understand that the CRA is not your bank, and treat them that way.  At a bank, you are earning credit, but at the CRA, in collections, you are paying 10% interest compounding daily… It’s not in your best interest to take your time re-paying them.
  8. If you have nothing to hide (and even if you do have something to hide), be honest with the CRA collections officer. Things you say may cause the CRA collections officer to become concerned.
  9. Provide the information that is requested by the CRA collections officer. If the CRA collections officer trusts you, he/she will be more likely to exercise discretion before pressing confirm on that Requirement To Pay.

The Truth about the CRA Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) that no one wants you to know

Before you waste time and money paying a tax solution company to walk you through the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP), you might want to read this post and learn the facts they don’t want you to know.

In order to “qualify” for the Voluntary Disclosure Program, there are some important facts which must be taken into consideration first;

  1. The disclosure must be voluntary, and by voluntary, the CRA means that the business or taxpayer must not be aware of or have knowledge of an audit, investigation or other enforcement action set to be conducted by the CRA, or initiated by the CRA, with respect to the information being disclosed.
  2. The disclosure must be complete, meaning that all information must be disclosed and all the outstanding years must be filed in this application.
  3. The disclosure must involve the application of a penalty, such as, but not limited to, Late Filing Penalties (LFP), Late Remitting Penalties (LRP), and Failure to make installments, Gross Negligence Penalties.
  4. The disclosure must relate to information that is at least one year past due.

 

If you’ve fallen behind in filing, or failed to disclose or declare income – possibly from overseas / offshore investments / tax shelters / income properties, and the CRA has not previously tried to contact you for the returns, then the VDP might be for you.

The VDP allows taxpayers who make a valid disclosure under the Income Tax Act (ITA) to pay taxes owing plus interest, but avoid penalty and / or prosecution.

To make a valid voluntary disclosure, with the CRA means you would pay only the taxes you owe plus interest, and you may avoid penalties and potential prosecution on the information accepted under the program.

You can file a disclosure to correct inaccurate or incomplete information or to provide information you may have omitted in your previous dealings with the CRA.

To submit a disclosure, fill out and sign Form RC199, Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) Taxpayer Agreement, or write a letter giving the same information as on the form.

You can submit your Form RC199 or your equivalent letter to the CRA directly, using the Submit documents online service now available through My AccountMy Business Account and Represent a Client.

Once you have logged in to one of these portals, click on “Submit documents” on the left hand navigation menu, select “I do not have a case or reference number,” and then select “Make a voluntary disclosure.” From this point you will be prompted to upload your letter or Form RC199 as well as to provide a short file description.

At the end of the process, you will be given a reference number that you can use if you need to add more documents.

You can also send your disclosure by mail to one of the CRA’s tax centres.

 

The following are circumstances under which VDP relief may be granted:

  • you did not fulfill your obligations under the applicable act;
  • you did not report taxable income you received;
  • you claimed ineligible expenses on your tax return;
  • you did not remit your employees’ source deductions;
  • you did not report an amount of GST/HST (which may include undisclosed liabilities or improperly claimed refunds or rebates or unpaid tax or net tax from a previous reporting period);
  • you did not file information returns; or
  • you did not report foreign-sourced income that is taxable in Canada.

 

Disclosures relating to any of the following are not accepted under the VDP:

  • bankruptcy returns;
  • income tax returns with no taxes owing or with refunds expected;
  • elections;
  • advance pricing arrangements;
  • rollover provisions; and
  • post-assessment requests for penalty and interest relief.

 

You can make an anonymous disclosure, referred to as a “no-name” disclosure.  You will have 90 calendar days – beginning on the date the CRA notifies you that there are 90 days to provide the identity of the taxpayer involved, not 90-days from the date of initial disclosure.

The CRA will close the disclosure file without further contact if the identity is not provided before the 90th day.

Additionally, payments should begin as soon as the disclosure is made in order to reduce the amount of interest which is accruing on the file.

Any “taxpayer” can use the VDP, because the CRA considers a taxpayer to be an individual, an employer, a corporation, a partnership, a trust, a goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) registrant/claimant, and a registered exporter of softwood lumber products. You can also have an authorized representative make a disclosure for you.

 

Time Limit:

There is no limit on how far back the VDP will request or review information. A disclosure must be complete and provide all the relevant information to allow the VDP officer to appropriately review and decide whether statute-barred years should be opened for reassessment. Income will be assessed in the year it is earned. If you have not filed for several years (that is, you are a non‑filer), you are expected to update all your tax years.

You are expected to keep your affairs up to date after using the VDP. You cannot make a second submission for the same issue for which you originally received the benefits of the program, however the CRA will consider a second disclosure in situations where the circumstances were beyond your control.

If this is the case, you will be required to give the CRA your name and tell them that you previously made a disclosure. If you do not reveal that you previously made a disclosure and this is uncovered by the CRA, your disclosure may be considered invalid and denied.

 

Additional information from the CRA

Form RC199, Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) Taxpayer Agreement

Form RC59, Business Consent

Form T1013, Authorizing or Cancelling a Representative

Information Circular IC00-1R4, Voluntary Disclosures Program

Making a Voluntary Disclosure on your Ontario Corporate Tax

 

Beyond the VDP is the opportunity to apply for Taxpayer Relief for full or partial relief of penalties and or interest, if applicable.

Save yourself the hassle of being subjected to someone else’s agenda.  Know your rights, and your options.  Know the truth.

 

For further information or to discuss the VDP and Taxpayer Relief provisions, send an email to us at info@intaxicating.ca