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

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

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

Common credits which may be claimed by seniors

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

Age amount

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

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

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

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

Pension income amount

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

Eligible pension income does not include the following income amounts:

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

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

Pension income splitting

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

Amounts transferred from your spouse or common-law partner

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

Split CPP income

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

CPP contributions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip:

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

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

Disability amount (for self)

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

Tip:

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

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

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

Public transit amount

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

Work force credits

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

Registered plans

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

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

OAS clawbacks

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

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

Exceptions:

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

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

 

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

 

#inTAXicating