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

 

 

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.

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.