Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) Changes March 1st, 2018.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) have announced that effective March 1, 2018, changes will be made to the Voluntary Disclosures Program to narrow its eligibility criteria.

What is the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP)?

The VDP provides Canadians a second chance to change a tax return which has been previously filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), OR to file a return(s) which you should have filed with the CRA.

Your application under the VDP – if approved – allows you to file or amend a return without the CRA prosecuting you, or assessing penalties.

Who Can Apply?

Taxpayers!

Taxpayers can be;
• Individuals
• Employers
• Corporations
• Partnerships
• Trusts
• GST/HST registrant / claimants
• Registered exporter of softwood lumber products

You can apply, or you can have an authorized representative – like an accountant, or tax professional like inTAXicating, submit the application on your behalf.

How Many Times Can You Apply?

The CRA would prefer you use VDP once and stay up-to-date on filings from that point onwards, however should circumstances warrant it, you can apply again.

Conditions of a Valid Application

To qualify for relief, the application must:
• Be voluntary – You come to the CRA before the CRA gets to you.
• Be complete – You cannot file for one year, for example, you have to file everything and disclose everything.
• Penalty: Involve the application or potential application of a penalty and, for GST/HST applications, the application or potential application of a penalty or interest
• Time: Include information that is at least one year past due for income tax applications and, for GST/HST applications, at least one reporting period past due; and
• Include payment of the estimated tax owing.

The Process

Submit an application to the CRA, and if the CRA approves it, the returns in question are filed or amended and there is no penalties or fear of prosecution (unless you are engaged in criminal activities).

The CRA then expects you to pay the balance owing – or make arrangements to pay – because while there is no penalties, there is still interest accruing on the account.

* The above information applies until February 28, 2018.

The CRA will update their VDP guidelines as of March 1, 2018, so in order to be considered under the existing VDP, the CRA must receive your application, including your name, on or before February 28, 2018.

What Changes March 1st, 2018? 

On March 1, 2018, when the new VDP comes into effect, it narrows the eligibility criteria to access the Program and imposes additional conditions on applicants, making it more difficult for those who intentionally avoid their tax obligations to benefit from the VDP.

Income Tax Disclosures

With the changes to the program, two tracks will be created for income tax disclosures:

1. Limited Program

The Limited Program provides limited relief for applications that disclose non-compliance where the facts suggest that there is an element of intentional conduct on the part of the taxpayer or a closely related party.

Under the Limited Program, taxpayers will not be referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure and will not be charged gross negligence penalties, however, they will be charged other penalties and interest as applicable.

2. General Program

Under the General Program, taxpayers will not be charged penalties and will not be referred for criminal prosecution related to the information being disclosed. The CRA will provide partial interest relief for years preceding the three most recent years of returns required to be filed.

GST/HST, excise tax, excise duty, softwood lumber products export charge and air travellers security charge disclosures

For GST/HST, excise tax, excise duty, softwood lumber products export charge and air travellers security charge disclosures, three categories will be created:

1. Wash Transactions

Wash transactions are generally transactions where a supplier has failed to charge and collect GST/HST from a registrant entitled to a full input tax credit. This category provides relief only for applications involving GST/HST “wash transactions” that are eligible for a reduction of penalty and interest under the policy set out in GST/HST Memorandum 16.3.1, Reduction of Penalty and Interest in Wash Transaction Situations.

Registrants will not be charged penalties nor interest and will not be referred for criminal prosecution related to the information being disclosed.

A registrant must now disclose information on any non-compliance during the four years before the application is filed.

2. Limited Program

This category provides limited relief for applications that disclose non-compliance where the facts suggest that there is an element of intentional conduct on the part of the registrant or a closely related party.

Under the Limited Program, registrants will not be referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure and will not be charged a gross negligence penalty, however, they will be charged other penalties and interest as applicable.

3. General Program

All of cases fall under the General Program where registrants will not be charged penalties and will not be referred for criminal prosecution related to the information being disclosed.

The CRA will provide partial interest relief and a registrant must now disclose information on any non-compliance during the four years before the application is filed.

How to Determine if a Disclosure Falls under the General or Limited Program?

For both income tax and GST/HST disclosures, the determination of whether an application should be processed under the General or Limited Program will be made on a case-by-case basis and in doing so, the CRA may consider a number of factors, including but not limited to:
• The dollar amounts involved;
• The number of years of non-compliance; and
• The sophistication of the taxpayer/registrant.

Other Significant Changes to the VDP

1. Payment

Payment of estimated taxes owing: Payment of the estimated taxes owing will be required as a condition to qualify for the program (When a taxpayer does not have the ability to make payment at the time of filing the VDP application, they may request to be considered for a payment arrangement.)

2. Anonymous Disclosures Eliminated

The “no-names” disclosure method has been eliminated and replaced by a new pre-disclosure discussion service.

The process for taxpayers and authorized representatives to make disclosures on a no-names basis has been eliminated. Under the new “pre-disclosure discussion” service, taxpayers or their authorized representatives can have a conversation with a CRA official on an anonymous basis, but that discussion does not constitute acceptance into the VDP.

3. Large Corporations

Generally, applications by corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million in at least two of their last five taxation years, and any related entities, will be considered under the Limited Program.

4. Transfer-Pricing

Due to the complexity of transfer pricing issues, applications will now be referred to a specialized Transfer Pricing Review Committee, which will review the applications instead of the VDP.

For efficiency, taxpayers may send their applications directly to this committee.

5. Review by Specialists

Applications involving complex issues or large dollar amounts will be reviewed for completeness by the relevant specialist from the program area prior to being accepted.

6. Disclosure of Advisors

The name of the advisor who assisted with the non-compliance should now be included in the application.

7. Cancellation of Previous Relief

The new VDP regulations provide the CRA with the ability to cancel relief which was previous provided to a taxpayer if it is subsequently discovered that a taxpayer’s application was not complete due to a misrepresentation.

8. Mandatory Waiver of Rights of Objection and Appeal

Under the Limited Program, participants will have to sign a waiver of their right to object and appeal in relation to the specific issue disclosed.

 

If you need assistance with a Voluntary Disclosure – at any time – we can help!

Email: info@intaxicating.ca

On the phone: 416.833.1581 (If you are outside of Toronto, and would like to speak to us live, please email us, and we will gladly call you at your convenience)

On our website: http://www.intaxicating.ca (Portal coming soon – currently under construction).

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Why inTAXicating Tax Posts Rank Higher than the CRA?

Anyone else get a lot of SEO Spam?

SEO, in case you were not aware is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization, and is a marketing technique which focuses on growing the visibility of your web-site through non-paid search engine results.

To get a higher ranking website, you need a combination of good content and your site has to hit the right keywords.  Doing this will drive traffic to the website, and all of this helps the search engines know that your site needs to be shown to people searching for whatever you have written about.

It stands to reason then, that just because you created a web-site (or blog) it doesn’t mean that anyone will see it or read it.  The site has to be “indexed”, meaning that it needs to show up in search engines, and it gets indexed by having people show up and visit the site.

The more visitors, the higher the ranking.

What does SEO spam have to do with inTAXicating and the CRA?

Quite a lot, actually.

In and amongst the spam we get on our website, the majority of pitches are from SEO companies who promise to help me get this website on the “first page of Google”.

Now, I know that a lot of these inquiries are spam because they are fraudulent – trying to steal identities and money – however there are some real companies who reach out to help me improve my site’s ranking, and to those companies – and to ANY company who is going to take the time to make a pitch any company, I offer this advice.

At the very least, before you reach out, you really need to check to see that you are offering a service which they actually need?

You see, there are many inTAXicating blog posts which already come up on the first page of Google.  Some, in fact, come up first or second.  Many even come up before the Canada Revenue Agency!

So thank you for the offer to get me on the first page of Google searches.  If I was even going to consider using your services at any point in time, and you have not taken the time to see that, what less obvious things have you missed?

Business fail because they do not take the time to check their prospective client(s) out and they end up making a pitch which shows there is no attention to detail being paid.

In the meantime, if our blog posts are ranking higher on Google – and we do not promote, or pay for any ads – then you know where a large number of Canadians are going to find answers for their tax problems and to find resources to help them in their dealings with the CRA.

Even the CRA sometimes contacts us for feedback regarding the way they have written something to see if our understanding represents the message that the CRA is trying to get across.

If you, or anyone you know has a tax issue with the Canada Revenue Agency, then they need to contact us, at inTAXicating Tax Services.  We rank higher than the CRA on CRA tax matters for a reason.

Email us here: info@intaxicating.ca

 

Expected Changes to CRA’s VDP: Preview

On June 9th, 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) launched a 60-day online consultation with Canadians on the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP), in which the CRA is seeking input from the public to ensure that the program is more “responsive, innovative and fairer for all Canadians”.

One of the key asks by the CRA is this question; “We are asking you – when should the VDP apply? Should it apply only to those who knowingly choose to not pay their taxes or also to those who make mistakes on their returns?”

Based on that question, many organizations have been putting out materials stating that the CRA is changing the program and that it is already been decided, however that is not the case, yet, as the consultation period has not even ended.

What Is Voluntary Disclosure?

The Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP) gives Canadian taxpayers a chance to change a tax return they have previously filed or file a return that should have filed and by making these changes through the VDP, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may give relief from prosecution and penalties.

By applying to the CRA under the VDP, a Canadian taxpayer might only pay the taxes owing plus interest.

The disclosure MUST meet all four of the following conditions to be valid;
1. A penalty would apply
2. It is voluntary, which means it is made before the CRA takes any compliance action against you
3. the information is at least one year overdue
4. it includes all the relevant information – meaning it is full and complete.

Anyone can use the VDP, including individuals, businesses, employers, payers, trusts and estates, whether a resident or a non-resident of Canada.

Why Changes to the VDP?

When the CRA found out that there were Canadian taxpayers hiding money offshore, they began to consider whether the current VDP was fair for all Canadians. Should a taxpayer who forgets to include an income source be granted the same relief as a taxpayer hiding money overseas and failing to disclose that income in order to reduce the amount of taxes they would have to pay in Canada?

The answer clearly is no, it’s not fair, and the CRA wants to change the program to make it easier for actual errors and omissions to be fixed, while making it much more difficult to allow tax evaders to utilize the program to avoid prosecution.

The most meaningful change expected in the VDP is the introduction of a two-track system:
1) the General Program, and
2) the Limited Program.

The Limited Program would limit the availability of the program in certain circumstances or where there is a “major non-compliance” as such relief for penalty and partial interest relief could be seen as “overly generous.”
Under the General Program, taxpayers who qualify for the VDP will not be charged penalties or referred for criminal prosecution with respect to the disclosure, and may be entitled to partial relief for any interest in respect of assessments preceding the three most recent years of returns required to be filed.

Whereas under the Limited Program, applications that disclose “major non-compliance” will not receive the same level of relief as they would under the current VDP. Taxpayers will not be referred for criminal prosecution and will not be charged a gross negligence penalty with respect to the disclosure, however, other penalties will be charged as applicable such as a late filing penalty, a failure to remit penalty, an instalment penalty or an omission penalty. Additionally, no interest relief will be provided.

What Might Constitute “Major Non-Compliance?”

Major non-compliance might look like this:
• Taxpayers who undertook active efforts to avoid detection through the use of offshore vehicles or other means
• Large dollar amounts being disclosed
• Multiple years of non-compliance
• A sophisticated taxpayer, or use of sophisticated tax avoidance techniques under the advice of a sophisticated professional, and
• The disclosure is made the CRA has released information aimed at cracking down on taxpayers failing to disclose all their income

The determination of whether an application should be processed under the Limited Program will be made on a case by case basis.

Other Considerations
While determining the status of an application to the VDP, the CRA will also consider;
• If they will require payment in full of the estimated taxes owing as a condition of acceptance
• If transfer pricing cases and applications from corporations with gross revenue in excess of $250 million qualify
• If applications that disclose income from the proceeds of crime will be allowed access to the program

The CRA will continue to cancel VDP applications if they learn that the disclosure was not full and complete, or if was intentionally inaccurate.

The release of the changes to the CRA’s VDP will be announced in the fall, and the above is speculation as to what the new program will look like. If you, or anyone you know has failed to fully or accurately disclosure income, it’s best for them to speak to a professional now, especially before there are changes to the program which might disqualify them.
At inTAXicating, we are always available to discuss the CRA’s VDP and you can find us at http://www.intaxicating.ca, or send us an email to info@inTAXicating.ca.

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

 

 

“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.

 

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.”

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