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.

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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

 

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

 

CRA Conviction Notice: Tax Protester Sentenced to 4-Years in Prison.

On November 27th, 2015, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) issued notice that Nicolet, Quebec resident and tax protester named Christian Lachapelle was sentenced to four years in prison by a Court in Quebec.  Lachapelle plead guilty October 22nd, 2014 to charges related to tax fraud.

A Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) investigation revealed that, between June 2007 and November 2010, Mr. Lachapelle advised and enabled 93 individuals to avoid, or try to avoid, paying nearly $2 million in income tax for the 2003 to 2010 tax years.

The scheme used by Mr. Lachapelle consisted of helping or advising individuals to file income tax returns or request a reassessment using the distinction between a “natural” person and a “legal” person.

For some reason, tax protesters continue to attempt this avenue to avoid having to pay taxes and in doing so regularly convince others that this technique can be used when Canadian courts have repeatedly and consistently rejected such arguments.

This is not the first time that Mr. Lachapelle has had issues with the CRA and the law. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail in 2012 for failing to file his income tax returns despite a court order, as well as fines of $7,000 in 2005 and $14,000 in 2011 for the same reasons.

All case-specific information above was obtained from the court records.

The Canada Revenue Agency warns the public to beware of people who assert that Canadians do not have to pay tax on the income they earn. Canadian courts have repeatedly and consistently rejected arguments made in these tax protester schemes. For those involved in such schemes, the CRA will reassess income tax and interest, and charge penalties – usually Gross Negligence Penalties too which can represent at minimum 50% of the tax being evaded.

More information on tax protester schemes can be found on the CRA website, here: www.cra.gc.ca/alert.

If you have ever made a tax mistake or omission, you have the ability to correct this error through the Canada Revenue Agency’s Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP).

You must make the full and complete disclosure before you become aware that the CRA is taking action against you, and if accepted, you may only have to pay the taxes owing plus interest (not penalties).

More information on the CRA’s VDP can be found on the CRA’s website atwww.cra.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures.

Additional information on CRA convictions can be found on the Media page of the CRA website at www.cra.gc.ca/convictions.

inTAXicating Tax Services exists to provide clarity and solutions for CRA questions and problems.  If you think you have done something wrong, and the CRA might want to assess / re-assess / audit you or your company, you should check with us first.

http://www.intaxicating.ca

info@intaxicating.ca

Real CRA collections experience.  On your side!