Looking After Canadians Tax Interests During and After COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Canadians do business for now, for the immediate future and possibly forever. One thing, however, that has not changed forever, is taxation.

Yes, the government of Canada has pushed off some tax filing deadlines, paused Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) collections actions, and provided “benefit” payments to those in need (and those who don’t really need), but in the midst of this massive outlay of money, there are some key facts to keep in mind to keep you safe and secure.

1. File Your Taxes

Life will go on, businesses will slowly open, and people will get back to work. As of the writing of this post, April is coming to an end, and the June 1st Personal Income Tax (T1) filing deadline is fast approaching! While any funds owing to the CRA on those taxes are not due until after August 31st, if you are going to owe and your account is going to wind up in Collections, it’s best to start making payments as soon as you can.

Don’t wait until you’re back to what resembles a “normal” work day, to realize that you cannot file your taxes because the likely response from Taxpayer Relief is that you had plenty of time while self-isolating. Don’t take that chance. You don’t need to pay interest to the CRA for filing late. File on time!

2. Beware Direct Deposit

If you signed up for any of the federal government’s “benefit” programs, and in doing so, provided the CRA with your Direct Deposit information, then you need to ensure your tax compliance is a priority for you going forward.

By giving the CRA access to your bank account, and with the current deficit of $20 billion dollars set to double due to the benefit payments, the CRA is going to be in a hurry to recoup those funds. If you delay paying, they’ll issue a Requirement to Pay (Garnishment) and take the funds from your account.

3. Do NOT Ignore CRA

Once the pandemic is under some sort of control, and life goes back to “normal”, if you are ever contacted by the CRA’s Collections department there are two things you should not be do. 1) Do not ignore them – if you get a letter or a legitimate phone call – speak to them. 2) Do not Lie. With hundreds of accounts in their collection inventories, you are just a name or number to the CRA unless you lie to them. Then it gets personal… Tell the truth. They probably know it already anyways.

4. Pause Before Bankruptcy / Insolvency

Times are tough for everyone, but if you have debts which are tax-related, or if your inability to pay other creditors is based on a tax debt, then before exchanging your tax debt for bad credit, reach out to someone who knows how the CRA works with Canadians like you, and don’t jump into something just because advertising makes you think that this “government program” is available. There are lots of better “government programs” available which can help you without something negative happening to your credit in return.

5. Explore Resolution to Tax Debts / Compliance Issues

If you are behind on tax filing – personal or corporate – owe money to the CRA, or locked in a dispute with the CRA about amounts owing? Now is the perfect time to get filed up to date, apply for Taxpayer Relief, and get the truth about your tax liability and your chances of success. Take the time to invest in yourself and resolve your tax issues.

6. Questions? 

If you have questions, ask them in the comment section. If we can answer them, we will. If you leave a valid email and the question is specific, you’ll get an email. If the answer to your question requires more information, then you’ll be asked them, and if there is an opportunity to help you further, you’ll get the truth about what benefits you, not us, not the CRA.

Beware of Fraudulent Communications! The CRA Does NOT Randomly Request Personal Information.

Canada Revenue Agency
Canada Revenue Agency (Photo credit: John Bristowe)

The CRA issued a warning, as the periodically have to do, to make sure that citizens are aware of some scams being committed via email, phone and mail whereby someone is pretending to be the CRA and they are asking for personal information such as a credit card number, social insurance number (SIN), bank information or passport information.

As in EVERY other situation, if someone, anyone asks you for this information, you should NOT be providing it.

If the CRA wants to contact you for information they already know all this information and will not be asking you for it.  Even worse is the fact that the fraudsters are arguing that this personal information is needed so that the taxpayer can receive a refund or benefit payment.

Again, the CRA knows this information and if you are eligible for a program or benefit, they will either enroll you in it automatically or they will send you a letter asking you to call the CRA general enquiries line.

Another common scam refers the person to a Web site resembling the CRA’s Web site where the person is asked to verify their identity by entering  personal information.

Again, this is not true.  The CRA website is http://www.cra.gc.ca where the “gc” stands for “government Canada” and the “ca” represents that the website is Canadian.  If the fraudster persists, please hang up and call the general enquiries line to confirm or call the RCMP (details below).

So just to confirm, and this is from the CRA website;

The CRA does not do the following:

  • The CRA will not request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email.
  • The CRA will not divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer.
  • The CRA will not leave any personal information on an answering machine.

When in doubt, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I expecting additional money from the CRA?
  • Does this sound too good to be true?
  • 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?
  • How did the requester get my email address?
  • Am I confident I know who is asking for the information?

The CRA will continue to post notifications of fraudulent communications as they become aware of them and encourages you to check their Web site should you have concerns.

Examples You will find examples of a fraudulent letter, emails, and online refund forms from the CRA’s website in the links provided.  Notice how shoddy and unprofessional the request are.  As per telephone calls, the CRA will occasionally leave messages for taxpayers on their answering machines, including a callback number, and a request for the taxpayer to have their SIN handy when they call, however, it is important to note that not all telephone messages claiming to be from the CRA are genuine.  If you have any doubt and wish to verify the authenticity of a CRA telephone number, agent name, or location. you should contact the CRA directly by using the numbers on our Telephone numbers page.  For business-related calls, contact 1-800-959-5525 and for individual concerns, contact 1-800-959-8281.

If you have responded to a fraudulent communication and have become a victim of fraud, please contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by email at info@antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.

Be careful when giving out personal information to anyone regardless of where they claim to work.  The CRA won’t get offended.  They’ll try again a different way if necessary.