By educating yourself on the process and making sure you have all your important records on hand, you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary worries.
You filed your return on time, but now you have received a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) asking for more info about the return. Should you be concerned? Not necessarily. As long as you have kept the information the CRA needs to review, the process can be smooth and headache-free.
Here’s what you need to know.
How are returns selected for review?
Individuals are generally less likely to be selected for review than businesses because the amounts involved are smaller.
However, since tax returns are completed based on voluntary disclosure, the public would lose confidence if there was no system of accountability. Everyone is presumed to know the law.
CRA selects a small number of returns at random but most are chosen using a sophisticated system that incorporates multiple factors to identify returns with the highest potential for misstatement.
It’s important to note that being reviewed once doesn’t mean you won’t be reviewed again. Although returns are selected taking into account the results of previous reviews (to avoid repeated reviews of compliant taxpayers), a taxpayer can be selected several years in a row, depending on their compliance history and the types of claims made on their returns each year.
In the event of a review, it’s also important to distinguish what will be examined according to the types of returns that are likely to be selected. Income and expenses, for example, will be examined more closely for self-employed workers, who are more targeted than employees. In addition, certain types of deductions or credits may be reviewed as well, such as donations and medical expenses. When
individuals request large donations or large medical expenses, the government requests a copy of either the donation receipt or the medical bills along with the details.
Here are other things the CRA may review for accuracy:
There is also a good chance that CRA will ask for proof if [you are] claiming a foreign tax credit.
How do reviews differ from audits?
Although there are several types of reviews, the process itself is simple and fast in comparison to an audit.
The review process starts when the taxpayer receives a letter from the CRA explaining that they want to verify the accuracy of certain information, such as the amounts entered. Even if tax filing was done perfectly, there will still be spot checks to make sure the deduction or credit exists. In some cases, the CRA just wants a copy of the receipts, like donations.
However, in some cases, taxpayers who file their own returns may not have all the information to know which expenses are deductible and how to calculate them.
The errors occur mainly in the initial claims for certain new deductions, such as medical expenses, tuition fees, and moving expenses. There are many reasons why adjustments may be made, particularly since the CRA has to comply with a variety of tax laws (such as the Income Tax Act and Income Tax Regulations, as well as provincial and territorial income tax laws), which require that it request supporting documents.
While a review might be completed in a few weeks, an audit can take months or even years, audits are initiated when something comes to the CRA’s attention, such as an indication of fraud, a serious omission, or a major error.
One major red flag that can trigger an audit, is a mismatch between a taxpayer’s declared income and their lifestyle – especially if they are also a shareholder of a company and there is a discrepancy between their return and that of the company.
If that is the case, the taxpayer can possibly be asked to provide almost all of the information used to complete the return. From there, the CRA can keep requesting additional supporting documents until it is satisfied that it has everything it needs to issue a new notice of assessment.
In rare cases, the CRA may even request access to all of a person’s bank accounts, as well as those of spouses and children.
While an audit often creates stress for the taxpayer, remember that the auditor is a human being who’s trying to understand the financial story of the years passed, Communication is key: you need to understand what made them think something was wrong and cooperate.
What can you do to prepare?
The CRA has up to three years (sometimes up to four years) from the date of the original notice of assessment to carry out a review but, in the case of suspected fraud or misrepresentation, there is no limitation period. That’s why keeping a digital record of everything, especially a justification of every single deposit in your personal bank account, is a good idea. Without proof, the situation can become complicated, and a harmless transaction can be difficult to trace and justify years later.
How will the pandemic affect the process?
Just as the pandemic has changed so many taxpayers’ ways of working, so will it bring its own set of complications for CRA auditors this year. In lieu of on-site visits for comprehensive audits, the CRA is encouraging virtual meetings. In-person meetings are reserved for exceptional circumstances. The CRA will still presumably send letters for reviews.
Also, since several new programs were introduced this year, it remains to be seen how CRA auditors will deal with certain issues, like as those who have claimed home office expenses. We don’t know how far they will go in verifying that those who received it were entitled to it. Given that it’s impossible to answer these questions, for the time being, it’s probably best to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
In the meantime, you can help yourself by checking your records and backup. That way, you’ll be prepared no matter what kinds of questions come your way.
This article includes a general summary of tax rules. Need specific tax advice? Hire a Professional Accountant and get the best working for you.
Filing Taxes concisely deals with several complex issues; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein.
Our experienced and professional team at Filing Taxes is here to set you on the right path considering your personal business situation. Feel free to reach out to Filing Taxes at 416-479-8532. Schedule an NTR engagement appointment with us and take the first step towards proper management of your finances.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not consider your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting and financial professionals. Salman Rundhawa and Filing Taxes will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.