Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Budget Penalty Changes

The 2015 federal budget makes some changes in the penalty regime that applies if a taxpayer fails to comply with his or her obligations under the Income Tax Act.  The changes correct an anomaly in the law.  Under that anomaly, a penalty for a repeated failure to report income could have been out of all proportion to the actual amount of income that was not reported.

Rather than reviewing the details of the change, I will take this opportunity to remind everyone to avoid penalties in the first place by making sure to file on time and to report all transactions that need to be reported.  For most Canadian individuals, the 2014 filing deadline is fast approaching (April 30).  If you or your spouse carried on an unincorporated business in 2014, the filing deadline is June 15 (but any balance of tax owing is still due by April 30).

If you hold foreign assets (even foreign assets held in a Canadian brokerage account) and the assets have an aggregate cost of more than $100,000 (measured in Canadian dollars), your tax return has to include details about those foreign assets (even if you have reported the income from the assets).  Limited exceptions apply for specific foreign assets, such as a foreign vacation home that is used only for personal purposes (in other words, that is not rented out to others at any point).

It is always wise to file on time in order to avoid unnecessary penalties.  If you have not filed in past years, or have failed to report all income or foreign assets in the past, you may be able to avoid penalties by voluntarily disclosing the failure to the Canada Revenue Agency (the CRA).  In order to avoid penalties, you must approach the CRA before the CRA approaches you or starts an audit.  

Generally, voluntary disclosures are initiated on a no-names basis through a law firm so that you do not have to disclose your name until you have an idea of what the CRA will require in order to correct the past omission.  While voluntary disclosures are also called tax amnesties, interest will generally be payable on the unpaid tax.  What the voluntary disclosure avoids is the imposition of penalties and the possibility of jail time for tax evasion.

If you need advice about the voluntary disclosure program or believe that you may need to make a disclosure, please contact Layli Antinuk at 250-360-2110.  Any conversations will be protected by lawyer-client privilege.

Visit the Dwyer Tax Law web site
for information about our services and lawyers' profiles.

The above article provides general commentary of an educational nature. It does not constitute advice for any specific person or any specific set of circumstances. Because circumstances vary, readers should consult professional advisers in order to obtain advice that is applicable to their specific circumstances.