I’ve been receiving calls from clients and non-clients since last April about threatening calls they have been receiving from someone claiming to be from “CRA” (Canada Revenue Agency). The caller explains that you owe money and you must pay it now “or else”.

Well, even I got that call mid-January! The message was on my answering machine at home. Now I know what the clients were hearing and can understand why some were concerned or worried. Fortunately my clients have been phoning me to find out if it is real or not. My firsts answer is “the call is a scam, that�s not how CRA talks to taxpayers”. Then I look up their account with CRA and confirm that they definitely do not have an amount owing with their taxes.

There is not much we can do with these (and other types) of scam phone calls. My suggestion is to hang up and call me or CRA (1.800.959.8281) to confirm if you owe any amount outstanding on your taxes. Never give any information over the phone from an “incoming call”.

Here is some of the information that is on the CRA website about telephone calls:

“The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is noting an increase in telephone scams where the caller claims to be from the CRA but is not, and is asking Canadians to beware these calls are fraudulent and could result in identity and financial theft.

“Some recent telephone scams involve threatening taxpayers or using aggressive and forceful language to scare them into paying fictitious debt to the CRA. Victims receive a phone call from a person claiming to work for the CRA and saying that taxes are owed. The caller requests immediate payment by credit card or convinces the victims to purchase a prepaid credit card and to call back immediately with the information. The taxpayer is often threatened with court charges, jail or deportation.

“These types of communication are not from the CRA. When the CRA calls you, it has established procedures in place to make sure your personal information is protected.”

Remember that CRA:

  • never requests prepaid credit cards; and does not accept Visa as payment.
  • never asks for information about your passport, health-card, or driver’s license;
  • never shares your taxpayer information with another person, unless you have provided the appropriate authorization; and
  • never leaves personal information on your answering machine or asks you to leave a message containing your personal information on an answering machine.

Keep in mind CRA can and does call taxpayers about outstanding tax returns and unpaid taxes. But it’s usually after they have sent out many reminders and a statement of account. And before they have a conversation with you they will ask questions to confirm your identity.

When should you call CRA?

The most important reason is to advise of your marital status change (common-law after 12 months or when you have a child together, or married, or separated). There are many benefits that are affected by your change in status: GST Credit and Child Tax Benefit are the main ones. If you are recently separated you need to wait 90 days before reporting to CRA.

Also call CRA when your mailing address changes so you continue to receive any mail from them.

When you call CRA, you will need your previous tax information available as they will ask questions about it to confirm your identity.

On-Line Mail

You can sign up to receive an email notification that you have mail in CRA’s My Account, the confidential mail is NOT in the actual email. You need to access “My Account” to get the electronic mail they have sent you.

How to pay CRA?

There are many ways to pay CRA if you owe them money. Of course they still accept cheques in the mail, and you can pay it at your Bank or Credit Union or Caisse. You can also pay electronically via on-line banking (your SIN is your account number), or you can go straight to CRA’s website to “My Payment” and can pay direct from your bank account (interac debit payment). And starting February 15, 2016, Visa Debit cards will be accepted with the My Payment service on CRA’s website (cra.gc.ca).

Remember we can start filing your 2015 taxes (and previous years) on February 15, 2016 (if you have all your tax information). The deadline to file is May 2 (April 30 is a Saturday). Especially if you owe. You can still file your taxes early even if you owe; you can pay on or before April 30 to avoid any interest.

Those that are self-employed (non-incorporated), we (and our spouses) can file as late as June 15 and be considered filed on time. But if we have an amount owing, the interest does start to add up on May 2.

Anni Markmann is a Tax Professional, a Certified Financial Planner, and a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact the Ste Anne Tax Service office at 204.422.6631, anni@steannetaxservice.ca or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne.