Income Tax Relief on Income Tax Debt in Canada – Who Qualifies

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If you have an income tax debt in Canada, at times it can feel paralyzing. Income tax debt in Canada can grow at an alarming rate. Unlike our counter parts in the US who often turn to criminal action to enforce non-compliance, the Canada Revenue Agency relies heavily on imposing interest and penalties to penalize taxpayers who file late, fail to declare income or improperly declare expenses.

Once late returns have been filed or past returns have been re-assessed by the Canada Revenue Agency, their first step will be to assess a penalty on the tax debt. The Canada Revenue Agency’s next step will be to calculate interest on the income tax debt and penalties going backwards to the tax year when the tax debt occurred. The end result is that the taxpayer can end up owing more to the Canada Revenue Agency in interest and penalties than the principal tax debt. For example; an income tax debt of $20,000 may end up being more than $40,000 once the interest and penalties have been calculated.

In Canada, a taxpayer can apply for income tax relief under the Income Tax Act. This does not mean that the principal tax debt can be reduced. However, the Canada Revenue Agency can cancel all or part of the interest and penalties.

One way that a taxpayer can qualify for income tax relief under the taxpayer relief provision is because of extraordinary circumstances. Penalties and interest may be waived if an event has occurred that was beyond the taxpayers control and was the cause of the non-compliance. Some examples of extraordinary circumstances are natural disasters (fire, flood etc), a civil disturbance, a serious illness or accident, serious emotional or mental distress, the death of an immediate family member etc

Another way that a taxpayer can qualify for income tax relief on an income tax debt is if they are suffering from extreme financial hardship. If the taxpayer can substantiate that they cannot pay because of job loss, they cannot pay the interest charges but could pay the principal tax debt, payment of the interest charges would interfere with their ability to provide basic necessities like shelter, food and transportation; in these cases the Canada Revenue Agency may waive all or part of the interest and penalties owing on the tax debt.

Finally, income tax relief on an unpaid income tax debt may be granted if the cause of the interest and penalties was caused, all or in part, by the actions of the Canada Revenue Agency. Some examples of this are processing delays; errors in material which led the taxpayer to file a return based on improper information, incorrect information being provided to the taxpayer by the Canada Revenue Agency, like errors in processing and undue delays.

An application for income tax relief is an official process that should be handled by a professional if you would like to increase the likelihood of your application being accepted.

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