Business Owners, Is the CRA Serving You Better?

As year-end approaches, financial professionals continue to give mixed reviews on whether or not Canada’s tax system is improving – particularly for the business community. To address these concerns, the CRA has announced a new initiative called Serving You Better, and is requesting consultation from financial professionals and owners of small and medium-sized businesses.

The CRA is standing by last year’s promise to improve their service standards, and progress has been made. Reports have been that the CRA primarily met promised turn-around times for processing simple returns and issuing refunds this tax season. But tax and financial advisors continue to voice concerns about the improvements needed to our current tax system in order to be fair to the small businesses that do much to support the Canadian economy.

“We have seen recent tax reforms targeting specific demographics – business owners, professionals and high-net-worth individuals. Fortunately, some of the proposed changes were not implemented. The dedicated industry professionals that put in submissions during the consultation period provided insight into implications both to our economy and to our communities. Given all of the challenges that exist for business owners in Canada (for example, NAFTA, FOREX, TOSI, etc.), it is important that we continue to share our expertise with our government leaders so they can make informed decisions when designing reforms or putting policy in place,” says Stefanie Keller, CFP and graduate of the Knowledge Bureau Real Wealth Manager program.

Participation in initiatives like Serving You Better, announced by the Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier, on September 27, is so essential today. Especially with year-end fast approaching. In mid-October, through November, the CRA will be asking for feedback from owners of small/medium-sized businesses and their accountants in order to streamline and improve the services and support offered to them. These consultation events are taking place in Chambers of Commerce across Canada, and will be attended by CRA’s senior officials. A full list of dates and locations is available here. Alternatively, consultation can be submitted online through the Serving You Better website.

There are so many controversial tax issues affecting Canadian proprietors and private corporation owners, including the still-sensitive subject of the rushed tax reforms introduced in July of 2017. These have resulted in onerous rules on the taxation of split income, and new passive investment rules, that will claw back small business deductions for larger family businesses in 2019. Consultation and appropriate attention to year-end corporate planning strategies can help reduce the tax and financial burdens to those most targeted.

The Serving You Better initiative is an additional response to last fall’s Auditor General Report that identified some significant issues affecting taxpayer rights, including unanswered calls and frequent incidents of CRA representatives providing incorrect information to individuals in need of support. You can read our full analysis and report on this issue in “CRA Offside with Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.” Since the AG’s report, the CRA also unveiled a new three-point plan to address service issues, focusing on modernizing technology, improving employee training and updating service standards.

The question that remains is: are initiatives such as these translating to change in the community? It’s important that practitioners in the tax and financial services are also able to increase their service standards for their small business clients. Stay tuned, as this will be the subject of our November Poll, when we’ll ask you to answer this question, and share the thoughts you’ve voiced as part of these new CRA consultations: “Have you noticed that CRA is starting to increase its service levels for you and your small business clients?”

Additional educational resources: If you’re an accountant or tax advisor working with small/medium-sized businesses in Canada, you won’t want to miss the Fall CE Summits, focusing on year-end, which is fast approaching! Workshops are taking place in Winnipeg on November 2, Vancouver on November 5, Calgary on November 6 and Toronto on November 7.

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