How to Survive a Tax Audit

DailyXY’s MoneyGuy blog is sponsored by RBC

A tax audit is like getting hit by a car. You think it’ll never happen to you — until it does.

However, whereas getting hit by a car hurts — a lot — audits can actually be relatively painless.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) starts an audit by sending a letter. (How very Canadian.) The letter will ask to setup a date for a visit, which means a meeting to rifle through your receipts, invoices and more. After that, typically, another letter, requesting yet more documents.

How do you survive? Be prepared: have as much information as possible on hand. The CRA can audit an individual within three years of their notice of assessment. To be sure, says Paul Keul, CFA, associate at S+C Partners LLP in Mississauga, Ontario, “keep documents for at least a year beyond that.”

But if you don’t have the necessary files, trust between you and your auditor becomes critical. Yes: trust. “Try to maintain good relationship with your auditor,” says Keul. “Often the auditor has discretion in how to deal with things… often we can negotiate minor issues away or, in some cases, reassessments can be structured in a way that minimizes interest.”

So turn the charm on: You might be able to talk yourself out of this one yet. At least, says Keul, be forthcoming and helpful — not adversarial.

Finally, although you may already be sweating the damage this will do to your pocketbook, it’s worth hiring an accountant. It would be easy, says Keul, to incriminate yourself by answering what sounds like an innocent question. By now, aren’t you already in enough trouble?

Image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass.


1 thought on “How to Survive a Tax Audit”

  1. I need to call nonsense on this one. Having just gone through an audit and being in the process of an appeal, I have to say that this little article presents what seems to me like an unrealistically rosy picture of the audit process. CRA Auditors cannot be trusted … not even to give you accurate information about claiming expenses or what the legislation on any given tax issue really says. Sure, be friendly, but don’t expect the same back. Auditors approach an audit with the mentality that you are guilty of something, whether you are or not. Anyone who thinks they’ve got “innocent until proven guilty” on their side is in for a shock. Unless CRA is trying to charge you with a criminal offense, such rights do not kick in. An audit carries a reverse burden of proof: you are guilty until proven innocent, and depending on what they accuse you of it can be impossible to prove yourself innocent, which is one reason why criminal charges don’t work the same way. An auditor’s goal is to collect money from you, by just about any means necessary, honest or otherwise, pure and simple. Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise and double-check EVERY appeal that an auditor makes to legislation, whether in the Income Tax Act or the Excise Tax Act. Both are available online at … just search for both Acts by title.

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