Q&A: In deep trouble with Canada Revenue

Question: I am disabled and live on a modest disability monthly amount. They
do not take tax from my cheques and I am now in trouble with the Canada Revenue
Agency. Last week I received a notice that I owe CRA $6,000 and change. I have
spoken with the Fairness Committee who have assured me that penalties and interest
will be taken off my debt.

Today, not even a week later, CRA decided that I owe over $15,000. I don’t
make much money and live month-to-month with no ability to even have a savings
account. I send post-dated cheques for six months at a time. How do I get out
of this mess? I know I don’t owe this much but I’m afraid of what the CRA can
do. They have advised “they may take legal action.” What does this
mean and is there anything you can help me with? – D.A.

Gordon Pape answers: This sounds like an extreme position
on the part of CRA but there is nothing I can do to help you directly. CRA will
not discuss a specific tax case with a third party for privacy reasons, with
the exception of your lawyer or accountant.

The first thing that I suggest is that you send CRA a “notice of objection”
letter This puts your concern on the record and buys you some time. You don’t
need to put a lot of detail in the letter; simply provide your Social Insurance
Number and include a copy of the notice of assessment.

Once that is done, you are going to need professional help to assist you.
I realize that you probably can’t afford the cost of a lawyer or a tax
accountant. However, since you are living on a disability pension perhaps you
are entitled to public assistance. Check with the organization that provides
your disability payments and with your local social services office.

That’s all I can suggest. If I hear from a lawyer or accountant who reads
this and is willing to help you on a pro bono basis, I will put that person
in touch with you.

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