You have tax law questions but don’t know where to go for the answers. Where should you go to get help with your taxes? There are a number of avenues that may be suitable. Is getting help from the CRA directly your best course of action? Perhaps a tax accountant is the way to go. When should you choose a tax lawyer to help with your taxes? The article below will address where to get tax help for a given situation.
Free Tax Clinics
Where you go for tax help depends on a number of factors—your financial situation and the complexity of your particular tax situation. For those in great financial difficulty, a free tax clinic is available. Generally speaking, a family of four living on less than $50,000 a year may be eligible for help from a free tax clinic. Click here to find a free tax clinic in your area. Contact a clinic in your area to find out if you are eligible.
Getting Help from the CRA
Those with very simple tax situations may also be able to get the information they need straight from CRA’s informational sites, such as this one. This information will address basic tax questions relating to one’s primary source of income from employment, pension, benefits, a retirement plan, support payments, or a scholarship or grant.
Tax Lawyer or Accountant?
If your tax matter involves a disagreement you are having with the CRA or if an auditor, case officer, or collection officer has sent you a Notice of Assessment or Reassessment, you likely need a tax lawyer.
Do you need any negotiation done on your behalf or require your position to be represented with the CRA? Do you require someone that is a specialist in the interpretation of tax law and its application? Do you need help with tax planning? If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” then a tax lawyer is your best option.
Hiring a tax accountant may be sufficient if all you need to do is prepare your annual T-Form (T1, T2, T4, etc.). Accountants are specialists in financial reporting and bookkeeping but generally do not deal with the complexity of tax negotiation or engage in the art of persuasive writing and oral advocacy. These skills are critical should you find yourself in trouble with the CRA or simply in a situation where you misreported or failed to file your taxes on time or accurately.
At the end of the day, the Income Tax Act is a piece of legislation. Tax lawyers are well apprised of the rule of law, the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act, and jurisprudence (which are judicial rulings by the Tax Court of Canada).
Just as you would hire a criminal lawyer if you were charged with a criminal offence, so too you should you hire a tax lawyer when you need to deal with the CRA, which has the jurisdiction to apply onerous and harsh interest and penalties.
Tax Lawyers Help With Audits or Objections
During a CRA audit, the auditor will assess you for tax as a result of their audit findings in a document called a Proposal Letter. Tax lawyers prepare in-depth written responses (called submissions or representations) to the auditor in which they argue that the proposal is incorrect and there has been an over assessment of tax.
Tax counsel cites statutory as well as common law in support of their submissions. Tax counsel further supports the written submission with documentary evidence to support the position claimed. In doing so, an in-depth piece of persuasive argument and supporting documentation are presented to the CRA. In our experience, the difference in the results produced by a tax lawyer versus an accountant is astounding.
Tax Planning and Restructuring
A tax lawyer is also highly trained in tax planning and tax re-structuring that help individuals, small businesses, and corporations reduce the amount of tax they have to pay. These strategies include s85 rollovers, reorganization, and freezes; the application of deductions and credits; and the purchasing and disposing of capital assets.
Where should you go to get help with your tax questions? You know your situation best. Getting the right tax help, be it from the CRA, a free tax clinic, accountant, or tax lawyer is your call. However, if you have determined that you need a specialist in the interpretation of tax law, require tax planning, want to find ways to minimize your tax obligation, or need an expert to negotiate on your behalf with the CRA, then your best course of action is to hire a tax lawyer.
Contact a professional tax lawyer at Kalfa Law to discuss your tax needs. You work hard for your money, we work hard for you to keep it.
-Shira Kalfa, BA, JD, Partner and Founder
© Kalfa Law 2019