A griper's guide: How to ensure the taxman hears your grievance
Tim Cestnick is president and CEO of WaterStreet Family Wealth Counsel and author of 101 Tax Secrets for Canadians.
Now, I'm not a complainer. And I don't like it much when my kids complain. The fact is, however, sometimes a grievance is justified.
Consider the story of Andre Dionne. He was treated unfairly by the Canada Revenue Agency, in his view. He wanted to file a formal complaint about the matter. You see, according to Mr. Dionne, his daughter has a disability that should give rise to disability tax credits. In October, 2009, Mr. Dionne's representative wrote a letter to the "Disability Tax Credit Assessor, Surrey Tax Centre" in which adjustments were requested to Mr. Dionne's tax returns for 2002 to 2008 and a request was also made for additional Canada Child Tax Benefit payments for his spouse, Lisa Dionne, for the period from 2003 to 2008. In August of 2011, CRA determined that disability tax credits are not justified in this situation and disallowed those tax credits claimed.
Mr. Dionne felt strongly about the case and filed a Notice of Appeal in which he purported to appeal the decision of CRA. Here's the problem: Mr. Dionne did not follow the proper procedures for objecting to a reassessment by CRA.
You see, as a taxpayer, he is required to file a Notice of Objection if he disagrees with a reassessment before he can file a Notice of Appeal to the Tax Court of Canada. That is, you shouldn't expect to have the right to appeal your tax reassessment in court unless you have first filed a Notice of Objection with CRA. Mr. Dionne did not follow this procedure. As a result, his appeal was thrown out. He lost his case in court.
What's a taxpayer to do if you have a beef with CRA and disagree with a reassessment you've received? First, start with a phone call to your local CRA Tax Services Office. Try to resolve the issue over the phone. If that doesn't get you far, the next step is to file a Notice of Objection.
Now, a Notice of Objection should be filed no later than 90 days following the date on your Notice of Assessment (or Reassessment) or one year from the due date of the tax return at issue - whichever is later. If you happen to miss this deadline, you can apply for an extension of time to file the Notice of Objection, but your application for this extension must be made within one year of the due date for the Notice of Objection. CRA isn't obligated to grant that extra time, but don't hesitate to ask for it if you're late.
If you're going to file a Notice of Objection, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, your objection must be in writing. You can use Form T400A for this purpose, but you don't have to. In your written objection, be sure to include the facts of your situation and your reasons for objecting. I'd also include the requested adjustments that you'd like to see. If you're objecting to issues in more than one tax year you can file a single Notice of Objection for multiple tax years as long as you clearly spell out the facts and reasons for objecting for each year in question.
Your Notice of Objection should be addressed to the "Chief of Appeals" and mailed or delivered (by hand or courier) to your local Tax Services Office or District Office. Failing to do either of these things can render your objection invalid. I should mention that CRA does say, in its publication "Resolving Your Dispute: Objection and Appeal Rights Under the Income Tax Act," that a Notice of Objection can be delivered to the CRA online using CRA's online services in "My Account" (for individuals) or "My Business Account" (for corporations or payroll accounts).
Make sure you keep an acknowledgment of delivery by courier (if you use a courier) or ask CRA to confirm in writing that the Notice of Objection was received by them.
Finally, I suggest you get a tax pro to prepare your Notice of Objection because references to court decisions and specific tax law provisions will be helpful.