A tax audit is when the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) examines your books and records to assess if you have paid all the taxes you owe. An audit is not the same as a review. But it may be triggered if the CRA is not satisfied with your response to a review.
The CRA can audit tax returns within 4 years of the date of the original notice of assessment. If the CRA suspects fraud, it can audit you at any time.
If you're audited
If you're selected for an audit, it is in your best interest to:
- co-operate with the auditor,
- answer all questions respectfully, and
- provide any information and supporting documents requested on a timely basis.
You may also want to get advice from a tax professional, who can act as your representative.
Tip: Keep all your tax information and receipts for 6 years. If you're audited, providing the CRA with the necessary supporting documents may minimize the impact of the audit.
Four ways to avoid a tax audit
- File your tax return on time – Filing late can increase your chances of being audited.
- Report everything you are supposed to – Declare all of your income, especially if you are self-employed or are paid in cash. The CRA compares taxpayers in similar businesses to see if anything stands out. It also sometimes tests a certain group of taxpayers, such as people who earn most of their income in cash. If you fall into this category, and your return stands out, you may be audited.
- Get the math right – Inaccuracies may cause the CRA to flag your return.
- Stay away from buy-low-donate-high schemes – The CRA has issued several warnings about tax schemes that result in donation receipts worth 3 or 4 times the actual amount donated by the taxpayer. You're likely to be audited if you make this type of claim.
The CRA does not usually audit people who solely earn wages or salaries because their taxes are collected through payroll deductions, and the CRA can check their incomes against the information their employers have filed.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization founded and supported by the Ontario Securities Commission that provides unbiased and independent financial tools to help Canadians make better money decisions. To find out more, go to: GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca
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