Warning: be cautious if you are thinking of participating in a gifting tax shelter scheme

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Although the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regularly issues warnings and has reassessed thousands of participants, some taxpayers are still participating in gifting tax shelter schemes.

Here’s what you need to know about such schemes:

The CRA will hold the 2014 assessments of participants in tax shelter arrangements
To protect the integrity of the tax system, the CRA will not assess a tax return on which a donation tax credit is claimed under a gifting tax shelter arrangement until after the tax shelter has been audited. However, taxpayers can have their tax return assessed before the tax shelter has been audited if they agree to remove the claim from their return. These procedures were also in place for the 2012 and 2013 tax years, as outlined in a CRA news release of January 10, 2014.

The CRA is auditing gifting tax shelters
The CRA continues to warn taxpayers that if they receive a charitable donation receipt for an amount higher than the value of property donated, the receipt is not valid and can’t be used to claim a tax credit. The CRA is auditing all gifting tax shelters that offer such receipts and, to date, has not found any that comply with Canadian tax law.

Taxpayers who have participated in gifting tax shelters but have decided not to remove their donation claim from their return should know that an audit can take up to two years to finish. Once the audit is done, taxpayers receive their notice of assessment, which includes any changes to their donation claims based on the audit results. Taxpayers who do not agree with a change made to their returns can file an objection.

Taxpayers should also be aware that, starting with the 2013 tax year, if an amount they have donated to a gifting tax shelter is in dispute, they are still required by law to pay 50% of the taxes they may owe.

If you are thinking of participating in a gifting tax shelter scheme, remember the following:

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be informed—do your research and read all documents and information available about the tax shelter.
  • The tax shelter identification number does not in any way confirm that you, as an investor, can claim any tax benefits associated with the tax shelter.
  • Ask to see any income tax rulings and legal opinions the promoter has for the gifting tax arrangement he or she wants you to invest in.
  • Get independent, professional advice before signing any documents. For the advice to be independent, the tax professional should not be linked in any way to the tax shelter or to the promoter of the tax shelter.
  • You are the only person responsible for all the information on your tax return.

Additional reading
Since 2006, the CRA has seen a significant decrease in the number of participants in gifting tax shelter schemes, as well as a decrease in the amount of disallowed donations. More and more Canadians are understanding the significant financial risks associated with these schemes.

Keep up to date on information that will help you understand how to protect yourself against tax schemes and the consequences you might face if you do participate. Find out more at the following links:

Protect yourself!
Questions and answers: Gifting tax shelter schemes
Tax shelters
Complaints and disputes

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