It's certainly not a campfire horror story but many Canadians fear that they may be subjected to a tax audit. Is there basis to that fear?
The truth is that, for most personal tax returns, the chances of an audit are slim. The vast majority of Canadians, more than 90%, completes their tax returns accurately and files them on time. Of more than 26 million personal and corporate returns filed annually, the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) audits less than 2%. Most personal returns are accurate as the bulk of personal income is recorded on T4 slips. However, returns from small and medium sized businesses may be prone to error or may be fraudulent. As such, most CRA audits are directed at the business community.
This is not to say that you should assume that whatever you include in your personal return will slide through unnoticed. For example, if you live in a neighbourhood of stately, expensive homes, yet your income is barely above minimum wage, you may expect to be queried by the CRA as to other sources of income to support your lifestyle.
Should you be chosen for a tax audit, it is wrong to assume that the CRA is searching for criminal activity. A tax audit is conducted to ensure compliance with the Income Tax Act. An auditor may actually discover that you overpaid taxes and a refund is due. In any event, don't be confrontational. Cooperate with the tax auditor and make all your records available. It is possible that you made an honest error and you have the opportunity to discuss this with the auditor. The auditor is also well versed in tax issues and may be able to offer helpful advice in your tax matters.
Overall, be prepared. Keep careful records and don't discard them immediately after filing your return. If the tax auditor knocks at your door, be ready and be helpful.
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