Do you owe money to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

May 1st, 2014

You may have received a letter from the CRA advising you of an unpaid tax amount and it will speak of “legal actions” to come if you do not call and arrange a repayment. The types of legal action that CRA may take are varied and the letter will warn that these legal actions may be taken without further notice.

What you may not be aware of that the Canada Revenue Agency has a powerful set of collection tools at its disposal if you fail to pay unpaid taxes. These tools include a range of recovery devices like garnishments, seizure & sale of your property, third party assessments and in 1999, the CRA also gained the ability to certify your debt in Federal Court and then register your tax debts against your assets. The registration of these tax debts against your real and personal property effectively creates a charge or security interest in your assets.

It’s worth knowing too that the CRA may register against your real and personal property whenever your tax debt exceeds a specific threshold dollar amount (as low as $10,000) and/or whenever your repayment will take an extended period of time. In many such cases the CRA does not notify you of the registration and you will be unaware of the registration until you attempt to refinance, sell/dispose of the asset that has become encumbered by CRA. Once CRA registers a lien or security interest against your property it then becomes a secured creditor that expects full payment before it will release your asset.

This change from unsecured creditor to secured creditor may effectively prevent you from resolving those tax type debts in either a bankruptcy or proposal administration. To find out if the CRA has registered against any of your assets, you can contact the CRA directly or go to a Service Ontario office nearest you.

To sum up, if you have a large tax debt or know that you are about to be assessed a significant tax liability you may wish to urgently consult with a tax attorney and/or a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to discuss and review your options.