How to File a Formal Dispute with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

By Randall Orser | Small Business

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You’ve just gotten back your tax notice of assessment, and notice that it’s different. Perhaps you missed something when you filed your taxes, or maybe, CRA has made an error when processing your tax return. If you disagree with an assessment, determination, or decision, you have the right to register a formal dispute.

What happens if I do not agree with the Notice I received from the CRA about my income tax or I have more information to provide?

If you have received a Notice of Assessment, Notice of Reassessment, Notice of Determination, or Notice of Redetermination and you do not think that it is correct or you have additional information for CRA to consider, please review the following Questions to determine the best course of action for you to take.

Question:
Do you want to provide the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with missing information for a tax return you have filed with us previously?

Action:
If so, rather than filing an objection, generally you can ask for a change to a personal tax return (T1) for a tax year ending in any of the 10 previous calendar years. For example, a request made in 2016 must relate to the 2006 or a later tax year to be considered. You will find the steps to follow and processing timeframes by visiting www.cra.gc.ca/changereturn.

You can also ask for a change to a corporate tax return (T2). You will find the steps to follow by visiting Requesting a reassessment of your T2 return.

The Voluntary Disclosures Program gives you a second chance to change a tax return you previously filed or to file a return that you should have filed. You can apply to the CRA to ask for relief of prosecution and penalties. www.cra.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures/

Question:
Did the CRA send you an income tax assessment notice for a tax year that you had not previously filed a tax return and did you want to provide the CRA with information that may change that assessment?

Action:
If so, rather than filing an objection, you can still send your tax return to CRA. Information on how to send us your return can be found here by visiting Send us your return.

Question:
Did you submit your receipts and records to CRA and you did not receive the outcome you expected or the issue was not resolved to your satisfaction? This means, that you provided the requested information to CRA and you received your Notice of Assessment, Notice of Reassessment, Notice of Determination, or Notice of Redetermination and you think they have misinterpreted the facts or applied the law incorrectly.

Action:
You may have the right to object and submit an objection. Information about filing an objection can be found below.

Please note that if you received a request to provide information during an audit or were otherwise contacted by CRA with a request to provide additional information and you did not respond to those requests and you chose instead to provide this information as part of an objection, your information may be referred back to the original area for a second review.

Can I file an income tax objection?

You or your authorized representative can file an income tax objection if you have received any of the following:

  • Notice of Assessment;
  • Notice of Reassessment;
  • Notice of Determination; or
  • Notice of Redetermination.

You cannot file an objection to dispute the following: a Statement of Account, or a proposal letter from an auditor.

You are required to clearly explain why you disagree with the assessment or determination and also include all of the relevant facts and reasons.

The time limits for filing an objection are as follows:

If you are an individual:

  • the time limit for filing an objection is whichever of the following two dates is later:
    • one year after the date of the filing deadline for the return (April 30 or June 15), or
    • the day that is 90 days after the day of sending the Notice of Assessment (the date of the notice or notification).

If you are a business or for assessments of taxes in respect of over-contributions to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA):

  • the time limit to file an objection is within 90 days of the day we sent the Notice of Assessment or Reassessment (the date of the notice or notification).

What if my objection is past the time limit?

If you did not file your objection on time because you attempted to have your change made by contacting the originating CRA office or because of circumstances beyond your control, you can apply for a time extension to file an objection. You can apply by writing to the Chief of Appeals at your Appeals Intake Centre (see Appendix B of pamphlet P148), or by using the My Account or My Business Account online services. You have to explain why you did not file your objection on time along with the facts and reasons of your objection.

The application for a time extension to file an objection must be made within one year after the expiration of the time limit to file an objection.

How do I file an income tax objection?

Here is what you provide when you file an income tax objection:

  • clear details of the issue(s) you are disputing, for example: I received a reassessment and my expenses were reduced because my receipts were disallowed. I believe that my receipts qualify as proof of my expenses because (insert reasons), and
  • any documentation to support your claim.

For an example of an income tax objection letter, see Appendix A of pamphlet P148 Resolving your dispute: Objection and appeal rights under the Income Tax Act.

You will find the steps to follow to file an objection and processing timeframes below. It is important to always provide all relevant information to CRA to allow for a complete consideration of the issue, at the assessing, audit, and objection stages.

You or your authorized representative can file an objection in one of the following ways:

In all cases, you should clearly explain why you disagree and include all relevant facts, reasons, and supporting documents.

Filing an objection to a notice of assessment or (re)assessment is your right, and you should take advantage of such if you feel the assessment is incorrect. Make sure you have all the documents you need to support your appeal, and that you have explained all the circumstances that apply to said appeal. In the end, CRA is reasonable and usually an appeal does get you some satisfaction, and at least a better understanding of why your claim was originally denied.

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