After you file your tax return Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will review it and send you a Notice of Assessment. This shows any taxes still owing for that year and other important information. The CRA can later issue a Notice of Reassessment that can change the amount of taxes you owe. This can happen for example after an Audit or after the CRA has requested more information from you or from another person concerning your filing.
If you do not agree with the CRA's assessment or reassessment of the amount of taxes you owe you can file an objection. You have 90 days from the date that CRA mailed the notice to object. The "date of mailing" can be found at the top right hand corner of the notice. This deadline applies regardless of whether you actually receive the notice in the mail. It is your responsibility to make sure that CRA has your most up-to-date contact information at all times. If you miss the deadline to object you can request an extension up to one year later. You have to show that you were unable to object or instruct someone to object for you, that you had the intention to object all along and that you made the application as soon as you could.
There is no particular form required to file your objection. The CRA does however have a template (Appendix A) that you can use. You need to include your contact information and a copy of the Notice of Assessment or information about the Notice of Assessment, such as the date it was issued, the number on the notice and the taxation year or years it concerns. You must also sign and date your objection and include your Social Insurance Number. Your objection must be mailed to the Chief of Appeals at the address shown on the notice. Most taxpayers simply have to state why they object and outline any facts or circumstances that support their objection. There are different rules for large corporations.
CRA will review your objection and make a decision. If they agree with your objection they can adjust your tax return and send you a Notice of Reassessment. Otherwise they will confirm that your original Assessment was correct.
Once your objection is filed it typically takes a year for an appeals officer to be assigned. The CRA is required to postpone collection action on any income taxes in dispute until 90 days after they have made a decision about your objection. However, CRA is permitted to take collection action on other amounts outstanding such as GST, and will continue to charge you interest on any unpaid amounts during this period. You can choose to pay the CRA the disputed amount and still file an objection. Even if you are successful with your objection, the CRA will not pay you interest on amounts already paid.
If you are not satisfied with the CRA's decision regarding your objection you can appeal to the Tax Court of Canada. You must appeal within 90 days of receiving the CRA’s decision about your objection.
There is an informal procedure for appeals to the Tax Court if the amount in dispute is $25,000 or less in any tax year. Under this procedure you must file a Notice of Appeal within 90 days of being notified of the CRA's decision. No form is required but you need to appeal in writing and include the reason for your appeal and any other relevant facts. The government then responds with a Reply. After this a hearing date will be set for a trial.
The general procedure is used for more complicated issues where more money is involved. People will usually need a lawyer to use this procedure.
Once the Tax Court has made a decision either side (you or the CRA) can appeal that decision to the Federal Court of Appeal. This court will not re-try the case or hear new evidence. For an appeal to be successful the Court of Appeal must find that the Tax Court made a mistake about the law. Further appeal to the Supreme Court can be made in limited circumstances when the Supreme Court grants a leave to appeal.
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