Voluntary Disclosures – Should I Apply?


Should I use the VDP program offered by the CRA? Is this program right for me?

Should I use the VDP program offered by the CRA? Is this program right for me?

What is Voluntary Disclosures Program (VDP)?

The VDP is a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administered program which allows taxpayers to disclose or amend historical tax returns due to inaccuracy or unreported tax information. Under the program the CRA will not charge penalties or prosecute the taxpayer. The program also promises to grant partial interest relief if you are accepted under the program.

A disclosure must meet the following four conditions in order to qualify as a valid disclosure:

  1. Voluntary – The disclosure has to be voluntary. You cannot apply for this program once the CRA starts to audit your books and records. You will not qualify for this program once the CRA contacts you.
  2. Complete – The taxpayer must provide complete and accurate information for the period you are applying for.
  3. Penalty – There has to be situation where a penalty would apply to the taxpayer. This usually constitutes that there is taxes owing, otherwise the use of this program would be useless.
  4. One year past due – The disclosure has to be one year past due.

Should I Apply?

After briefly reviewing the details of the VDP program everything looks great on the surface. It had finally seemed like the CRA had implemented a program which would allow Canadians to correct past period errors without hefty penalties and interest.

Before we can fully start utilizing the program there are ambiguities that the taxpayer must understand. One of the most common misconceptions is that the CRA will not charge penalties or interest if you make a submission under this program.

In the VDP publication the CRA states that if the CRA accepts a disclosure as having met the conditions set out in this policy, it will be considered a valid disclosure and the taxpayer will not be charged penalties or prosecuted with respect to the disclosure. However, the CRA  contradicts itself and states that the Minister does not have to grant relief under the VDP provisions. Each request will be reviewed and decided on its own merit. If relief is denied or partly granted, the CRA will provide the taxpayer with an explanation of the reasons and factors for the decision.

When determining if interest and penalties should be charged, the CRA will assess on a case by case basis. This decision is most likely made by the CRA agent assessing the case.

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Business Transfers To Family Members

family-325218_1920Inadequate Succession Planning


According to reports published by CIBC it is expected that 30% or close to 310,000 Canadian business owners will sell or transfer ownership of their businesses in the next five years. The growing number of transfers has a significant impact on the Canadian economy and predecessor owners.

The lack of effective tax planning and knowledge  has resulted in predecessor owners paying significant income tax. This directly affects retirement savings and future well-being.

Transferring Among Family members

Business owners might have family succession allowing them to transfer their family business to the next generation. This allows business to be kept in the family and continue to operate much like they did in the years before. However, section 84.1 of the Income Tax Act (ITA) creates a significant economic loss for the business owner if they decide to keep the business within the family.

The transfer of a business to a family member is administered through section 84 .1 of the ITA, which is in place to prevent tax evasion. In most cases this section of the ITA deprives the predecessor owner of the capital gains exemption, which can save thousands in taxes. This would make selling the business to a third party much more attractive because you can realize the capital gains exemption. Resulting in lower income tax for the business owner.

Section 84.1 has overly complicated the succession planning process. It hinders the business owners if they decide to keep the business in the family.


Like many other, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has proposed that the federal government modify the ITA section 84.1 to “to facilitate  business transfers to family members and make this type of transfer at least as advantageous as transfers involving  unrelated third parties through the following measures”.

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