CRA penalties: a complete guide

Posted on 21 November 2021

Written by Chris Galea

No matter how nervous you are about filing your taxes, it is so important to ensure you file yours on time to avoid a number of consequences. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has unparalleled powers when it comes to taxes, so you should make sure you are doing everything by the book. Doing so can resolve any issues and prevent you getting into tax debt. In this article, we focus on the various CRA penalties out there and how you can try to avoid them. At Spergel, our experienced Licensed Insolvency Trustees have been helping Canadians with CRA penalties and tax debt for over thirty years, and we can help you too. Here’s our guide to the CRA penalties you need to know about.

CRA compound interest

If you file your taxes and owe tax debt, the CRA will charge you compound daily interest the day after the deadline, and each day thereafter until it is paid. The CRA’s interest rate can change every three months, so you should handle this as quickly as you possibly can. If you have a debt owing from previous years, the CRA will continue to charge you daily interest on these amounts also. Any payments you make will go towards the balance first. If you received COVID-19 benefits in 2020, the CRA will not charge you on your 2020 taxes until April 30, 2022. If the CRA expects you to pay your tax in instalments, you will need to pay by the set due dates. If any of these deadlines are missed, you will need to pay instalment interest as well. In addition, you may need to pay a penalty if your instalment payments are late or not paid in their entirety. Penalties will be applied if your instalment interest charges for 2022 are over $1,000.

CRA penalty for late filing

If you owe a tax debt for the previous year but do not file on time, you will receive a CRA penalty for late filing. The current penalty is 5% of your previous year’s balance, as well as 1% of your balance for each month you are behind on filing your taxes, up to one year. If you have been late in previous years, the CRA penalty for late filing is increased to 10% of your previous year’s balance. You could also be charged 2% of your previous year’s balance for each month you are behind filing, up to a maximum of 20 months. Filing your taxes late could also mean you face delays to any benefits and credit payments you may be owed. Even if you are unable to pay your due taxes, you should still file your taxes on time to avoid CRA penalties. It is important to note that late penalties are still valid even if you got interest relief as part of COVID-19 benefits. If you are struggling with tax debt, there are various solutions to provide debt relief – at Spergel, our Licensed Insolvency Trustees are here to help you.

CRA penalty for repeated failure to report income

If you file your taxes but fail to report an income of $500 or more on your previous year’s tax return, and you failed to report this amount on previous years, you may find yourself a repeated failure to report income penalty. The CRA penalty is made up of 10% of the amount you failed to report on last year’s return, and 50% of the difference between the understated tax on the amount you failed to report and the amount of tax withheld related to the amount you failed to report.

CRA penalties for gross negligence

This could come about knowingly or by accident, but gross negligence will lead to further CRA penalties. These penalties are incurred by making a false statement or missing a tax return. Usually CRA penalties for gross negligence are the greater of either $100 or 50% of the understated tax, or the overstated credits in the omission or false statement.

Can you waive CRA penalties or interest?

As CRA penalties can certainly add up, you may well be wondering if you can waive CRA penalties or associated interest. You can indeed request to cancel or waive penalties or interest. Making a request to the CRA if you are unable to meet your tax obligations due to circumstances out of your control, you may well be considered to have your CRA penalties cancelled or waived. The CRA can, however, only grant relief within a ten year window from your request date.

CRA penalties and tax debt can have a huge impact on your finances. They can lead to wage garnishment from the CRA and collection calls which can put further pressure on you. For these reasons, it is important to settle your tax debts as soon as you can. Book a free consultation with Spergel – we have been helping Canadians with tax debt for over thirty years, and we are here to help you too.


Chris Galea

Chris Galea is a Chartered Accountant and Insolvency and Restructuring Professional with over 20 years’ experience as an LIT (Licensed Insolvency Trustee). He is also our resident expert on tax debt, COVID debt, and the region of Saskatchewan, Canada. When he’s not at the office educating people about bankruptcies and consumer proposals, Chris is playing pick-up hockey with his friends, spending time with his family, and learning Spanish!

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