I have a Canadian Tax question for you.Few people like tax instalments; they feel like some sort of punishment. An important thing to keep in mind is that instalments are not an extra tax. Whatever you pay in instalments will reduce the amount owing at the end of the year.
Question: Let says John pays $3685 as his amount owing on his 2011 tax return, and in May 2012 John gets a Notice of Assessment that says his Final Balance is Nil which is what he expects because he paid all the tax he owed that year.
Now John gets a letter in the mail August 18th from CRA saying out of nowhere he has to now pay tax instalments of $1843 due September 15th and December 15th for the 2012 tax season, but this makes absolutely no sense as John already paid his tax owing in 2011 in full and you have until April 2012 to file your 2012 tax return.
History: John has paid been in the workforce for 25 years and never missed paying taxes once when they were owed and has never had a mistake on his returns.
To me this looks like a cash grab by the Canadian government well before the tax due date of April 30th, 2012. What does it matter to the government as long as you pay what you owe, if you owe any taxes by the tax deadline?
Thanks for any suggestions you can pass on.
In the example above, John is being asked to pay instalments because he owed more than $3000 on his 2011 taxes, and he owed more than $3000 on either his 2009 or 2010 taxes. That’s all it takes to trigger CRA to ask for instalments. It has nothing to do with your record of paying your taxes on time over the years.
That said, the reason why instalments exist has to do with the government making sure it gets paid. Imagine if payroll taxes didn’t exist and CRA tried to collect from everyone at the end of the year. Millions of Canadians wouldn’t have enough money to pay their taxes and CRA would have an impossible job of debt collecting.
The goal of payroll taxes is to collect the right amount through the year so that each taxpayer owes or is owed little at the end of the year. However, there are many types of income not subject to payroll taxes, such as investment income. The instalment system exists to smooth out the collection of taxes owing through the year instead of trying to collect everything at the end of the year.
The fact that a particular taxpayer, like John, is able to plan properly and pay his taxes owing at the end of the year is not considered. If he owes more than $3000 one year and also in one of the two previous years, then instalments are triggered. Note that the instalment amount CRA is asking John to pay adds up to his taxes owing for 2011. However, the instalments go toward John’s 2012 taxes owing. The presumption is that his 2012 income will look similar to his 2011 income.
Depending on John’s income for 2012, he may not have to pay the instalment amounts asked for by CRA. To understand how instalments work and how much you actually have to pay, see a previous post on understanding income tax instalments.