Taxpayers and their advisors may consider this question more frequently as CRA pushes for more electronic communications, such as the provision of email addresses on this year’s tax return. Providing an email address on your tax return will in fact authorize CRA to stop sending out Notices of Assessment and Reassessment by mail; important sources of taxpayer information – including your refund – information which can be shared with numerous stakeholders.
Who are those stakeholders? CRA makes reference to the answer on Page 4 of the T1 General 2014. Underneath the taxpayer signature you’ll find small print about why personal information from the return is shared (for tax assessment, audit, compliance, evaluation or verification purposes) and with whom (other federal, provincial or territorial government institutions).
But you’ll have to dig if you want more information
The full list of information sharing, is found in InfoSource, which is a series of publications containing information about the Government of Canada’s access to information and privacy programs. According to its home page, the primary purpose of Info Source is to assist individuals in exercising their rights under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
The publication CRA PPU 005 is enlightening. For example, did you know that information pertaining to taxpayer indebtedness can be shared with debtors and the courts, or with CRA should you seek employment with them; the latter with consent? Here’s the full list outlining how and for what purposes your tax information can be shared:
• Statistics Canada
o For Longitudinal Administrative Data STC PPU 112, and Longitudinal Immigration Database STC PPU 135,
• Department of Justice Canada
o For Civil Proceedings and Legal Services JUS PPU 010
o Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance – JUS PPU 125 and
o Garnishment Registry – JUS PPU 150,
• Public Prosecution Service of Canada
o For Prosecutions and Prosecution-related Activities PPSC PPU 002,
• Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
o For Canada Disability Savings Program HRSDC PPU 038
o Universal Child Care Benefit HRSDC PPU 102
o Registration for the Employment Insurance Measure for Self-Employed People HRSDC PPU 323 and
o Canada Pension Plan – Retirement, Disability, Survivors and Death Benefits (Individual) HRSDC PPU 146
o Public Works and Government Services Canada (Receiver General Payments PWGSC PCU 712).
• Provincial and territorial governments (or parts thereof) in accordance with signed information sharing agreements.
• Internal CRA Programs:
o Business Returns and Payment Processing (CRA PPU 047),
o GST/HST Credit (CRA PPU 140),
o Taxpayer Relief Program (CRA PPU 155),
o Trust Accounts Examinations GST/HST (CRA PPU 120),
o Detection and Investigations (CRA PPU 095),
o Tax Avoidance Cases (CRA PPU 035),
o Voluntary Disclosures (CRA PPU 220),
o Individual (T1) Tax Arrears – Collection Action (CRA PPU 050), and
o Competent Authority Program Administration (CRA PPU 085)
o For authentication and registration purposes for electronic services.
• Where applicable, information pertaining to an individual’s indebtedness may be shared with the tax filer’s debtors and the courts to facilitate attachment.
• With consent, information may also be used for personnel security screening purposes for employment with the Canada Revenue Agency.
• Information may also be used or disclosed for the evaluation and supervision of CRA officials in the administration of their duties under the relevant Acts (e.g. audit trails), program evaluation (quality assurance and data integrity), compliance and enforcement risk management, strategy development, and reporting and for survey or other statistical analysis purposes.
According to InfoSource, these records are stored for up to seven year at a private-sector contractor records storage facility, depending on the type of information, and then are transferred to Library and Archives Canada as archival records.
Will taxpayers have the right tax information if they fail to check their emails and “My Account”? Will they be taken by surprise when communications from the above sharing stakeholders arrive? Will they understand that their refunds may have gone to one of those stakeholders instead of their bank?
In an era of significant change at CRA, there appears to be significant concern about loss of control of this private information by professionals and taxpayers alike. This is reflected in this month’s Knowledge Bureau poll, which ponders whether taxpayers should provide their email address to CRA. Those who have commented fall into two camps so far, with the “no’s” winning by a long shot so far.
It’s Your Money. Your Life. Be sure you know where your tax refund is. In an age of email fraud and the potential for missed responses due to email overload, it may pay to follow its arrival more carefully.