What’s With the CRA Screening of Tax Volunteers?
Anyone in accounting or its related fields is constantly preaching to tax payers to be very cautious as to who they are giving their personal information to, and this includes those that they are using for their tax preparation.
Many people who have simple tax returns, or do not use an accountant will rely on volunteers or private tax preparers to complete their taxes for them. In most cases the tax payer has never met these individuals before, and yet are trusting them with highly personal information. It is a prime opportunity for potential identity theft.
The CRA is aware of these vulnerabilities and are taking steps to scrutinize volunteers who are being placed in this preparation of trust. This all came about as a result of potential fraudulent individual associated to a tax clinic.
These new protective steps by the CRA are being phased in over a two year period. It will include a mandatory police records check for the 2016 tax filings. While the CRA is all for volunteer programs to help tax payers who cannot afford more professional and paid help, they are not directly involved with these free tax clinics. They are arranged by the communities themselves.
This heightened concern has come about as a result of a volunteer who had been charged with tax fraud was seen volunteering at a community tax clinic. This was immediately brought to the attention of the CRA who implemented some protective steps for those tax payers who had their taxes prepared by this individual. These individuals were notified and their accounts have been flagged.
It is said that changes to the volunteer program have already been implemented to prevent future happenings such as this.
This means that volunteers must now register online with the CRA making a declaration that they have not been convicted of tax fraud or other criminal offences. Plus the volunteer must get a electronic tax filing certificate that has built in screening. Before this the volunteer could come under the umbrella of a master certificate held by the community organization.
Police background checks will be mandatory by the fall of 2015 for the volunteers, who have not been registered as a volunteer for at least five years. Some communities have already been using a check.
The worry is that if the CRA is too aggressive all at once in its beefing up of security measures that a lot of the volunteers will pull away, which would leave a real shortage in help for many tax payers. Some volunteers may feel that a police background check is simply a questioning of their integrity, or don’t feel comfortable with being finger printed or having to pay the small cost incurred with this first part of a police background check.