CRA & Revenu Québec

Getting a Refund or Tax Reduction Using the Taxpayer Relief Provisions

If you have past due amounts that you owe to the Canada Revenue Agency, consider using the taxpayer relief provisions to obtain a reduction or a refund.

The Taxpayer Relief Provisions

As part of its broad tax administration mission, the CRA administers legislation known as the taxpayer relief provisions. These provisions give the CRA some discretion in applying the Income Tax Act with a view to fairness and equity for all taxpayers.

One of the elements of the taxpayer relief provisions is the possibility for the CRA to refund or reduce the amount payable beyond the normal three-year period reassessment period.

As a rule, the Income Tax Act sets a three-year limitation period from the end of a given tax year to file an income tax return to claim a tax refund. There is a similar three-year limitation period from the date of the original notice of assessment to request an adjustment to an assessment issued for a previous tax year. In principle, once these limitations periods have passed, the refunds or adjustments are lost forever.

However, under the taxpayer relief provisions, individuals and testamentary trusts may be able to get them anyway. If you owe the CRA money, this is a great way to reduce your debt.

Circumstances Where a Refund or Reduction May Be Granted

All requests under the taxpayer relief provisions are at the CRA’s discretion. However, it has indicated that it may issue a refund or reduce the amount owed if it is satisfied that such a refund or reduction would have been made if:

  • The return or request had been filed or made on time; and
  • The necessary assessment is correct in law and has not been already allowed.

These are fairly easy criteria to meet. The CRA further states that you can make a request for a refund or adjustment if you missed or were unaware of claiming a deduction or credit that is available for the year when you did not claim it.

The taxpayer relief provisions are not limited to income taxes and can apply to Canada child tax benefit payments, GST/HST credits, the working income tax benefit and several others.

Circumstances Where the Request Will Be Denied

The CRA will generally not grant a request for reduction or reimbursement in the following circumstances as well as similar ones:

  • The purpose for requesting an adjustment is really a dispute of the correctness of a previous assessment that you had chosen not to dispute through the normal objection process.
  • The requests has a negative impact, such as increased taxes, interests or penalties, on the statute-barred income tax return of another individual.
  • The request is aimed at provincial matters that are administered by the CRA, unless the province has specifically granted the discretionary ability to make the adjustments.