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Happy about CRA’s five-day tax filing extension? Thank one B.C. accountant

Many Canadians are breathing a sigh of relief this week, thanks to the quick action of a Sidney, B.C. accountant
Client Carol Watkis with accountant Chris Cowland | Photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

Many Canadians are breathing a sigh of relief this week, thanks to the quick action of accountant Chris Cowland of Cowland Paterson & Co., Professional Accountants, in Sidney, British Columbia.

After the Canada Revenue Agency sent out a notice April 24 that erroneously stated the income tax filing deadline for all electronic returns had been extended to May 5, many individuals and accountants likely adjusted their schedules as they believed they were given a bit leeway.

“This was fantastic news,” Cowland told Business in Vancouver. “We thought, this sounds too good to be true, but we phoned them up and they agreed and said yes, that is actually the case.”

Believing they now had an extra five days to get tax returns in on time, he told several of his staff members they could take the weekend off, which would not normally be the case at this time of year.

However, on April 27, the CRA sent out another notice saying it had made a mistake, and the filing deadline was still April 30 – meaning those who adjusted their schedules according to the original CRA notice were now behind.

“It was like a ton of bricks fell on me,” he recalled. “We got this email just after 10 in the morning on April 27 saying, ‘Please ignore the April 24 message.’

“We’d deliberately taken two days off our cycle thinking we could recharge.”

This five-day difference could have added up to big bucks in terms of fines for anyone filing late with an amount owing.

Cowland said the firm has several large clients, including one that it was determined owed over $100,000 in tax.

“If they’d waited until Monday of next week [to file] and had a late fine penalty…I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m going to be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars of late filing charges, because it’s not my clients’ fault that in good faith, I’d passed on information that CRA has given.’”

He immediately emailed his MP, Elizabeth May.

May responded within 15 minutes.

“She must have been sitting in Parliament,” he said. “She turned it around immediately.

“Within 10 or 15 minutes, she had printed it out, written a covering letter and walked across the floor and handed it to Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the Minister of Revenue.”

It was the first the minister had heard about the email.

This led to the CRA issuing a retraction and saying the deadline was officially extended until May 5.

Cowland says he does not take credit for the extension.

“I was just the first one to report it to the minister via Elizabeth May.”

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