Consequences of Failing to File an Income Tax Return
Under the principle of self-assessment, every individual is responsible for filing an income tax return.
If Revenu Québec has reason to believe that an individual should have filed a return but did not, it will generally
- send the individual a letter requesting that a return be filed;
- send a second registered letter if no reply is received after 30 days;
- make an estimated assessment and send the individual a notice thereof if there is still no reply 30 days after the date of the second letter.
In short, estimated assessments, based on information available to Revenu Québec, are made only if Revenu Québec has evidence that an individual should have filed an income tax return and where that individual has subsequently refused to cooperate.
Notice to a Garnishee and Exigibility Certificate
Once a notice of estimated assessment has been sent, Revenu Québec begins the process of recovering the amount owed by attempting to contact the debtor by telephone or in writing in order to reach a payment agreement based on his or her ability to pay. If an agreement cannot be reached, a final notice is sent, extending the deadline for reaching an agreement by 10 working days and informing the debtor of the consequences of not reaching an agreement.
One such consequence is garnishment, as provided for by the Tax Administration Act. Under that Act, Revenu Québec can, in order to recover an amount owed to the State, send written notice to a person (the garnishee) that owes an amount to a tax debtor, requiring that person to remit to Revenu Québec all or a portion of the amount to be paid to the debtor. Revenu Québec undertakes this recourse only after the above-mentioned deadlines have been exceeded.
The Tax Administration Act also provides that, where an amount exigible under a fiscal law is not paid, Revenu Québec can issue a certificate attesting the exigibility of the debt and the amount owing. The certificate is then filed in the office of the competent court so that the clerk of the court can render judgment in favour of Revenu Québec. The filing of such a certificate does not, however, prevent the debtor from contesting or appealing the notice of assessment before the Court of Québec, where the debtor can be heard and assert his or her rights with respect to the notice of assessment. In such a case, recovery measures can be suspended under certain conditions.
Both methods of recovery are provided for under a number of federal and provincial laws.
Over the years, the courts have recognized how important it is for the State to have the proper tools at its disposal for recovering tax debt.
Lastly, taxpayers that feel that Revenu Québec or one of its agents has not given their file proper and fair analysis, or who wish to report a problem to Revenu Québec, can contact the Direction du traitement des plaintes, which answers directly to the President and Chief Executive Officer.