Are you personally liable for your business debts?
When Bob’s Trucking Inc. started experiencing cash flow problems, Bob found his company was unable to pay all of its bills. He decided to use the money the company did have to pay for fuel and employees to continue operations because without fuel in the trucks or employees to drive the trucks, there was no business. At this point, he stopped paying the company’s GST and source deductions to CRA. He thought that if the trucking company ended up going bankrupt, the business debt to CRA would be taken care of through bankruptcy…WRONG!
Am I personally responsible for my business debts to Canada Revenue Agency?
When a business collects GST from customers or withholds source deductions from employees, it is acting as an agent on behalf of CRA. The company now has an obligation to remit these amounts collected to CRA. If Bob’s Trucking cannot meet this obligation in full, CRA will start arranging payment plans with the company. If this is still unsuccessful, CRA will pursue legal action against Bob’s Trucking Inc. to collect these amounts.
If CRA is still unsuccessful in collecting from the company, they can and they will go after the director of the company to try to collect these amounts. Here is where Bob’s personal bank accounts and assets are now at risk!
It is a slightly different story when Bob’s Trucking Inc. owes corporate income taxes to CRA. Since these amounts have not been collected by a third party on behalf of CRA, the company is not acting as an agent. The same collection process will be followed by CRA to try to collect these amounts from the company. But, if that is unsuccessful, Bob’s personal assets may or may not be at risk.
If Bob’s Trucking Inc. paid Bob dividends, then CRA can go after Bob personally for corporate income taxes owing up to the amount of the dividends he received. The logic behind this is if the company did not have sufficient money to meet its corporate tax obligations, how did it have sufficient money to pay dividends?
No business owner wants to find themselves getting behind with filing or payments with CRA.
When this does happen, most owners put their heads in the sand and try to avoid CRA’s phone calls and correspondence. This is a big mistake! CRA is willing to work with businesses to arrange payment plans to avoid pursuing legal action. But you MUST communicate with CRA.
This is one of the reasons it is important to have a professional accountant on your team. It is important to be proactive as a business owner so you do not find yourself in hot water with CRA. At Richardson Miller LLP, we have decades of experience working with business owners and corresponding with CRA.
Bobi-Rae Miller has been working in public practice since 2000 and received her professional accounting designation in 2005. She focuses on working with small to medium-sized businesses and feels it is important for business owners to understand the financial side of their operations, so she takes the time to ensure that this happens.