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What Happens if You Don’t Pay Taxes? Canada

Tax return

As a Canadian resident, it's important to understand the consequences of not paying taxes. The Canadian tax system is designed to fund important government programs and services, including healthcare, education, and social services. Failing to pay your taxes can have serious consequences, including legal action and financial penalties. In this article, we will outline the obligations of Canadian taxpayers, the consequences of not filing a tax return, and what happens if you don't pay your taxes.

Introduction to Canadian Tax System

In Canada, the federal government and the provincial governments collect taxes from individuals and businesses. The federal government collects income taxes, while provincial governments collect taxes on goods and services. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is responsible for administering Canada's tax system and enforcing tax laws.

Canadian taxpayers are required to file a tax return every year, reporting their income and claiming deductions and credits. The tax return is used to calculate the amount of tax owed or the refund owed to the taxpayer.

Obligations as a Taxpayer in Canada

As a taxpayer in Canada, you have certain obligations. These include:

  • Filing an income tax return every year, even if you have no income to report;

  • Reporting all your income, including income from self-employment, rental income, and investment income;

  • Claiming all your deductions and credits, including medical expenses, charitable donations, and tuition fees; and

  • Paying any income taxes owed by the deadline

If you fail to meet these obligations by the due date, you may face penalties and interest charges.

Why Do Some People Owe Income Tax While Others Get a Tax Refund?

When you prepare your tax return, you will list all of your income and reduce it by your deductions and tax credits for the previous year. If, after this calculation, you have a balance owing, it means you didn't pay enough income taxes in the prior year and now need to pay the balance owing. If you paid too much in income taxes for the prior year, then that means the CRA owes you a refund.

Consequences of Not Filing a Tax Return

You are obligated to report and pay your taxes on time; if you don’t, you may face consequences. The CRA may charge you penalties and interest on any taxes owed. Additionally, you may lose access to government benefits and services, such as the Canada Child Benefit or the GST/HST credit.

If you continue not to file your income tax returns, the CRA may estimate your taxes owing and take legal action against you. This may include garnishing your wages, seizing your assets such as your bank account, placing a lien on your properties or taking other legal action against you.

What happens if I Owe Money and Don't Pay My Taxes to Canada Revenue Agency?

Criminal Offence

Failing to pay your income tax bill or tax evasion can have harsh penalties. For example, if you knowingly fail to file your taxes, report income or claim false deductions, you may be charged with tax evasion. Tax evasion is a serious crime that can result in fines and even jail time.

Late Filing Penalty

If you don't pay your income tax on time, the CRA may charge you penalties and interest. The penalty for late payment is 5% of the amount owed, plus 1% for each month the payment is late, up to a maximum of 12 months.

Interest on Unpaid Taxes

If you don't pay your income tax on time, the CRA charges compound daily interest on any taxes owed. The interest rate is set by the CRA and can change every three months. The interest rate is currently 5%.

Filing Your Tax Return and Deadlines

It's important to file your income tax return on time to avoid penalties and interest charges. The deadline for filing a tax return is April 30th of each year unless otherwise stated. If you owe taxes, you must pay them by April 30th each tax year to avoid penalties and interest charges.

How Do I Pay My Tax Bill in Canada?

The Canada Revenue Agency offers a number of ways for you to pay your taxes, as listed on their website. This includes paying online, paying in person at a financial institution or Canada Post location, or paying by mail.

Is There a Penalty for Filing Taxes Late if You Don't Have a Tax Balance?

There is no penalty for filing your taxes late if you don't owe any taxes. In this case, you likely have a refund owed to you by the government, so it would be beneficial to file your tax returns and receive your refund.

What if I Can't Pay My Taxes When They Are Due?

If you owe taxes, it's important to deal with the debt as soon as possible. Ignoring the debt will only make the situation worse. There are several options for dealing with tax debt, including:

  • Partial payments: If you can't make the full payment, you can still make partial payments to reduce the amount of interest on your debts.

  • Payment plan: You can set up a payment plan with the CRA to pay off your debt over time. This can help you avoid legal action and keep your assets.

  • Consumer Proposal: If you have tax debts and other unsecured debts, it may be beneficial to file a consumer proposal to reduce all of your debts into a monthly payment. Most tax debts can be discharged by completing a consumer proposal.

  • Bankruptcy: If you are unable to pay your tax debt and unable to file a consumer proposal, you may consider filing for bankruptcy. This can discharge your tax debt, but it can negatively impact your credit record.

If you owe personal income tax, it's important to work with the CRA to resolve the issue and make payment arrangements. If you need to get in touch with the CRA, you can contact them by phone, mail, or in person. It's essential to be truthful and open with the CRA regarding your financial situation. The CRA might be willing to collaborate with you to come up with a mutually beneficial solution.

Seek Professional Help With Tax Debt

If you are struggling with tax debt, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A tax professional can help you understand your options and negotiate with the CRA on your behalf. Additionally, a tax professional can help you avoid making mistakes that could lead to penalties and legal action.


Failing to pay your taxes can have serious consequences, including legal action and financial penalties. It's important to understand your obligations as a taxpayer in Canada and to file your tax return on time. If you owe taxes, it's important to deal with the debt as soon as possible and to work with the CRA to find a solution. Seeking professional help can also be beneficial. Remember, ignoring tax debt will only make the situation worse.

If you are currently struggling with tax debts and other debts, Litvack Group would be happy to offer a Free Consultation to discuss your financial situation. Contact us today!


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