There can be many tax obligations on a person’s estate even after he or she has died. These obligations are carried out by the executor. This includes making sure that all taxes owed is paid, filing all the necessary returns of the deceased person, informing the beneficiaries about the taxable portion of the money from the estate they have received, if any, and getting the clearance certificate for certifying that all money owed to the CRA has been paid up.
While carrying out these obligations, the executor or beneficiaries might find out that the deceased person hadn’t completely complied with all the tax obligations. For instance, there can be some unreported assets outside the country, under-reported or unfiled income for several years. Now, if the CRA finds out these tax errors, then usually, the estate will face the same consequence that a regular taxpayer will. It’s possible that the CRA will impose hefty penalty and interest on the tax owed, coming from the estate or on the money that has already been given out to the beneficiaries. That’s not all. The executor could also be made personally liable for any money that the CRA is not able to collect from the estate.
Is voluntary disclosure the safest option?
What is the safest option? It is to come clean and arrange a voluntary disclosure for the estate. Any unfiled or incorrect return will be submitted. By doing this, the estate can avoid any potential penalty and some of the interest as well.
But estate voluntary disclosures are complicated often because there are gaps in records. The deceased person is not available anymore to answer queries. Many of the tax omission go back a long time. It could be longer than any bank can provide the record. So there is the possibility that the CRA might make some unfavourable assumptions.
For example, the CRA might take this position – no tax was paid ever on income from an offshore account by the deceased, and so, the estate is liable to pay tax on the entire offshore account’s income going back to its inception. In this situation, it is advisable to go for a “no-name voluntary disclosure”. This allows the family to properly understand the outcome of a potential disclosure.
The personal representative is the one responsible for filing the deceased's last tax return and paying any taxes owing, using money from the deceased's estate. The personal representative of an estate can be an executor, administrator, or anyone else in charge of the decedent's property.
The CRA’s statute of limitations for an audit is three years. This means that any of the deceased person's tax returns are subject to random audits for the next three years. However, tax experts recommend that you preserve all tax records for a minimum of seven years in case there are questions about the deceased person’s returns.
When taxpayers are alive and receiving taxable income, they must file returns. This obligation ceases when they pass away. The CRA may audit the estate of a deceased individual by pursuing taxes owed by them. You can protect an estate from an audit by knowing under which circumstances the CRA can audit the taxes of a deceased individual.
"These articles provide information of a general nature only. It is only current at the posting date. It is not updated and it may no longer be current. It does not provide legal advice nor can it or should it be relied upon. All tax situations are specific to their facts and will differ from the situations in the articles. If you have specific legal questions you should consult a lawyer."