Most trustees in bankruptcy, myself included, will tell you that you should file all of your outstanding tax returns before filing bankruptcy in Canada – but do you really have to?
The filing of income tax returns is required under the Income Tax Act. There is actually no requirement under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) that states you must file all of your outstanding tax returns before you declare bankruptcy.
So why do most trustees make you do so?
The simple answer is to make sure you are able to be discharged from bankruptcy.
The BIA does require that a bankrupt file their tax return(s):
- for the year immediately preceding the year in which they filed for bankruptcy,
- and the year they actually file for bankruptcy.
If a person has a history of not filing their tax returns then the trustee’s concern is they may not file them during the bankruptcy. Failing to complete your duties during a bankruptcy, including filing your tax returns, can mean you will not be discharged from bankruptcy (released from your debts).
You will also want your tax returns filed to ensure you will have the co-operation of the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) during your bankruptcy. If your tax returns have not been filed on a regular basis, you may have a significant tax liability and CRA may be one of your major creditors. If your outstanding tax returns have not been filed before you file for bankruptcy CRA is much more likely to request a Meeting of Creditors to demand that the outstanding returns be filed so they can determine how much you owe. If this happens your bankruptcy is effectively put on hold while everyone waits for you to file the missing returns.
So, do you have to file all of your outstanding tax returns before filing bankruptcy? Legally, no you do not, but practically speaking you’re trustee is going to ask you to and likely won’t accept your file until you do.
If you have outstanding tax debts, or suspect you may due to unfiled tax returns, talk to a local trustee in bankruptcy about your options. Bankruptcy may help you eliminate not only taxes owing but penalties and interest. You may also be able to arrange for a tax debt settlement through a consumer proposal. Contact a Bankruptcy Canada trustee in your area today.