A while back, I wrote an article about tax auditors not knowing your business. In today’s post, we will look at the CRA’s appeal department’s knowledge of the restaurant business. I wish I could say that Appeals Officers are better equipped to deal with restaurant tax audit issues, but I can’t. Continue reading “CRA Appeals Officers Don’t Know Your Business”
I started writing this blog in September, 2009. At that time, there was very little useful information about restaurant tax audits in Canada (or anywhere). In the 42 articles that I have written so far, I have tried to fill this gap with practical information geared towards restaurateurs. Based on the comments I’ve received from a number of readers, I think I have succeeded. There still isn’t much useful information about restaurant tax audits, other than what you will find in this blog. That’s a shame, but it keeps me motivated to continue helping as many restaurateurs as I can.
I had an interesting conversation with a restaurant owner the other day. We were discussing tax audits and he mentioned that he wasn’t worried, because his accountant had signed off on his financial statements. He thought that his accountant was responsible for paying any additional tax that might be reassessed by the CRA!
We all know that some amount of alcohol will be pilfered. Don’t you love that word? Pilfered. Sounds like a mere pittance. It is anything but. As a rule of thumb, the cost of the theft will be about three times the cost of the alcohol that is, ah, pilfered.
If you’ve been following recent posts on my sister blog, Canadian Restaurateur, you may have noticed a theme. Theft. All restaurateurs know that theft is a significant issue that requires our constant vigilance. The cost of the stolen product is bad enough, but if you also have to pay tax (plus penalties and interest) on the retail value of the stolen product, it becomes a huge issue. Everyone knows it isn’t right that a restaurateur should have to pay tax “as if” the stolen alcohol had been sold. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way it works in most tax jurisdictions.
The Canada Revenue Agency released some details of their 3-year pilot study (it was only supposed to run two years) of fraud in the restaurant industry. While not many details were released, you can read the Globe and Mail article, Taxman finds rampant restaurant fraud.
The media’s interpretation of the details that were released is a bit misleading. Of the 424 restaurants that were subject to scrutiny, it was determined that 143 of them exhibited evidence of fraud by erasing evidence of cash sales from their electronic POS systems. This is how they arrive at the “one-third” of all restaurants fraudulently hide sales from the taxman. Further, almost $1 million of hidden sales were revealed for each fraudulent establishment ($141 million).
So what’s misleading about that?
When the auditor arrives to audit your bar or restaurant, he or she will review your internal controls to ensure the accuracy and completeness of your recorded sales and the taxes thereon. If the documentation is not available to determine that appropriate controls were effective throughout the audit period, the auditor will conclude that the controls were lacking and that the books and records may not be relied upon to support the sales taxes collected by the restaurant. Most independent restaurants will fall into this category. As a result, the auditor will proceed to apply an indirect audit approach to estimating the amount of sales that were likely to have been generated, based on your purchases of alcoholic beverages. Several key assumptions are used in this method, which I will describe in the remainder of this post.
This post concerns customer comps or promotional drinks served by restaurants and bars. The issue is: how much is too much?
Most restaurants and bars offer promotional drinks to their customers from time to time. Sometimes it is to acknowledge frequent visits, high spending or special occasions. Other times it may be to “compensate” a customer for a service or quality issue. In either case, the customer receives a free (complimentary) drink. All restaurateurs know that this is an effective method of promoting and growing a restaurant business. However, if you don’t keep track of these types of promotions properly, customer comps could be your downfall.