Canada: The Importance of Access to Information and Privacy Requests in Tax Appeals

Last Updated: September 22 2016

It is easier to tackle CRA taxation issues if you have access to the internal records and information that the CRA has in their possession. In particular, internal tax audit reports, audit working papers, valuation/appraisal reports and objection reports are excellent resources for your Canadian Tax Lawyer to provide you with proper tax help. You or your tax lawyer representative can make a formal request for documentary disclosure from the CRA under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. In addition, recent CRA protocol has implemented a system of discretionary and mandatory referrals of information between the Tax Audit branches and the Tax Appeals branches of the CRA. For more information please see our article on referral protocol between Tax Audit and Tax Appeals at CRA. Records of the discussions between your Tax Auditor and your Tax Appeals officer are available via an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request. However, ATIP requests may take some time to complete, especially if you have requested your entire file from the CRA. Our top Edmonton Tax Lawyers can identify your tax issues and, if advisable, draft a tailored ATIP request in order to get these important tax documents from the CRA as quickly as possible.

What is an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Request?

ATIP requests can be made under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act protects the privacy of individuals and allows individuals to access personal information about themselves held by a government institution. In legal terms, a corporation is not an “individual” therefore requests for government held information about corporations must be made under the Access to Information Act. The Access to Information Act permits access to information in records under the control of a government institution.

By making a written request to the ATIP Directorate and paying the corresponding fee, the ATIP Directorate is required by law to respond. Please note that each act has provisions that exempt certain information from being disclosed, even if requested. Government institutions may also refuse access to certain information under the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act; however, if refused, your Calgary tax lawyer has the right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner and/or the Privacy Commissioner.

What information is available under the Access to Information and Privacy Acts?

CRA publication P148(E) Rev. 14 “Resolving your dispute: Objection and appeal rights under the Income Tax Act” states that the following is generally available to taxpayers:

  • Copies of your tax returns;
  • Reports prepared by an auditor to support your assessment;
  • Working papers prepared by a or that are relevant to the issues in your tax dispute;
  • Records of discussions between a taxation appeals officer and an auditor regarding your assessment;
  • Copies of court decisions and relevant sections of legislation relied on by a taxation auditor to support your assessment;
  • Scientific, appraisal, and valuation reports relied on by an auditor to determine your assessment; and
  • Information obtained from a third party with whom you are doing business, such as sales invoices, purchase orders, cancelled cheques.

This is not an exhaustive list. More information could be available than what is listed above depending on the facts surrounding the tax issue. Our top Vancouver Tax Lawyers prepare ATIP requests on a regular basis and are familiar with the types of documents the CRA will and will not provide.

Who can make an ATIP request?

Under the Access to Information Act the following can make a request:

  • Canadian citizens
  • Permanent residents
  • Any individual present in Canada
  • Any corporation present in Canada

Individuals that do not meet the categories listed above may ask a representative, who is a Canadian resident or permanent resident, to make a request on their behalf. Written consent is required.

Under the Privacy Act the following can make a request:

  • Canadian citizens
  • Permanent residents
  • Any individual present in Canada

In order to obtain personal information belonging to someone else, you must submit written consent authorizing you to receive their information.

Why are ATIP Requests important in Tax Appeals?

While a taxpayer may receive CRA audit/objection correspondence that outlines the rationale behind CRA’s conclusions, the audit reports and objection reports offer more complete information. Collecting this information early in the process may lead to an earlier resolution of disputes with the CRA. In addition, tax issues are often complicated and may have been ongoing for several years. Having a complete documentary record of correspondence received over the years at issue from the CRA will allow your Canadian Tax Lawyer to better advise you in your tax matters.

What is the expected timeline for the completion of an ATIP request?

Our top Toronto tax lawyers have had seen a wide range of response times. The following factors affect the timeline for completion for an ATIP request:

  • Backlog
  • Amount of Information being Requested
  • Invalid Authorization

Acknowledgment will often be sent shortly after the request is made; however, our experienced Canadian Tax Layers often receive correspondence from the Access to Information and Privacy Directorate stipulating that more time is needed to fulfill the ATIP request. Completion for ATIP disclosures can range anywhere from 30 days to over a year from the date the request is sent.


The submission of an ATIP request is an important part of working towards the resolution of taxation issues. Contact one of our expert Canadian Tax Lawyers if you have questions about an ATIP request or if you need assistance in your tax objection or tax appeal process.

The information is thought to be current to date of posting. Income tax law changes frequently and content may no longer reflect the current state of the law. This document is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should not act or rely on any information in this document without first seeking legal advice. This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any specific questions on any legal matter, you should consult a professional legal services provider.

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Useful explanatory videos of income tax matters.
The following questions and answers are based on the proposed measures that were announced on December 7, 2015.
The official Government website of the CRA.
This guide is for any person who deals with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The guide gives you information on the 16 rights set out in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and explains what you can do if you believe that the CRA has not respected your rights.
The Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman (OTO) works to enhance the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) accountability in its service to, and treatment of, taxpayers and benefit recipients through independent and impartial reviews of service-related complaints and systemic issues.
Ontario personal income tax is an annual tax collected from individuals who are Ontario residents on the last day of the tax year or have income earned in Ontario for the tax year.
The following documents provide instructions for filing your 2015 income tax return.
If you earned income in B.C. or operated a Corporation with a permanent establishment in B.C. last year you need to file an income tax return. Find out when you need to file your income tax return, and if any tax credits or rebates apply to you.
Generally, a corporation must file an Alberta corporate income tax return (AT1) for each taxation year during which it has a permanent establishment in Alberta.
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