Canada: La vérification fiscale – Le rôle du professionnel

Last Updated: May 2 2019
Article by Danny Galarneau

Au Québec, annuellement, l'Agence du revenu du Québec (« L'Agence ») émet plus de 1 100 000 avis de nouvelle cotisation. De ce nombre, seulement 5 à 6 % sont émis à la suite d'une vérification fiscale. À cela s'ajoute également les actions de l'Agence du revenu du Canada. Malgré ce petit nombre, la complexité et les impacts possibles de ce type de dossiers m'incitent à conseiller fortement aux entrepreneurs québécois de ne pas hésiter à consulter rapidement leurs professionnels du domaine de la fiscalité afin que ces derniers s'assurent du respect de leurs droits. Le rôle du professionnel qui accompagne son client tout au long du processus de vérification et de la contestation de l'avis de cotisation à être éventuellement émis est crucial.

La Loi sur l'administration fiscale, loi qui gouverne les obligations des contribuables québécois et les pouvoirs de l'Agence, établit que celle-ci peut procéder à une vérification fiscale et le contribuable visé doit prêter assistance à l'employé désigné1. Le rôle du professionnel, dans l'accompagnement de son client, est de s'assurer du respect des droits de celui-ci dans ce processus.

Le plus grand des impairs que commettent certains professionnels est d'établir un lien de confrontation dès le départ avec le vérificateur plutôt qu'un lien de collaboration. Il importe de savoir qu'avec ou sans la collaboration du professionnel et celle de son client, l'Agence procédera à sa vérification fiscale et éventuellement, à l'émission d'avis de cotisation. Fort de mon expérience de plus de 14 ans au sein du contentieux de l'Agence et maintenant 2 ans à la défense des intérêts des contribuables, mon constat est que le plus grand perdant, lorsque cette attitude est adoptée, est le contribuable lui-même. Cependant, « collaboration » ne veut pas dire tout donner, sans limite ni discussion.

Le premier rôle du professionnel consiste notamment à déterminer avec le vérificateur désigné l'objet de la vérification, la période initialement visée et la durée estimée de la vérification. Revenu Québec écrit d'ailleurs ceci au sujet des droits et obligations d'un contribuable qui fait l'objet d'une vérification fiscale :

« Vous avez droit à des renseignements exacts, complets, compréhensibles et accessibles. Nous (Revenu Québec) agissons avec transparence et vous informons des étapes que nous suivons lorsque nous travaillons avec vous. Nous sommes en mesure de vous fournir une explication claire en ce qui concerne chacune de nos demandes et de nos décisions. »2

C'est ainsi que l'Agence doit expliquer les demandes formulées d'information et de documents. Il n'y a pas place à une « partie de pêche » non plus qu'il n'y a place à une « guerre de tranchées ». Le professionnalisme doit prendre le dessus sur les émotions créées par l'intrusion désagréable d'une vérification fiscale. d'un côté comme de l'autre.

Lorsque le vérificateur complète son travail de vérification et conclut qu'un avis de cotisation sera émis, il devrait soumettre, au préalable, un projet de cotisation. C'est à ce moment qu'il doit présenter et expliquer les modifications qu'il entend apporter, tout en donnant les justifications nécessaires. Il faut alors écouter, prendre des notes et rester calme. Ce n'est pas le moment de tirer sur le messager. Au contraire, le professionnel aura droit à un délai afin de présenter sa position et d'établir le bien-fondé ou non des points litigieux avant qu'un nouvel avis de cotisation ne soit émis.

Le rôle de négociateur prend alors toute son importance. Son devoir est de s'assurer, le cas échéant, que son client n'assume que ses réelles obligations fiscales en application des lois et règlements. C'est le temps d'user de flair, de déterminer l'ouverture à la discussion et de bien choisir ses batailles. À cet égard, ce n'est pas seulement pour le bénéfice du client, mais également pour la crédibilité du professionnel. Croyez-moi, les professionnels ont beaucoup plus à perdre en agissant de manière belliqueuse que de manière harmonieuse.

Si, malgré toute la qualité de la représentation et des arguments soulevés, l'Agence émet un avis de nouvelle cotisation, le contribuable bénéficie d'un délai pour le contester suivant la forme et les formulaires fiscaux prescrits. J'aborderai ce sujet au cours d'un prochain texte.

Tout au long de ce processus de vérification, il ne faut jamais hésiter à faire appel aux services d'avocats spécialisés en litige fiscal. Malgré que ce ne soit pas la majorité des dossiers de vérification qui seront contestés auprès de la direction des oppositions, encore moins devant les tribunaux compétents, il n'en demeure pas moins qu'une stratégie globale constitue souvent la meilleure arme. La juxtaposition des connaissances comptables, fiscales et légales constitue certainement un des meilleurs atouts à une argumentation post-projet de cotisation. De plus, les informations discutées en cours de mandat se trouvent protégées par le secret professionnel conféré à la relation client-avocat3. Cette protection n'est pas sans importance.

Mes années passées à défendre les intérêts de l'Agence devant les différentes instances judiciaires me donnent une connaissance précise sur l'organisation, son fonctionnement et les manières d'agir et de faire. N'hésitez pas à prendre contact avec moi dès le début du processus de vérification. L'expérience et l'expertise acquises au fil du temps dans ce genre de mandat aideront nécessairement les contribuables dans la défense de leurs intérêts.

Footnotes

[1] Article 38, Loi sur l'administration fiscale, RLRQ, c. A-6.002. Voir aussi l'arrêt de principe sur le sujet R.c. McKinlay Transport ltd [1990] 1 R.C.S. 627

[2] Document : Vos droits et vos obligations à l'égard d'une vérification fiscale, page 2 (site internet de Revenu Québec).

[3] L'article 46 de la Loi sur l'administration fiscalelimite la protection du secret professionnel aux avocats et notaires, excluant implicitement les comptables.

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