What is Access to Information and Privacy Act (ATIP) request?
Any Canadian citizen, permanent resident, individual or corporation residing in Canada has the right to request access to records of government institutions that are subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Since the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is also subject to the legislative requirements of both Acts, a taxpayer can file an ATIP request to obtain a copy of the complete records that the CRA has for the taxpayer such as tax returns, audit reports or internal communications. When there is a dispute with the CRA, our expert Canadian tax lawyers will always file an ATIP request, although certain parts of an audit report may be redacted in the case of an ongoing tax audit.
How to make an ATIP request
There are several ways to make an ATIP request such as by mail, email or online request. Amongst these methods, using the ATIP online request service is the fastest and most convenient way to make such request. A taxpayer or an authorized tax representative such as a Toronto tax Law firm will then be contacted by the ATIP officer of the institution to which his or her request has been made and will in due course receive a DVD disc that contains all the documents in the CRA file requested.
CRA has discretion not to disclose certain information
Although s.241 of the Income Tax Act generally protects taxpayer's privacy and s.241(3)(b) allows the CRA to disclose information regarding legal proceedings related to tax administration and enforcement, the Federal Court held in Bradwick Property Management Services Inc. v Canada (National Revenue), 2019 FC 289 that the CRA still has discretion over whether to release the information.
In this case, the taxpayer filed notices of objection to the CRA's reassessments and 11 ATIP requests seeking relevant tax records. After the CRA redacted certain records, the taxpayer brought an application for judicial review. The Federal Court held that s.241(3)(b) did apply to the taxpayer ATIP requests, therefore the CRA was authorized to disclose the information. However, based on the wording in paragraphs 241(4)(a) and (b) that state the CRA "may" disclose to any person any tax information under certain circumstances, the Federal Court held that the CRA was allowed to maintain limited discretion to release certain confidential information because the redacted information was not necessary to the administration or enforcement of the Income Tax Act.
Epost connect is the new way to send documents requested by ATIP
Due to measures resulting from the covid-19 pandemic, the CRA is experiencing delays in sending responses to ATIP requests. To combat this problem, the CRA has started sending ATIP response documents via epost connect. The CRA will generally send you or your professional Canadian tax lawyer an email with instructions on how to access documents via this method. To understand and follow the instructions, make sure that you allow images to be downloaded in your email:
- You will need an epost connect account to access the ATIP files. Generally speaking, there is a link in the CRA's email that will take you to the epost connect page where you can set up an account.
- After you've created an account, simply log in and you should be able to see the ATIP files that are saved in pdf format at the bottom of the new window.
- Please note that you only have 10 days from the date the email was sent to access those files, after that you won't be able to view any of the files.
Pro tax tips - ATIP files are essential to deal with the CRA
When you have a dispute with the CRA, it's almost always a first step for our top Canadian tax lawyers to file an ATIP request to obtain all the tax records from the CRA to level the playing field for you and to ensure that we have all relevant information to challenge CRA. If you disagree with a CRA decision, contact our Toronto tax law office to speak with an experienced Canadian tax lawyer for tax guidance.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.