Navigating CRA Voluntary Disclosures: Your Comprehensive Guide

cra-voluntary-disclosuresIn the complex world of taxes and financial matters, it’s not uncommon for individuals and businesses to find themselves in situations

where they’ve made errors or omissions on their tax returns. These mistakes can lead to penalties, fines, and even legal troubles. Fortunately, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers a lifeline in the form of CRA voluntary disclosures. In this comprehensive guide, we will demystify CRA voluntary discl

osures, explaining what they are, how they work, and why they are essential for taxpayers. Whether you’re a seasoned taxpayer or new to the tax world, understanding CRA voluntary disclosures is crucial for your financial peace of mind.

What Are CRA Voluntary Disclosures?

CRA voluntary disclosures, also known as VDP (Voluntary Disclosure Program), are a mechanism provided by the Canada Revenue Agency to allow taxpayers to come forward and correct errors, omissions, or inaccuracies on their tax returns. It’s like a second chance to make things right with the CRA before they discover the issues on their own.

Who Can Make a Voluntary Disclosure?

CRA voluntary disclosures are available to a wide range of taxpayers, including individuals, businesses, trusts, and more. Whether you’re a self-employed professional, a small business owner, or a corporation, you can use the VDP to rectify your tax mistakes. Also read Globalization vs. Protectionism: Navigating the Balance in a Connected World

 The Importance of Timeliness

One critical aspect of CRA voluntary disclosures is timeliness. To be eligible for the program, you must come forward before the CRA takes any enforcement actions against you. This means that if you suspect errors or omissions in your tax filings, it’s in your best interest to act promptly.

Why Make a CRA Voluntary Disclosure?

Avoiding Penalties and Fines

One of the most compelling reasons to make a CRA voluntary disclosure is to avoid penalties and fines. When the CRA discovers errors on your tax returns without your disclosure, they may impose penalties that can be financially crippling. By voluntarily disclosing, you can often reduce or eliminate these penalties.

 Preventing Legal Consequences

Tax evasion and fraud are serious offenses in Canada and can lead to legal action, including criminal charges. Making a voluntary disclosure can help you avoid such legal consequences and the associated stress and reputational damage.

Peace of Mind

Knowing that your tax affairs are in order and that you’ve taken proactive steps to correct any mistakes can provide you with peace of mind. It’s a way to sleep better at night, knowing you’ve done the right thing.

How to Make a CRA Voluntary Disclosure

Gathering Necessary Information

The first step in making a CRA voluntary disclosure is to gather all the relevant information about the errors or omissions on your tax returns. This includes documents, records, and any supporting evidence that can help clarify the situation.

Completing the Appropriate Form

The CRA requires you to complete a specific form for your voluntary disclosure, depending on the type of taxes involved. For income tax disclosures, you’ll use Form RC199, while for other taxes like GST/HST, you’ll use Form RC59.

Submission to the CRA

Once you’ve completed the necessary form and gathered all relevant documents, you’ll need to submit your voluntary disclosure to the CRA. It’s crucial to ensure that your disclosure is complete and accurate to avoid any issues later on.

Payment of Taxes Owed

Along with your voluntary disclosure, you should also include payment for any taxes owed as a result of the errors or omissions. This demonstrates your commitment to rectifying the situation.

The Voluntary Disclosure Process

Initial Review

After receiving your voluntary disclosure, the CRA will conduct an initial review to determine if it meets the program’s eligibility criteria. If it does, your disclosure will be accepted into the VDP.

Examination and Assessment

Once your disclosure is accepted, the CRA will examine the information you provided and assess the taxes owed. They will also consider penalties and interest, which may be reduced in certain cases.


After the assessment, the CRA will work with you to resolve the tax issues identified in your disclosure. This may involve a payment plan or other arrangements to settle your tax liabilities.

 Benefits and Risks of Making a CRA Voluntary Disclosure


  • Reduced or eliminated penalties: By coming forward voluntarily, you can often reduce or eliminate the penalties that would otherwise be imposed.
  • Avoiding legal action: Making a voluntary disclosure can help you avoid the legal consequences of tax evasion or fraud.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing that you’ve corrected your tax issues can provide peace of mind and relieve the stress associated with tax problems.


  • Payment of taxes owed: You will be required to pay any taxes owed as a result of the disclosure, so it’s essential to be financially prepared.
  • No guarantee of acceptance: The CRA has the discretion to accept or reject voluntary disclosures, so there is no guarantee of approval.

Tips for a Successful CRA Voluntary Disclosure

Seek Professional Advice

It’s often advisable to seek professional advice from a tax expert or accountant when considering a voluntary disclosure. They can help you navigate the process and ensure that your disclosure is accurate and complete.

Be Honest and Transparent

When making a voluntary disclosure, honesty is key. Be transparent about the errors or omissions in your tax returns, and provide all relevant information to the CRA.

Act Promptly

Remember that timeliness is crucial for the success of your voluntary disclosure. The sooner you come forward, the better your chances of minimizing penalties and legal consequences.

Keep Records

Maintain thorough records of all communications and documents related to your voluntary disclosure. This can be helpful in case of any disputes or issues that may arise during the process.

Real-Life Examples

To illustrate the importance of CRA voluntary disclosures, let’s consider a couple of real-life examples:

Small Business Owner

John runs a small catering business and realizes that he made a significant error in his GST/HST returns over the past two years. Instead of panicking, he decides to make a voluntary disclosure to the CRA. By doing so, he avoids hefty penalties and is able to work out a manageable payment plan to settle the taxes owed.

Individual Taxpayer

Sarah, an individual taxpayer, forgot to report some investment income on her tax return. She decides to come forward with a voluntary disclosure. While she still has to pay the additional taxes owed, the CRA waives the penalties, and Sarah avoids legal troubles.


In the world of taxation, mistakes can happen to anyone, but the Canada Revenue Agency provides a lifeline through CRA voluntary disclosures. By understanding what they are, why they matter, and how to navigate the process, taxpayers can rectify their tax issues, avoid penalties, and achieve peace of mind. Remember, when it comes to taxes, honesty, transparency, and timeliness are your allies. So, if you discover errors or omissions in your tax returns, don’t hesitate to consider a CRA voluntary disclosure to set things right and secure your financial future.


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