Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tax Season Frauds Victimizes 1 Out of Every 5 Canadians, Jim McAvoy, Accountant, Investigates

Tax season may be over, but that does not mean that we are forever rid of our taxes.  Tax season may be a hectic time for most small businesses and individuals, which means that warnings against tax frauds are often missed.  This is why Jim McAvoy, accountant and CGA, wants to sound the alarm months before we all get busy.

McAvoy relates that a former client called him up months ago to ask him about a tax preparer they had contracted.

"The client had a small business and did not know much about taxes, preferring to have it done by professional accountants year after year.  This time, however, it was different.  The person they hired to do their taxes wanted to inflate their deductions by coming up with charitable donations they did not make and by exaggerating their business expenses.  The bad news was they have already signed a blank tax form.  Having read something about tax season fraud, they wanted to know what they could do.  I had them check out the accounting guy's credentials and when they found out that the references he gave were bogus, they started worrying even more.  So I told them to get in touch with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre," McAvoy said.

Tax season fraud is more prevalent than you think it is.

A recent Certified General Accountants - Canada report showed that 20% of all Canadians have experienced being scammed during the tax season.

Anthony Ariganello, CGA-Canada's president and CEO, explains that tax season is when most con artists work their "magic" and prey on unsuspecting Canadians.  They target younger people more often because they are more inexperienced when it comes to tax matters.

What kinds of scam should you be wary of?  Jim McAvoy, accountant and Victoria CGA, comments that scamming taxpayers takes a lot of forms.  "There's tax preparer fraud, phishing, false charities and identity theft.  And that is just the most prevalent!"

Do something, but what?

A sad revelation from the survey showed that more than half of Canadians did not even know how to deal with the situation.  Those who were scammed did not know where to report it.

"There are things you should always keep in mind, common sense and a little fact checking never hurts," McAvoy adds.

So what do you do to avoid getting scammed?  Know more about the different kinds of scams going around and learn how to prevent it.


According to data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Candian individuals and businesses lost a total of more than $125,000 during the 2011 tax season due to phishing scams.  In 2012, phishers were able to steal at least an additional $76,000.

Jim McAvoy, accountant, advises that you should be wary about any e-mail asking for personal information such as credit card details, bank account, social insurance and even passport numbers.

It does not matter if the e-mails seems to have come from trusted sources, phishers usually have a way to make it appear that the e-mail comes from a trusted source.  Or they could hack into an e-mail account and hijack it.

Also be aware that e-mails could easily harbor malware and viruses, so be sure to install a trusty anti-virus software.

If you get a phishing e-mail from the Canada Revenue Agency, you should go to to know about what you should do next.

Identity theft

Here is what most Canadians do not realize: their tax return has all the information that an identity thief needs in order to carry out his or her crime.  McAvoy explains, "If the wrong people get hold of your tax return, they could easily steal from your online personal accounts and even apply for a credit card under your name."

If you suspect that you have been victimized, call the major credit bureaus and ask that they flag your files with a fraud alert.  You should also get copies of credit reports immediately.  Call Equifax at (866) 828-5961 and TransUnion at (800) 663-9980.

Tax preparer fraud

Who does not want to pay less taxes?  It seems that everybody would like to see that amount they pay for taxes to be shaved to half, at least.  This is what a tax preparer fraud artist is banking on.  They will tell you that they would be able to help you get a higher return for your money at discounted rates.  In fact, they will tell you that you only pay them a percentage of your refund, so the bigger refund you have, the bigger their payday is.

But what really happens is that a fraudulent tax preparer will try to get as many deductions as possible, sometimes illegally inflating your refunds without your knowledge.  They get paid and you never hear from them again, but you will be liable for anything that comes with your tax return.

Or worse, they direct the refunds to themselves, leaving you with nothing.

According to Jim McAvoy, "An accountant can easily help you during tax season, which is why 41% of Canadians ask help from professional accountants.  But you need to make sure that they have the proper credentials and everything they do is aboveboard."

"Get a Certified General Accountant to help you out.  Always get referrals from people you trust to make sure that the person or company is legitimate.  If they offer something that sounds too good to be true, then walk away."

You could see a list of CGAs in your area from the Public Practice Firms Directory at

If you have been victimized, call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at (888) 495-8501 or the Competition Bureau at (800) 348-5358.

Fraudulent charities.

Charitable donations are tax deductible.  Unfortunately, con artists try to pose as people coming from charities you have never even heard of and try to get donations from you.  Be sure that you are helping a legitimate charity by looking at the CRA Charities Listings at

What are the warning signs?  check out the charity's name.  Sometimes, fake charities use a name that is similar to a well-known charity. So, think twice before donating to the Read Cross or the Unichef.

Fake charities sometimes tell you that you could get a profit from donating to charity.  They will tell you that you can get a higher tax savings than what you have donated.

Do not scoff, Canadians have a good heart, but $25,000 were lost to bogus charities in April 2012, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.  So check with the CRA Charities Listing first before donating and make sure that you make the cheque payable to the institution itself and not to a particular person.

Jim McAvoy, an accountant by profession, is co-founder of McAvoy Rule and Company.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jim McAvoy: Victoria, BC Resident Shares Top Insider Tips for Every Tourist in the Area

Jim McAvoy, a Victoria, BC resident, says that there is more to the city than what is written in guide books.  McAvoy relates, "I do not keep people from visiting the tourist spots in the city.  In fact we have some of the most beautiful spots that would attract any tourist, seasoned or otherwise.  But I encourage them to go beyond what is written in the guide books.

McAvoy shares that Victoria is where you should go to if you want a relaxed pace.  It is very laid back, just like Vancouver, or Seattle even.  Plus, the weather is great.

What can you do in Victoria that would give you a better feel of what it is like to live in the city beyond the usual tourist traps?

If you are going sightseeing, rent a scooter!

Forget the tour buses and private vans; the best way to see Victoria is on a scooter.  There are a lot of rentals in the Inner Harbour and you can just see everything you want.

Walking can be very tiring and could seriously limit the places that you could visit.  Now where to go?

Jim McAvoy: Victoria, BC has a lot of nature sights.  You can just ride a scooter and follow the waterfront.  There's the Beacon Hill Park with its magnificent gardens and equally astonishing views.  You can also visit the Ross Bay Cemetery, the Royal Victoria Golf Course and the Ogden Point Breakwater.

And oh, while at Beacon Hill Park, be sure to try the ice cream!

You will be able to visit a lot of neighborhoods along the way, so do not hesitate to stop and tour the neighborhoods if you find one interesting.

Visit Chinatown.

Jim McAvoy: Victoria, BC has a very interesting Chinatown, with its Chinese buildings that make you feel like you are visiting a mini Chinese city.  You would also appreciate the shops in the area where you could buy Asian foodstuff and trinkets that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.  It is highly recommended to walk around the area to fully experience Chinatown, so wear comfy shoes and dress comfortably.  If you do not have the time to spend on an afternoon in Chinatown, you can get on the evening Hidden Dragon Tour.

Visit the Parliament Buildings.

Jim McAvoy: The Parliament Buildings are very near the Fairmont Empress Hotel.  You can go on the free guided tours on weekends that would tell you about the history of Victoria and see the awesome interiors of the place.  The beautiful paintings are a definite plus!  After the tour, be sure to make time to visit the gardens that surround the buildings.  You could also sit in on a session if you like.

Go on a pub tour.

Jim Mc Avoy: Victoria, BC is home to a lot of pubs offering some of the best brews and food out there.  Even if you do not drink, you will still love the opportunity to see some great places, try out great food and unwind while catching some of the most majestic views in the area.  You can start early, and maybe grab some lunch at Spinnakers.  A short harbour ferry ride will take you there where you could choose from a variety of excellent house beers that you cannot find anywhere else.  You could enjoy the city's best views from here and you would love their lunch fare.

Another pub you should try is Irish Times.  Located on Bastion Square, you would have a great time here with both locals and tourists filling up the joint.  Also on Bastion Square is Darcy's.  Ask for a seat on the patio so that you could see the harbour and the seaplanes that land.

Then there's Canoe on Swift Street.  Canoe has a lot of patios that allow you to take in different views of the city.  The atmosphere, the brews and the food are all great, making Canoe the best place to unwind after a particularly tiring day of touring the city.

Go the extra mile and visit the Butchart Gardens.

Jim McAvoy: Victoria, BC visitors will not be able to say no to the beauty of the Butchart Gardens.  Although technically part of Brentwood Bay, the Butchart Gardens is world-renowned and is a National Historic Site of Canada.

The place is simply breathtaking and magical.  There are simply no words to describe it.  You just have to go there and be in awe of its unmatched beauty and serenity!

Other stuff you should do:

Jim McAvoy: Victoria, BC, is just teeming with activities, so be sure to check out what's happening during your visit and try to attend as many of these activities as you can.

But here are some of the things you should not miss, in case you are in town at the right time:

  • Salmon spawning.  If you are visiting in the fall, you might catch the salmon as they return to their homes and spawn.  Interested? Be sure to go to Goldstream Park.  Once you get tired of the salmon, you can also get to see the bald eagles.
  • Swimming at Thetis Lake.  Thetis Lake is where most locals go for a swim.  You could also have a brisk walk on the trail that goes around the lake.
  • Jordan River.  If you are a surfer, you would love the waves here.  But you can easily have fun watching the surfers in action while also having a good burger.
  • Hiking at Mount Finlayson.  If you really want to get the best views of Victoria, and get a fine workout in the process, then you should go hiking through the forests of Mt. Finlayson.  This will take you to the top where you could admire Victoria in all its beauty.
  • See the whales.  There are whale watching tours that depart from the inner harbour.  These will take you out to the Salish Sea, where you could see the whales if the weather cooperates!

Jim McAvoy is a Victoria, BC resident and has been living in the area for most of his life.  He co-founded McAvoy Rule and Co. and is an accountant by profession.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jim McAvoy, Victoria, BC

Graduated University of Victoria, Victoria BC - bachelor of Arts 1972, obtained professional designation as Certified General Accountant in 1980, through The CGA Association of Canada.1981 to present – Partner in McAvoy Rule & Co.