Personal income tax debt collection

Paying your debt all at once, and in full, helps you avoid interest and other legal and financial consequences. However, if you cannot pay the full amount now, there are options for you. Ignoring your debt does not make it go away. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will work with you to resolve your debt. 

Debt payment

Payment in full

To pay the full balance of your debt, go to Payment options.

Partial payment

If you can only make a partial payment, you must also make a payment arrangement to pay the balance of your debt. A payment arrangement lets you make payments over time until you have paid the entire debt, including interest.

To make a partial payment, go to Payment options. The CRA will apply your payment toward your oldest tax debt unless you request otherwise. Your debt will gain interest until you pay the full balance.

Payment arrangement

A payment arrangement is an agreement between you and the CRA to pay your debt over a certain period. The CRA will consider a payment arrangement when you have shown that you have tried to pay your debt in full by either reducing your expenses or borrowing funds. After reviewing your financial details, the CRA will work with you to determine the amount and length of the payment arrangement.

The Income and expense worksheet is an optional budget tool to help you determine what you can afford to pay on a regular basis.

To make a payment arrangement:

  1. Go to Payment arrangement calculator
  2. Contact the CRA to set up your payment arrangement
  3. Go to Payment options to make your payment

You must pay as agreed, continue to file all returns on time, and stay up to date with your tax obligations. Payment arrangements may be subject to periodic reviews.

Even if you have a payment arrangement and are making payments, the CRA is authorized to take amounts from any benefits or credits you receive when you have a debt.

If your situation changes and you cannot continue with your payment arrangement, you must contact the CRA. If you do not, the CRA may proceed with legal actions to collect the balance of your debt. Go to Consequences of not paying for more information.

If you are unable to make a payment or payment arrangement, go to Unable to pay.

Related links

Unable to pay

If you cannot meet your tax obligations, contact the CRA.

If you do not call or make a payment arrangement, the CRA may take legal action to collect the balance. Go to Consequences of not paying for more information.

Taxpayer relief provisions

In some circumstances, you may ask for relief from penalties and interest, and reduce the amount you owe. Go to Taxpayer relief provisions for more information.

Insolvency or bankruptcy

If you feel you are insolvent or are considering bankruptcy, visit the Office of the superintendent of bankruptcy.

Related links:

Consequences of not paying

If you do not pay your debt or refuse to cooperate, the CRA may take legal action which could result in serious financial or legal consequences for you.

The CRA will normally not start legal action until 90 days after the mailing date of the notice of assessment or reassessment.

Before starting legal action, the CRA must do the following:

  • make 1 attempt to give verbal legal warning by phone
  • send 1 written legal warning letter

For more information, go to Collection restrictions and Legal warning about collection of debt.

Once the CRA has started any of the following legal actions, the CRA will not usually withdraw them.

To avoid legal action, go to Debt payment or Unable to pay

  • Garnishing wages or other income

    Requirement to pay (redirecting money owed to you by a third party)

    The CRA can issue a requirement to pay (RTP) to a third party that owes you money or is holding funds for you. A third party can be another individual, your employer, a bank or other sources of funds. The RTP instructs the third party to redirect the funds to the CRA. The CRA will apply the redirected funds to your debt. For more information, go to Understanding a requirement to pay.

    Set-off (redirecting money owed to you by the federal government)

    If any federal government department or agency owes you money, the CRA can issue a set-off to redirect the funds to the CRA. The CRA will apply these amounts to your tax debt.

    The CRA can use your federal income, goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) credits or any future income tax refunds to reduce your debt.

    The CRA can issue a set-off even if you have a payment arrangement and are making payments.

  • Asset liens and seizures

    The CRA can get a certificate confirming the amount you owe. This will make your debt a matter of public record and allow the CRA to proceed with asset liens and seizures. The CRA will usually notify you by mail that your debt has been certified in Federal Court. The letter advises you that if you do not resolve your account, the CRA may take further legal action to pay the debt.

    In some instances, such as in the case of debts that are at risk of not being collected (in jeopardy), the CRA may advise you verbally that the debt has been certified in Federal Court.

    Registering a lien on assets

    Once the debt is certified, the CRA can register a lien against your assets and property, including your personal residence. Registering a lien will secure the amount of debt owing, by establishing creditor priority in the event of a sale. This means, if you sell your asset, your CRA tax debt is automatically paid from the proceeds of the sale, before you receive any remaining proceeds.

    Seizing and selling your assets

    If your debt remains outstanding, the CRA may get a writ or memorial to seize and sell your assets and property. This could include your car, boat, artwork, cottage, rental property, or personal residence.

    If the CRA sells your assets, the CRA will use the proceeds to pay:

    • your tax debt
    • any costs charged by the bailiff hired to sell the assets on behalf of the CRA

    You will still have to pay any remaining tax debt.

  • Third party assessments

    A third party assessment allows the CRA to hold a third party legally responsible to pay another’s tax debt. The third party can be a financial institution, spouse, business partner, director, another individual or a corporation.

    Below are some examples of third party assessments:

    Non-arm’s length (related) transfer assessment

    If you have a debt with the CRA, then transfer property to an individual or corporation that is non-arm's length, there could be consequences.

    If the property was transferred for less than fair market value, the CRA can issue an assessment against the recipient of the property. The amount of the assessment will be for the difference between the fair market value of the property and what the recipient paid for it. The assessment will only include debt that was incurred up to, and including, the date of the transfer.

    For more information, see Income Tax Folio S1-F5-C1, Related Persons and Dealing at Arm's Length.

    Non-compliance of a requirement to pay (RTP)

    If you receive an RTP from the CRA, you are legally obligated to comply with it. If you fail to comply, you will become liable for the amount you did not pay, and the CRA will take legal action to collect that amount from you.

    As a recipient of an RTP, you become liable if you:

    • do not pay the CRA when you owe money to a taxpayer
    • continue to pay the taxpayer amounts you are legally required to pay to the CRA
    • pay someone else on behalf of the taxpayer, such as a relative or another creditor, instead of the CRA
    • loan or advance money to the taxpayer within 90 days, as specified in the terms of the RTP

    Failure to obtain a clearance certificate

    As the legal representative of an estate, business or property you must apply for a clearance certificate before you distribute any assets, unless you are a trustee in bankruptcy. 

    The clearance certificate is proof that the taxpayer or registrant has paid all outstanding amounts owed to the CRA, or that the CRA has accepted security for the payment.

    If you do not obtain a certificate, you can be held liable and subject to a third party assessment.

    When a receiver is selling secured property to pay a security interest, they do not need a clearance certificate because the taxpayer does not own the property.

Contact the CRA
  • Calls from within Canada and the United States

    You can complete a personal tax debt call request to receive a callback from a CRA agent or locate the call topic and corresponding phone number from the tables below.

    Make a payment arrangement for an existing debt
    (from within Canada and the United States)
    Call topics Phone number Hours of service
    Individual tax 1-888-863-8657 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    7 am to 8 pm (Eastern time)
    Teletypewriter (TTY) 1-800-665-0354 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    9 am to 9 pm (local time)

    See Services for persons with disabilities for information about services and alternative contact formats.

     

    For general enquiries
    (from within Canada and the United States)
    Call topics Phone number Hours of service
    Individuals and Non-resident trusts 613-940-8495 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    9 am to 6 pm (Eastern time)
    Part XIII and Non-resident withholding accounts 613-940-8499 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    7:30 am to 6 pm (Eastern time)

    The CRA accepts collect calls by automated response. Contact your service provider or operator to initiate the collect call.

  • Calls from outside Canada and the United States

    The CRA accepts collect calls by automated response. Contact your service provider or operator to initiate the collect call.

    Make a payment arrangement for an existing debt
    (from outside Canada and the United States)
    Call topics Phone number Hours of service
    Individual tax 613-221-3002 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    7 am to 8 pm (Eastern time)
    For general enquiries
    (from outside Canada and the United States)
    Call topics Phone number Hours of service
    Individuals and Non-resident trusts 613-940-8495 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    9 am to 6 pm (Eastern time)
    Part XIII and Non-resident withholding accounts 613-940-8499 Monday to Friday (except holidays)
    7:30 am to 6 pm (Eastern time)
Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: