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Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Tax Dispute Representative

Dealing with tax issues is already stressful enough, but tax disputes with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can get downright overwhelming. You’re already juggling work, family, and life’s other responsibilities, and suddenly, you find yourself having to respond to requests for information and documentation from the CRA, with threats of fines and penalties. To make matters worse, the system is stacked against the taxpayer, as the CRA has broad powers to unilaterally make determinations that can cause serious damage to your finances.

Whether it’s an audit, an objection, or a more complex tax litigation matter, having one of the best Toronto chartered professional accountants on your side can make all the difference in the world, so choosing the right tax dispute representative is crucial. But how do you go about it?

Qualifications and Licensing

The first thing you must ascertain is the individual’s professional qualifications. In Canada, several professionals can represent you in tax disputes, including Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs), tax lawyers, and some registered tax consultants. However, there are differences between a tax lawyer and tax accountant. Ensure that they are licensed to practice within their respective professions and are qualified for your particular case.

Experience in Tax Disputes

While many professionals may offer tax services, not all have expertise in managing tax disputes. Tax disputes have their own nuances that demand specialized knowledge. Seek out professionals who focus primarily on tax dispute resolution. These specialists are well-versed in the specific procedures, protocols, and strategies required to navigate the intricacies of tax disputes effectively. Their specialization ensures they can provide targeted advice and solutions tailored to your unique situation.

Look for a representative with a track record in handling cases similar to yours. Ask about their experience with CRA tax disputes and their familiarity with the processes. An experienced representative is more likely to anticipate challenges, offer strategic advice, and negotiate skillfully on your behalf.

Knowledge of Canadian Tax Law

Canada’s tax laws can be intricate. A good tax dispute representative should be well-versed with the Income Tax Act and other related legislation. This is especially important if your case moves beyond simple communication with the CRA and heads toward formal litigation.

Reputation in the Industry

Take some time to gauge the representative’s standing in the industry. Word-of-mouth and online reviews can provide valuable insights into a tax dispute representative’s reputation and past performance. Look for representatives with positive reviews and testimonials from clients who faced similar tax challenges.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask the representative for references or case studies that highlight their successful resolution of tax disputes. A reputation for belonging to an expert tax accounting firm is a good indication of a representative’s competence and professionalism.

A CRA tax dispute lawyer meets clients in his office

Strategy and Approach

Every tax dispute is unique. An experienced representative should be able to outline a strategy tailored to your specific situation. Discuss their intended approach, potential outcomes, and what they foresee as the next steps.

Communication Skills

Effective communication in a tax dispute representative is essential. Your representative must be able to explain complex tax concepts in a clear and concise manner, ensuring you understand your options and the potential outcomes. Additionally, a representative with strong communication skills will be able to articulate your case persuasively during a tax dispute with the CRA, increasing your chances of getting a favourable outcome.

Moreover, your tax dispute representative should keep you in the loop about the status of your case, making sure that you’re never in the dark.

Conflict Resolution Skills

While knowledge of tax laws is crucial, soft skills, like conflict resolution, are equally important. Your representative should be adept at negotiating and finding common ground, especially when liaising with the CRA during a tax dispute.


When facing a tax dispute, timing can be everything, especially if you have unfiled or late tax returns. Ensure that your representative has the bandwidth to address your concerns promptly. If you’re constantly waiting for responses, it might be a sign that they have too much on their plate.

Fee Structure

Before committing to a tax dispute representative, understand their fee structure and pricing. Some representatives charge hourly rates, while others may offer flat fees or contingency-based arrangements. Be sure to ask about any additional charges or potential costs that might arise during the dispute resolution process. An upfront conversation about fees can prevent misunderstandings later.

Make sure you are comfortable with the fee arrangement and that it aligns with the complexity of your case and your budget.

Ethics and Integrity

Trustworthiness is non-negotiable when choosing a tax dispute representative. Verify that the representative is a member of reputable professional associations and adheres to a strict code of ethics. This ensures that they will handle your case with integrity and prioritize your best interests.

Also, your tax dispute representative will be privy to sensitive financial information. It’s essential to feel confident in their discretion and trustworthiness. Beyond their professional credentials, gauge your comfort level with them on a personal basis.

The Initial Consultation

Many tax dispute representatives offer an initial consultation to assess your case and discuss potential strategies. Take advantage of this opportunity to gauge whether the representative understands your situation, offers actionable insights, and demonstrates a genuine commitment to helping you resolve your tax dispute.

Wrapping It Up

Choosing a tax dispute representative is a decision that can have long-lasting implications. It’s not just about finding someone with the right credentials but also someone you can trust, communicate with, and feel confident in.

Remember, a tax dispute doesn’t define you, but the approach you take toward resolving it can set the tone for your financial future. Take the time to research, ask questions, and be proactive in your choice.

Tax disputes can be daunting, but with the right representative by your side, the path to resolution can be more straightforward and less stressful.


Pro Tip


The Small Business Deduction gives businesses a tax deduction on the first $500,000 of income. This saves an eligible corporation around up to $50,000 in income taxes. There are a number of conditions that have to be met to be eligible for this deduction.


Sam Faris reduced the significant unreported income based on net worth audit to be nil. Sam’s approach in fighting these types of complex audits is unique and sophisticated. He found countless mistakes made by the auditor which were rectified when Sam appealed the audit decision. Instead of owing significant amount of taxes, Sam reduced it to zero. I highly recommend to hire Sam for this type of audits and any CRA problem.”

E.M., Ottawa