A legal safety zone is a term that is sometimes used to imply you are safe there
A legal safety zone is a term that is sometimes used to imply you are safe there. It can be a little misleading. First of all, let’s look at the words; “Legal,” “Safety” and “Zone.”
“LEGAL”: Defined as; of or based on law; concerned with the law; falling within the province of law; appointed or required by law, permitted by law, lawful.
“Safety”: Defined as; condition from being safe; freedom of danger or risks;
“”ZONE”: Defined as; Separate area with a particular function.
Common sense translation of “legal safety zone” could be defined as; a defined area where you can legally position yourself where you can decrease your risks.
The questions you may want to ask yourself are; Safe from What? If you think it is a place where you will never be charged with any crime, that may not be always true, is it always a 100% safe?
If you want to know for sure it is safe or not, and you are considering using a lawyer, you are entitled to make an informed choices. If you are considering using a lawyer to negotiate a settlement form you to avoid criminal charges, Ask them to put in writing that they will guarantee you that you won’t be charged with any criminal offenses.
If the answer is yes, then it truly is safe. If the answer is otherwise than yes, then it is not really a 100% legal safety zone. Where between ‘not safe’ and ‘somewhat safe’ the safety line is, I don’t know.
As I see it, “Solicitor Client Confidentiality” means that what you say to the lawyer cannot be divulged by the lawyer. “Client Material Confidentiality,” protects the material from being devolved by the lawyer. It does not mean you don’t still have a legal problem.
Solicitor Client Privilege does not protect you from being charged penalties and interest by CRA. Be very clear on that point.
Solicitor client privilege and material privilege can protect what you say to your lawyer and what documents you give your lawyer, but it does not protect you from criminal charges. For example if you killed an auditor and you hired a lawyer to defend you, it would not stop you from criminal charges. It is exactly the same regarding tax evasion.
What it narrows down to that there is no legal safety zone that will 100% guarantee that you will not get criminal charges or that you won’t pay penalties and interest.
One of the most important things for you to consider is that CRA has broad audit powers. They are entitled to all your relevant information, unless there are criminal investigations or criminal charges against you. Your lawyer can not prevent an audit. If that were the case, we would all just give our lawyers all our accounting records and never pay tax.
You need to first find out if your situation justifies the cost of hiring a lawyer to resolve a tax owing issue.
You may want to consider settling your tax problem from a legal common sense zone. You do need professional help, that is for sure. Just make “smart” choices.
If you are considering hiring a lawyer, and it may well be a good idea. You owe it to yourself to ask penetrating questions; such as “Why do I need Solicitor Client Privilege?” & “Can you 100% guarantee me that I will not get charged with any illegal actions?” Listen to the answer and utilize solid risk management principles in making your final decision.
I am not saying don’t use a lawyer. Lawyers can be your best friends. They can also be your very expensive best friend. If the risk justifies the cost of a lawyer and a non-lawyer could not do as good a job for less, then for sure, hire a lawyer.
I hire lawyers myself. But I only hire them when they can do a better job than I can do. I have yet to experience for myself or clients where I needed solicitor client confidentiality in tax matters. CRA just wants their money and they like the easier route… which means an assessment, c/w penalties and interest, then put it into CRA Collections Department. CRA is in the business of collecting money as efficiently as possible.
My final comment on the matter is; having a tax problem is a hugely stressful situation. I often fear my clients are going to die of stress related heart attacks. (It has happened.) So pick your tax professional not only on competence but on their ability to respond empathetically to your feelings and needs. Deal with someone who can quickly de-stress you and then just as quickly move on to fixing the problem… Today! And not weeks from now.