Sales Tax Audit Process: What to Expect with the CRA

February 10, 2024
Gurdeep Sangha

Curious to understand the sales tax audit process? Keep on reading to get a better understanding of what’s involved with a sales tax audit.

Table of Contents

What is the process of sales tax audit?

A sales tax audit involves a thorough examination by tax authorities to ensure businesses accurately report and remit the required sales taxes.

For businesses with a GST/HST number, the process typically begins with bookkeeping.

This includes keeping track of sales, expenses, and purchases. The business calculates the net sales tax owed by subtracting the tax paid on business expenses from the tax collected from customers.

In the event of a sales tax audit, the business needs to provide a sales tax summary and audit report, detailing the calculated figures.

This report, often accessible through accounting software, serves as evidence during the audit.

If selected for a review, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may scrutinize the accuracy of the reported sales tax figures, and businesses must be prepared to provide necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance with tax regulations.

Overall, the sales tax audit process highlights the importance of accurate record-keeping, thorough documentation, and adherence to tax regulations to ensure a smooth sales tax audit experience.

What triggers a sales tax audit?

Sales tax audits can be triggered by various factors, prompting tax authorities to scrutinize a business’s financial records.

Common triggers include unusual fluctuations in reported sales or expenses, inconsistent filing patterns, or significant deviations from industry norms.

Excessive or inadequate claiming of tax credits, frequent amendments to tax returns, and high levels of cash transactions may also raise red flags.

Additionally, businesses operating in industries prone to tax evasion, or those with a history of non-compliance, may be subject to increased scrutiny.

Random audits are conducted by tax authorities as a proactive measure based on a risk assessment to ensure overall tax compliance.

How to resolve a sales tax audit

Resolving a sales tax audit involves a systematic and cooperative approach to address any identified discrepancies and satisfy the concerns of tax authorities. Here are steps to navigate the resolution process:

Review the Audit Findings: Carefully go through the audit findings to understand the specific issues raised by tax authorities.

Gather Supporting Documentation: Collect all relevant documents and records that support your reported sales tax figures. This may include invoices, receipts, and financial statements.

Communicate with the Auditor: Maintain open and transparent communication with the auditor. Address any questions they may have and provide additional information as needed.

Clarify Discrepancies: If discrepancies are identified, work to clarify and explain them. Provide a clear and accurate picture of your business transactions to demonstrate compliance.

Make Necessary Corrections: If errors or inaccuracies are identified, be proactive in making necessary corrections. This may involve filing an amended tax return to rectify any mistakes.

Seek Professional Advice: Consult with a tax professional or accountant for guidance. They can provide expertise in navigating the audit process and help ensure compliance with tax regulations.

Negotiate Settlements if Applicable: In some cases, negotiations with tax authorities may be necessary. Be open to discussing and negotiating settlements, if applicable, to resolve the audit efficiently.

Appeal if Necessary: If you believe the audit findings are incorrect, and discussions with the auditor do not lead to resolution, you may have the option to appeal the decision. Follow the appropriate procedures outlined by the tax authorities for appeals.

Implement Preventative Measures: Once the audit is resolved, consider implementing preventive measures to avoid future discrepancies. This may involve improving record-keeping practices and internal controls with a virtual bookkeeping service.

Who can provide sales tax audit help

Several professionals can provide assistance and guidance during a sales tax audit. Consider seeking help from a tax expert who has experience with dealing with sales tax audits for Canadian businesses.

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs): CPAs specialize in accounting and taxation. They can review your financial records, help you understand audit findings, and guide you through the resolution process.

Tax Attorneys: Tax attorneys specialize in tax law and can provide legal advice and representation during an audit. They can help navigate complex tax regulations and ensure your rights are protected.

Tax Consultants: Tax consultants can offer advice on tax matters and help businesses prepare for and navigate a sales tax audit. They may not have the legal authority of attorneys but can provide valuable insights.

Business Advisors and Consultants: Professionals with expertise in business operations and finance can provide strategic advice on dealing with a sales tax audit. They may assist in implementing preventive measures to avoid future issues.

When seeking sales tax audit help, it’s essential to choose professionals with expertise in tax matters and a track record of assisting businesses through audits. Consider speaking with Sansar Solutions to help you resolve a sales tax audit.

What does the CRA do during a sales tax audit?

During a sales tax audit conducted by the Canada Revenue Agency, the CRA undertakes a detailed examination of a business’s financial records to ensure compliance with GST/HST regulations. The specific actions taken by the CRA during a sales tax audit include:

Notification: The CRA typically initiates the audit process by sending a notification to the business owner, informing them of the audit and specifying the period under review.

Document Request: The CRA will request various documents and records, including sales invoices, purchase receipts, financial statements, and any other relevant documentation that supports the reported sales tax figures.

Review of Sales Tax Returns: The auditor examines the business’s GST/HST returns to verify the accuracy of the reported sales tax figures. They compare the information on the returns with the supporting documentation provided by the business.

Interviews and Discussions: The CRA auditor may conduct interviews with key personnel to gain insights into the business’s operations and transactions. This helps them understand the context of the financial records.

On-Site Inspection: In some cases, the CRA may complete the audit at a CRA office or another location to verify the accuracy of reported information and gain a better understanding of the business operations.

Communication with the Business Owner: Throughout the audit process, there is ongoing communication between the CRA auditor and the business owner or their representative. The auditor may seek clarification on certain items or request additional information.

Assessment of Compliance: The CRA assesses whether the business has complied with GST/HST regulations and determines whether the reported sales tax amounts are accurate. Any discrepancies or areas of concern are identified.

Follow-Up Actions: Depending on the audit findings, the CRA may request additional information, recommend corrections, or take further actions, such as changes to be made to a business tax return filing.

Sales tax audit process frequently asked questions

A sales tax audit is an examination conducted by tax authorities to verify that businesses have accurately reported and remitted the required amount of sales tax.

The duration of a sales tax audit can vary widely depending on the complexity of the business’s financial records, the scope of the audit, and the efficiency of the audit process. Simple audits may be completed in a few weeks, while more complex ones could extend over several months. It’s advisable to communicate with the tax authorities conducting the audit for a better estimate based on the specific circumstances of the business.

Responding to a sales tax audit requires a careful and proactive approach. Start by reviewing the audit notification thoroughly and gathering all relevant financial documents requested. Maintain open communication with the auditor, addressing questions promptly and providing additional information as needed. Be organized in presenting your documents and prepared to explain your business operations during potential interviews. Seek guidance from professionals such as accountants or legal counsel if necessary. Understand the audit findings and be ready to make any necessary corrections or amendments to ensure compliance with tax regulations. Overall, approach the process with professionalism and cooperation to facilitate a smooth resolution of the audit.

Yes, seeking sales tax audit help can be worth it, especially when dealing with the complexity and potential financial implications of an audit. Professionals such as a tax consultant or tax attorneys can offer valuable expertise in navigating the audit process, interpreting tax laws, and ensuring accurate representation of your business finances. Their assistance can help you understand and address any discrepancies identified by tax authorities, potentially minimizing penalties or fines. Additionally, having knowledgeable support can reduce the stress and time involved in responding to audit requests, allowing you to focus on running your business. While there may be associated costs, the benefits of professional guidance often outweigh the potential risks and challenges of handling a sales tax audit independently.


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