Corporate Taxes
International Taxes
Personal Taxes
Sales Taxes
Tax Basics
Tax Guides
Tax News
Tax Planning

CRA Interest and Penalties for Individuals and Corporations

From late filing to deficient instalments, this blog sheds light on the interest and penalties levied by CRA.
Analysis by
Nitin Ashok, CPA, CFA
November 20, 2023 1:21 PM
min read
Interest and Penalties in Taxation: Examples
Table of Contents


    Taxes, an integral part of a nation's economic framework, carry a host of intricacies, including the realms of interest, penalties, and prescribed rates in the Canadian context. This article delves into these often perplexing subjects, unraveling their complexities and providing a comprehensive understanding for individuals and corporations traversing the intricate landscape of Canadian taxation.


    Interest, a cornerstone of the Canadian tax system, emerges as a charge on outstanding amounts that have not been settled by their due dates. For individuals, this encompasses several scenarios. Notably, balances due on April 30th for the prior year's taxes fall under the interest ambit. A crucial point to remember is that the amount is due on April 30th, irrespective of whether the taxpayer's filing due date is April 30th or the extended date of June 15th.

    Moreover, interest also extends its reach to encompass deficient installment payments. In these cases, the clock starts ticking on the due date of the installment. This accrual continues until an offset transpires or until the balance due date arrives. Notably, further interest is then computed based on the amount outstanding on that specific date. The interest accrual mechanism operates on the basis of compound daily interest, setting the stage for careful financial planning to manage liabilities effectively.

    Prescribed Rates of Interest

    Prescribed interest rates, pivotal to the tax calculus, are no less intricate. A cornerstone of these rates is the prescribed base rate, recalculated each quarter. This rate hinges on the effective yield of three-month Government of Canada treasury bills in the first month of the preceding quarter. It serves as a benchmark for diverse tax calculations. It's important to note that the rate is applied differently in varying contexts.

    1. Base Rate: This rate serves as a foundational figure for various calculations. However, it's not utilized for amounts owed to or from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). For the first two quarters of 2020, this rate stood at a modest 2%.
    2. Base Rate Plus 2 Percent: Stepping up the rate, this iteration comes into play when computing interest on refunds to individuals and trusts. The first two quarters of 2020 saw this rate at 4%, reflecting a balance between the need for fair compensation and the avoidance of excessive liability for taxpayers.
    3. Base Rate Plus 4 Percent: In scenarios involving late or deficient installments, unpaid source deductions, and other outstanding amounts to the CRA, this rate prevails. Notably, interest payments under this provision aren't deductible for taxpayers. The first half of 2020 marked this rate at 6%, presenting a substantial cost for tardy payments or deficient obligations.

    Strategic Insights and Penalties

    In the dynamic world of taxation, strategic decision-making takes center stage due to the interplay of interest and penalties. Late filing penalties serve as a stern reminder of compliance deadlines. For initial offenses, a penalty of 5% of unpaid tax is assessed at the filing due date, followed by an additional 1% for each full month of unpaid tax, up to a maximum of 12 months. Crucially, this penalty accrues alongside interest, heightening its impact.

    Furthermore, the gravity of penalties escalates for repeat offenders. A second instance of late filing within three taxation years can double the penalty to 10% of the outstanding tax, accompanied by an additional 2% per month, maxing out at 20 months. The penalty amplification comes into effect if the taxpayer's second late filing transpires after the CRA has already issued a demand to file.

    Corporate Lens: Interest, Penalties, and Unique Considerations

    For corporations, the framework of interest and penalties mirrors the individual sphere, but with distinct variations. One distinctive feature is the ability of corporations to deduct interest expenses, making non-deductible interest payments on late tax obligations a costly financing avenue. It's prudent for corporations to meticulously avoid such costs.

    Notably, corporations can also face penalties linked to their Taxable Capital Employed in Canada. The penalty, calculated at 0.0005% per month, can stretch up to a maximum of 40 months. This unique penalty structure emphasizes the importance of adhering to compliance to mitigate potential financial setbacks.

    What if no installments are made?

    If you don't make income tax installments and end up not owing much tax for the year, you won't face any penalties or interest charges for underpayment of taxes, assuming your total tax liability for the year is less than $3,000. This is known as the "no penalty threshold."

    However, if your tax liability for the year exceeds $3,000, you may be subject to interest charges on the amount owing from the due date of each installment. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) calculates the interest based on the difference between your total tax liability and the installments you paid. This means that even if you ultimately owe less tax for the year, you could still be subject to interest charges if you didn't make the required installments.


    In the intricate tapestry of Canadian taxation, comprehending the dynamics of interest, penalties, and prescribed rates is paramount. Interest acts as a constant reminder of timely settlement, affecting not just outstanding amounts but also penalties. Prescribed rates, nuanced and context-driven, shape the interest landscape.

    Strategic decisions, driven by a keen understanding of penalties and their implications, influence taxpayer behavior. For corporations, the dynamics are multifaceted, with the potential for interest deduction providing a unique dimension. Navigating this landscape requires not only a grasp of regulations but also an eye for optimization.

    In a world where financial prudence intersects with regulatory compliance, knowledge is power. By decoding the intricacies of interest, penalties, and prescribed rates, individuals and corporations alike can make informed choices that optimize their financial standing while respecting the confines of the Canadian tax framework. For tailored guidance, seeking professional advice is recommended to ensure a seamless journey through the complexities of taxation.

    Share this article

    Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered professional advice. While we strive to ensure accuracy, accounting and financial regulations are subject to change, and it is recommended to consult a qualified professional before making any financial decisions. The use of does not create a client relationship, and we do not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of third-party content. We value confidentiality but cannot guarantee the security of transmitted information. The content on may change without notice. By using this website, you agree to these terms and conditions. For personalized advice, please contact us by filling our contact form or reach out to us at
    Thank you for visiting We hope you find our content helpful.

    Related articles

    No articles found.

    Still not sure? Let us help you find answers.

      Contact Us
    Contact Us   ➙