Internet Tax Help: Who do you know who's real?

Tuesday, 14 August 2018


Internet Tax Help: Who do you know who's real?

Internet Tax Help: Who do you know who's real? - 4.1 out of 5 based on 107 votes
A guest blogger article
I just posted a question about a tax problem on
The site says there are 9 experts waiting to answer my question. Note the use of the word expert. I didn’t know if I would get a lawyer or an accountant, but I thought it was worth a try. So I typed in my question as follows:

My accountant made false claims on my tax return in 2006 and now CRA audited me for 5 years and is claiming back my refund. What rights do I have against the CRA who is threatening to take my house and bank account?

Immediately I got a response saying that Debra Thal, Lawyer and “Verified Expert” was online and ready to answer my question, if I posted a good faith deposit of $33 (plus HST) on my credit card now. If I wasn’t happy with the answer I could get the money back ( I think – haven’t fully read the fine print yet…)

Here’s what I saw about Debra Thal.




It says she’s a lawyer, but how do I really know? I can check her out on the Law Society listing and see if she has a license. But the site suggests that Debra Thal is a username. Read online pseudonym.  And the other questions she recently answered are about all kinds of general legal stuff. Nothing about tax. I’m wondering how/where she gained her qualifications as a Verified Expert on tax.

Not comfortable, I tried the same question again, on a different mobile device. This time I got a different Tax Expert:


Hartley (no last name, so how could I check out his credentials?) is a Chartered Accountant. So now I have an accountant presuming to advise on questions which, given that they involve seizure of property (see s. 225 of the ITA) and false claims on a tax return ( see: s.163(2) of the ITA – penalties for misrepresentation and third party civil liability) are clearly legal.

Does Hartley the Chartered Accountant also have a license to practice law? Or does he run a bait and switch with the pseudononymous Debra Thal wherein they cover for each other. She does tax returns and he gives legal advice? Or do CAs even do tax returns?

Maybe the last question is a topic for another time. Anyway…

The foregoing brief foray into the world of internet tax problem solvers uncovers these disturbing thoughts:

  1. Are people really stupid enough to spill their guts and pay for advice from someone who is no more than an internet photo or a “username”? Maybe it works for internet sex, but even there, if you engage, they have your credit card number on file. So it’s a hop, skip and a jump for the authorities to track you down and charge you with pornography, tax evasion, or anything else that seems relevant.

       2. As long as you’re rated on, apparently you are automatically a Verified Expert, on whatever topic the site synapses connect you into.

       3. What makes a lawyer and a Chartered Accountant interchangeably qualified to provide advice on a tax matter that has legal implications?

I’m not brave enough to trust my details to these guys. So I didn’t find out what wisdom Debra Thal and Hartley had to share. Maybe it would have been an identical answer. Maybe Debra and Hartley are two sides of the same all-knowing internet Janus. A lawyer generalist espousing tax and an accountant practicing law.

Sounds illegal. Which makes the tax act infractions presented in my question above pale by comparison.

And yet people trust this stuff because the internet tells them so.

Can I help you buy the CN Tower???

Internet Username   28.05.2013 15:35
How do I know the iternet expert is real?

Doesn't google check before they let people advertise their business online? Your article suggests anyone can say they're an expert and get people to pay them money. If this is true, how you can trust anything you find online...?


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