Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Canada's tax evasion problem in need of resources & leadership

Senator Percy Downe has issued a call to the Harper government to put some money and some effort into curbing Canadians hiding their assets overseas to escape taxation:
Sen. Percy Downe said the vacancy [at the head of the CRA] gives Prime Minister Stephen Harper the opportunity to elevate the job to the “importance it deserves” — to provide the resources to crack down on Canadians who stash money in havens to avoid paying taxes. 
...“It’s either a resource problem or a leadership problem and this is an opportunity for the prime minister to identify it as a problem and correct it,” said Downe. “I don’t want to see someone parked there to manage the status quo …. It’s time to shake up the status quo.” 
Former CRA commissioner Michel Dorais said it's a question of resources:
“CRA is a big collection machine and the money collected is directly proportional to the money invested. The determination of where to put the effort is a combination of ministerial direction, priorities of its clients, direction from the board of management and management decisions of the CEO/commissioner. If one of those three components is weak, the whole thing can breakdown rapidly.”
But the Senator says it is a question of will, not resources, becuase more resources put in will yield more revenues out.  The story quotes a "former CRA executive" who said “wherever you look you’ll find money.” Info on offshore accounts not being fully pursued by the CRA is a case in point:
In 2007, the government was given a list of 106 Canadians with secret accounts worth more than $100 million in a bank in Liechtenstein. They were among a longer list of clients taken from the bank by a former employee and later acquired by the German government, which shared the information with countries whose citizens were on the list. 
By April, Downe said CRA had assessed only $16.5 million owing in back taxes, interest and penalties on the money hidden in Liechtenstein. Of that, they collected only about $5 million and “not one penny has been assessed in fines.” 
“By its own admission, since CRA received this information five and a half years ago, not one of these Canadians who have hidden their money abroad to avoid paying taxes in Canada has stood before a judge,” said Downe.
More at the link.

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