Feds be­gin pay­outs to in­for­mants for off­shore tax in­tel­li­gence

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Jim BRONSKILL

OTTAWA — The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has be­gun mak­ing pay­ments to con­fi­den­tial in­for­mants for in­tel­li­gence that has so far brought in more than $19 mil­lion from off­shore tax evaders.

The Canada Rev­enue Agency is­sued the first re­wards un­der its off­shore tax-in­for­mant pro­gram be­tween April 2018 and the end of March this year, newly re­leased doc­u­ments say.

The pro­gram was launched five years ago amid pub­lic pres­sure to find and pe­nal­ize Cana­di­ans who im­prop­erly use off­shore ac­counts to avoid pay­ing their fair share of tax to Ottawa.

The rev­enue agency says it can­not dis­close the spe­cific amounts paid to in­for­mants be­cause that data could po­ten­tially re­veal their iden­ti­ties.

How­ever, un­der the pro­gram, the re­ward is be­tween five and 15 per cent of the fed­eral tax col­lected in cases where the amount as­sessed and re­couped ex­ceeds $100,000.

The lat­est data on the in­for­mant pro­gram was re­cently pre­sented to the House of Com­mons in re­sponse to writ­ten ques­tions from New Demo­crat MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault.

The ab­sence of ad­di­tional de­tails about the ac­tual pay­outs makes it im­pos­si­ble to gauge the value of the in­for­mant pro­gram, Dusseault said in an in­ter­view Mon­day. The agency could have dis­closed ag­gre­gate fig­ures with­out com­pro­mis­ing the iden­tity of in­for­mants, he said.

“We can’t re­ally judge, by this an­swer, the ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­gram it­self.”

The Sher­brooke, Que., MP is unim­pressed that it took the agency five years to re­coup $19 mil­lion. “By the num­bers, it doesn’t seem like it’s work­ing too well.”

The rev­enue agency says it re­ceived 1,431 calls as of March 31 this year to a hotline set up five years ago to field tips about off­shore tax eva­sion. If it ap­pears the case gen­er­ally meets the pro­gram cri­te­ria, the caller is given a case num­ber and in­struc­tions on how to sub­mit in­for­ma­tion.

A to­tal of 425 tax­pay­ers have been sin­gled out for off­shore non-com­pli­ance au­dits based on in­tel­li­gence gleaned from in­for­mants, the agency says. It sug­gests the in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­way could in­volve un­re­ported in­come in the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

The agency cau­tions it might take sev­eral years from the date an in­for­mant en­ters into a con­tract with the agency un­til the ad­di­tional fed­eral tax is as­sessed, the tax­payer’s ap­peal rights have ex­pired and the amount ow­ing is col­lected.

Dusseault said he is skep­ti­cal the pro­gram will yield large sums of money for the fed­eral trea­sury, point­ing to the lack of suc­cess in pros­e­cut­ing Cana­di­ans for off­shore tax eva­sion in the courts.

It is en­cour­ag­ing that the rev­enue agency is be­gin­ning to re­coup some money from off­shore tax dodgers, said Toby Sanger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cana­dian for Tax Fair­ness, a not-for-profit, non-par­ti­san or­ga­ni­za­tion that pushes for pro­gres­sive tax poli­cies.

How­ever, Sanger said he too would like to see more fig­ures about op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing how many of the in­for­mants are Cana­dian, given that the pro­gram is open to peo­ple from other coun­tries.

“I’m just sur­prised that they don’t pub­li­cize this in­for­ma­tion on an an­nual ba­sis.”

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