Canada Revenue Agency refuses to co-operate with the Parliamentary Budget OfficerPublished on 19 June 2014 News & Photos by Senator Percy Downe
Charlottetown Senator Percy Downe has received confirmation from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) continues to stonewall and deny Canadians important information from their government regarding the “tax gap”, the difference between the tax revenue the government ought to be able to collect and what is actually collected, a difference that is a result of overseas tax evasion.
The PBO has once again been blocked by the CRA in its efforts to put a dollar figure on the tax gap, and as the Parliamentary Budget Officer said himself in a February 21, 2014, letter to Commissioner of Revenue, Andre Treusch: “As a consequence, I am unable to fulfil part of my legislative mandate regarding analysis and research regarding the state of the nation’s finances.”
CRA has expressed a phony willingness to share the data requested by the PBO, but only at considerable expense to the Budget Office. CRA has imposed such conditions as to make the information almost unusable. “Basically, CRA is saying: we’ll only provide the information – information we are required by law to share – but we’ll make you wait almost two years, charge the Budget Officer an arm and a leg for it, and make sure you can’t learn too much from it”, stated Downe.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Jean-Denis Frechette recently advised Downe of continuing obstacles put up by CRA to the release of data necessary to provide an estimate of the tax gap. Frechette also advised Treusch of what he describes as his frustrations with the Agency: “CRA staff recently notified us that they will be unable to provide my staff access to anonymized micro data on any PBO project, citing legislative prohibitions. . . “
This constitutes an obvious violation of the Parliament of Canada Act, under which the Parliamentary Budget Office was established, as it states that the Officer shall have access “to free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the possession of the department that are required for the performance of his or her mandate.”
Just how many billions in lost taxes are not being paid to the Canadian government through overseas tax evasion, and why isn’t the government willing to at least identify the size of the problem, let alone actually commit the required resources to collect the missing dollars? The billions that are lost to Canada mean that rest of us have to pay more in taxes and suffer reduced government services.
Downe originally asked then Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page to look at the costs of overseas tax evasion back in October 2012, but after almost two years, a new Parliamentary Budget Officer and even a new Minister of National Revenue have led to no progress on the file. The reason for the lack of progress, according to the PBO, is the outright failure of the CRA to provide the data required to undertake this sort of analysis.
Other countries have found this exercise to be quite valuable. In fact, a dozen member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produce periodic estimates of their tax gap. The United States alone has estimated theirs at over $380 billion. Even the state of California compiles their own statistics, determining their gap to be $6.5 billion.
“And yet, the CRA has continued to stonewall the efforts of the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do his job – a job created by this very Government. This must be very disappointing for those Canadians who work hard, play by the rules and pay their taxes, to know that this Government is so unconcerned about taxes that are lost to this country that they will not even identify the size of the problem,” concluded Downe.
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