Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am pleased to accept the committee’s invitation to discuss the Canada Revenue Agency’s actions to address aggressive tax avoidance and offshore tax evasion, and to provide the current status of the Isle of Man file.
I am joined today by Mr. Ted Gallivan, the assistant commissioner of the International, Large Business and Investigations Branch at the CRA.
Let me begin by asserting that the Government of Canada’s position on tax evasion and tax avoidance schemes is unequivocal: all participants must be identified and brought into full compliance with all their tax obligations.
The CRA systematically pursues cases of non-compliance. CRA auditors conduct over 120,000 audits every year that result in more than $11 billion in additional taxes assessed as well as penalties and interest. At least two-thirds of that amount involves international and large business aggressive tax planning, including high-net-worth individuals and multinationals.
The CRA also takes action against tax professionals who offer, assist, or create opportunities for clients to participate in offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance schemes. The CRA is very active in combatting this problem and is already achieving significant results, but we know that we need to do more. Wealthy taxpayers must pay the taxes that they owe. It’s a question of fairness.
As you know, for budget 2016, the Minister of Finance announced a historic investment of $444 million to improve the agency’s ability to detect, audit, and prosecute tax evaders in Canada and abroad.
The CRA will use some of those new funds to hire additional auditors and specialists to conduct investigations. For example, we will increase the number of auditors who focus on those who create tax schemes. We will also hire another 100 senior auditors to pursue investigations on high-risk multinationals. This federal investment will increase the number of examinations focused on high-risk taxpayers from 600 per year to 3,000 per year. That will allow the agency to better target promoters of illegal schemes, increase its audit activities, and improve the quality of investigative work focusing on criminal tax avoiders.
The CRA is also developing business intelligence infrastructure for gathering and analyzing information that will help detect tax evasion and avoidance activities. For example, on May 13, I announced that Canada and 30 of its international treaty partners signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement.
Large multinational enterprises will be required to make their global operations more transparent by providing “country-by-country reports” that contain their income, taxes paid, and economic activities. This will help ensure they pay appropriate taxes in the countries where they do business and where their profits are generated.
It also takes effective international cooperation to address offshore tax evasion. To that end, Canada has one of the world’s largest treaty networks, having entered into 92 tax treaties and 22 tax information exchange agreements. Moreover, we recently ratified the multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which further expands this international tax information-sharing network.
Canada is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—the OECD—and its Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre network. The CRA recently participated in a JITSIC network meeting to coordinate measures concerning information related to the Panama affair. The CRA is also accelerating its offshore compliance measures related to the activities of some Canadians.
We are talking about measures taken based on information gathered concerning electronic funds transfers of more than $10,000. We have also received over 17 million records of such transfers into and out of Canada. Using that information, the CRA will target up to four jurisdictions a year, without any warning.
The net is tightening. Those who hide income and assets offshore, or who evade or avoid the taxes they owe, will be identified and will face the consequences.
The first targeted jurisdiction is the Isle of Man. The CRA is in the process of contacting 350 individuals and 400 businesses that have conducted transactions there. Over 60 audits are underway, with more to come.
Mr. Chair, there has been some recent speculation in the media about the CRA’s handling of this investigation, particularly regarding its relationship with KPMG and its treatment of some of its clients.
I cannot speak about a particular taxpayer or case, beyond what is on the public record. I can say that the KPMG offshore tax avoidance scheme was discovered through the efforts of the CRA, and that legal action is underway to obtain the identities of participating KPMG clients who have not yet been exposed or come forward voluntarily.
I can also point out that very specific legislation governs what the CRA may or may not do. Its decisions within that legislation are guided by the facts available to them.
In terms of overall stakeholder relations, the CRA has a responsibility to listen to those affected by its policies and programs. That includes individual taxpayers, businesses, and those who represent them, including KPMG and similar organizations.
In meeting with these stakeholders, CRA employees help them to better understand the requirements of Canada’s tax system and improve compliance. They do not discuss specific taxpayer files.
The agency avoids circumstances that could lead to real or perceived conflict of interest or preferential treatment. At the same time, it works hard to ensure that its operations are open and transparent to the public it serves.
In a show of commitment to openness and transparency, and in following the rules that govern its actions, the CRA commissioned an independent review of its investigation of the KPMG-Isle of Man case. The review concluded that the CRA's compliance actions were in accordance with its established policies and procedures and that no inappropriate interaction took place between KPMG and agency officials involved in the case.
I remain confident that taxpayer fairness is paramount at the CRA, as it is for all Canadian taxpayers and the public in general. The substantial investment of close to half a million dollars, announced in the last budget, will help the CRA ensure that the Canadian tax system works to its full potential, and contributes to an economy that is fair and that benefits all of us.
Thank you for your attention.