Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will be supporting Bill S-4, to implement various tax agreements with the countries listed therein.
I am mentioning this right away because I am going to be rather hard on the government with respect to its previous position and its approach to tax treaties, and also because I may not have enough time to finish my speech given that members only get five minutes.
It is becoming increasingly common for taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, to have revenue in more than one country given the rapid rate of globalization we are experiencing. This requires co-ordination and is an additional challenge for countries around the world. In fact, they have to adapt and have good legislation to deal with the problems that this situation creates. Hence, it is important that we enter into good tax treaties, like those we are debating today.
The government often says that the purpose of tax agreements is to avoid double taxation and prevent tax avoidance. That is what they are supposed to do. However, tax agreements also make certain things possible. Any measure to avoid double taxation may be accompanied by a certain degree of non-taxation. That can cause problems. People who know how to game the system can find loopholes in the agreement to avoid double taxation and take advantage of them to end up paying no tax. We have to fight that, and that is why we cannot support any old tax agreement. Not every tax agreement is a good tax agreement.
Here is a good example. Here, as in most places around the world, taxation is based on residency. I live in my riding of Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, which is in Boucherville, which is in Quebec, which is in Canada, at least for now. I pay income tax to Quebec and I pay income tax to Canada even though I do not really like doing so.
However, all citizens must pay taxes in the country in which they reside. Normally it is easy to determine where someone lives: we look at where his credit card comes from, where his spouse lives, where his children live, and where his house is. That gives us a good idea of where he lives, and normally, it is hard to fake that.
The problem lies with businesses. We cannot always be sure where a company has set up shop. Sometimes a company claims to be located in one place, while its board of directors is somewhere else. Sometimes it is located in one place but all the shareholders are somewhere else. In those fuzzy situations, we have to ask what is really going on. We have to ask if they are not tyring somehow to distract from the reality in order to take advantage of the system and avoid paying the taxes they owe.
It is in these situations that tax treaties and our fiscal regulations become important, which is why it is so important for governments to remain vigilant to this. The same is true in both Canada and Quebec. We are hitched to Canada's train, fiscally speaking, and so we are often subjected to Canada's decisions, even if we do not like them. In fact, we were almost subjected to the Canadian government's policy decision in Bill C-29.
We therefore have to look at who is making the real decisions and where things are really happening for the company. That is where the company needs to be taxed. It is not enough to register a company in Barbados. That should not be how it works. The company actually needs to be doing business in Barbados. The company needs to be located there.
The United States does not have the same rules as Canada. In the United States, a company is taxed in the place where it is registered. We therefore have a problem. In Canada, we are supposed to tax a company in the place where the board of directors is located and where the decisions are made, while in the U.S., it is where the company is registered.
If a company is registered in Canada but makes its decisions in the United States, the Americans see the company as Canadian,. while Canadians see it as American. The company is therefore in tax limbo. It does not make any sense. We need to do something to prevent situations like that. Some jokers came up with the idea of doing that in the past.
Fortunately, those types of situations were dealt with most of the time. However, this is not over because there are new ways to evade taxes, as we saw in the case of the tax treaty with Barbados.
My colleague to my right, Mr. Ste-Marie, the member for Joliette, tried to do something about that, but unfortunately the members across the way decided it was perfectly all right for companies to use the tax treaty with Barbados for tax evasion.
We hope that Bill S-4, which implements various tax conventions, will put an end to these situations.
Merry Christmas, everyone, especially the banks.