Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this chamber to outline how the Government of Canada is committed to a fair and efficient tax system that benefits middle-class Canadians.
The bill before us today, as sponsored by the member for York—Simcoe, seeks to establish a tax credit for expenses related to the rehabilitation of a historic property. However, tax changes should ideally be undertaken through the budget process. This is to allow the government to fully consider the trade-offs, balance the priorities, and undertake new fiscal commitments only to the extent they are affordable.
This is why the first point I want to underline is that the government is committed to ensure that federal tax expenditures are fair for Canadians, efficient, as well as fiscally responsible. This is the reason that in the government's first budget, growing the middle class, we announced that we would be undertaking a comprehensive review of tax expenditures. This exercise is part of a broader government commitment to eliminate poorly targeted and inefficient programs, wasteful spending, and ineffective or obsolete programs. At the end of this process, Canada will be one step closer to fairness and efficiency for its citizens and taxpayers.
The bill before us today contains several examples of the issues that would need to be considered when assessing the fairness and efficiency of a tax measure, and I will discuss a few of them.
For example, a key consideration is whether the measure would actually encourage the preservation of historic properties or simply represent a windfall to property owners for doing what they were already required to do.
Another question is whether such a tax credit would create any new inequities between historic property owners and other homeowners.
A third obvious question is how much of a revenue cost such a bill would entail for the government. This question is certainly relevant. As currently drafted, Bill C-323 contains no upper limit on the amount that can be claimed for tax purposes. The government would also have to assess whether requirements of the bill would be practical for the Canada Revenue Agency and Parks Canada to administer.
These are only a few examples of the considerations that would have to be weighed carefully in assessing Bill C-323.
From day one, our government has been focused on advancing the economy for middle-class Canadians. Last year, we replaced the previous system of child benefits with the Canada child benefit, a simpler, tax-free, more generous, targeted benefit that would help those who needed it most.
The CCB, built on our middle-class tax cut, has reduced taxes for nearly nine million Canadians. These two measures together mean that more middle-class Canadians have more money in their pockets, and they can use it as they see fit.
A strengthened middle class means that hard-working Canadians can look forward to a good standard of living and better prospects for their children. When the middle class thrives, we all thrive. We have committed historic levels of investments in infrastructure, which will expand opportunities and deliver stronger, more inclusive growth.
Canadians value fairness. That is why, in budget 2016, we also took action to improve the integrity of Canada's tax system to protect the country's revenue base and to give Canadians greater confidence that the system would be fair to everyone.
Here is what we are doing. In April 2016, the revenue minister announced a series of actions that the Canada Revenue Agency will take to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance, thanks to the $444.4 million commitment in budget 2016. These funds are enabling the CRA to hire additional auditors, develop robust business intelligence infrastructure, increase verification activities, and improve the quality of its investigative work. These additional employees will increase the number of CRA audits focused on high-risk taxpayers by 400%.
Furthermore, the government is streamlining its efforts by embedding legal counsel within investigation teams, so that cases can be quickly brought to court. Two new mechanisms are being formed: a special program dedicated to stopping the organizations that create and promote tax schemes for the wealthy, and an independent advisory committee on offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance that will provide strategic advice to the CRA on approaches for combatting offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Canada has also been a very active participant in international efforts to address tax evasion. We are an active member of the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, which was established to ensure that high standards of transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes are in place around the world. Canada has also developed an extensive network of bilateral tax treaties and tax information exchange agreements, which provide for exchange of information.
As confirmed in budget 2016, legislation was recently adopted to implement the common reporting standard for the exchange between tax administrations of information on financial accounts held by non-residents. Canada joins more than 100 other jurisdictions that have similarly committed to implement the new standard.
Canada has also been actively engaged in a second multilateral initiative aimed at addressing base erosion and profit shifting, or BEPS. This refers to certain tax planning arrangements undertaken by multinationals, which, though often legal, exploit the interaction between domestic and international tax rules to minimize taxes. Canada has already implemented a number of the BEPS project recommendations. Going forward, the government will continue to work with the international community to ensure a coherent and consistent response to BEPS.
Canada supports the important goal of improving corporate transparency globally. The government has agreed to strong rules in both the Financial Action Task Force and the global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes in support of corporate transparency. Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations enhance Canada's requirements for financial institutions regarding the collection of information on beneficial owners of corporations.
In closing, I would like to assure hon. members of our government's commitment to helping the middle class and those who are working hard to join it.