Madam Speaker, it is an absolute pleasure for me to rise here today to speak to this opposition day motion on tax havens. As always, I am so happy to speak on behalf of the residents in Davenport, who I am so proud to represent.
As I was reminded recently by Davenport residents at a pre-budget consultation I held in November 2017, tax fairness and the federal government continuing to pursue those companies, organizations and individuals who avoid paying their fair share of taxes is a top priority for them. That is very important.
Canadians work hard to support their families and most do pay their fair share of taxes. In return, Canadians expect that the Government of Canada will work hard on their behalf to ensure that our tax system is responsive and fair and that the monies are spent on priorities important to Canadians.
I know we have heard this a number of times over the full day today, but it warrants repeating. Over the past two years, our government has taken concrete action to go after tax evaders with the historic investment of nearly $1 billion in the combined budgets of 2016 and 2017. No other government has invested this much in the Canada Revenue Agency to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance.
We started in 2016 with an investment of $444 million in the CRA to enhance its ability to detect, audit and combat tax evasion and avoidance. Because we saw much success, we invested an additional $523.9 million over five years.
As a result of this huge investment, our government has made significant progress in combatting offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. I encourage all hon. members of the House to share with their constituents the progress that the Canada Revenue Agency has made in this area and the steps it will take going forward to ensure a more responsive and fair tax system for all Canadians.
Just last September, the Minister of National Revenue provided an update to all of us addressing the recommendations made by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance and the actions taken by the CRA on this front. It is an absolute pleasure for me to share with members some of the highlights of the CRA's results achieved between April 1, 2016 through to March 31, 2017: 335 cases were referred for criminal investigations; 123 search warrants were executed; 32 criminal charges were laid under the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and/or the Criminal Code; 37 convictions for tax evasion; $10 million in court fines, 50.6 years of jail time were imposed; and more than 111,000 audits were completed, with a fiscal impact of $12.5 billion yielded from audit activities.
While we expect to recover $2.6 billion in revenue from the crackdown on tax evasion, this amount does not reflect the gain that is expected to be realized by our provinces and territories across Canada whose tax revenues will also increase as a result of federal action, investments and initiatives.
The issue of tax havens demonstrate quite clearly that tax cheating remains a significant global multi-billion dollar issue that transcends borders. Not only is Canada taking action at home, we are also playing a key role internationally.
I am happy to relay that Canada plays a key role in international intelligence when it comes to combatting overseas tax abuse. We share our information and we get information that helps us to track down evaders. With our partners in the G20, as well as with our partners that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada has been actively participating in the multilateral project on base erosion and profit shifting, also know as BEPS, which tackles international tax planning arrangements used by some multinational enterprises to inappropriately minimize their taxes. Just to remind everyone, Canada signed on to the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS in June 2017.
As part of Canada's choices under the multilateral convention, Canada will adopt BEPS standards including the treaty abuse rule. Our government is committed to working with international partners and is involved in initiatives to better tackle the issue of tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Canada is heavily engaged in an extensive array of tax treaty networks around the world, having signed onto 92 tax treaties and 22 tax information exchange agreements as of November 2016. In addition, in May 2016, Canada signed a multilateral competent authority agreement with its OECD and G20 partners to formalize the sharing of information contained in the country-by-country report, or CbCR. CbCR, together with the existing treaties and the BEPS project will provide Canada with more information to risk assess taxpayers who may be aggressively avoiding or evading taxes offshore.
Given that our government is fully committed to fighting tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, we are establishing a new level of transparency to report results to Canadians. Just as a quick aside, I also co-hosted a joint pre-budget consultation with a number of my colleagues a few weeks ago and a number of those residents had actually attended the pre-budget consultation. Indeed, that verified that they are looking for transparency from the CRA. They want to see public results from the investment that the government, on behalf of all Canadians, is making to recoup taxes. They believe that with more transparency there will be more disincentives to those who may be thinking about using offshore tax havens to evade paying their fair share of taxes.
The Canada Revenue Agency has identified $25 billion in fiscal impact from audit activities over the last two years. Almost two-thirds of this was from audits of international, large business, and aggressive tax planning activities. Fiscal impact by definition does not imply amounts collected, but amounts identified. For offshore-related files alone, as of December 31, 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency has been conducting audits on more than 1,090 taxpayers and is criminally investigating more than 20 cases of tax evasion. It will continue to apply penalties to all cases of serious tax non-compliance.
As mentioned, Canada is collaborating with international partners. We recognize this is crucial to identifying and taking action against those who are evading and avoiding paying their fair share. In fact, thanks to these actions, starting this year, Canada will be able to automatically exchange information with other countries to identify taxpayers with offshore accounts through the OECD's common reporting standard. Legislation was passed in December 2016 to implement the standard in Canada as of July 1, 2017. This allowed Canada to undertake a first exchange of information with other countries.
We have indeed started working with our international treaty partners to obtain information that may not currently be in the agency's possession, information that will help the government take compliance actions according to the information available in each case, including referrals to the CRA's criminal investigations unit and, where appropriate, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada for possible criminal prosecution.
I want to emphasize that the CRA does not depend on leaked lists such as the paradise papers or the Panama papers to tackle the issue of tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. Thanks to the government's investment in the CRA, by the time such a leak occurs, the agency is already well advanced in carrying out its work in identifying and pursuing those who are not paying their fair share.
Our government's leadership and contribution to international best practices in this area is providing Canadians with a revenue agency that is a world-class tax and benefit administration. Canadians expect no less from us and we are delivering on our promises.
The CRA will continue to build on its capacity to detect and combat tax cheating and ensure that those who choose to break the law face the consequences. We will close in on any wealthy individuals or corporations that try to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and that drain resources away from the services that support and improve the lives of all Canadians.
Aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion continue to be a concern, not only here in Canada but also abroad. Like most Canadians, I am frustrated to hear about individuals who try to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. As Canadians know, not only is it unfair and against the law but it robs the government of the revenues needed to deliver the programs on which Canadians have come to rely to improve their quality of life.
Hard-working Canadians who pay their fair share of taxes expect the government to do its part to crack down on tax cheating. This is what Canadians expect and this is what the government will deliver.