Madam Speaker, for months last year, the Prime Minister and the revenue minister patted themselves on the back and made all kinds of claims regarding their attempt to recoup income taxes in particular from tax havens. There were repeated questions from different parties on the opposition benches that challenged them on what was being done to ensure the recovery of money from those who seek to evade taxes in Canada through tax havens.
They would say things like what the minister said on November 6:
In fact, over the past two years, we have invested nearly $1 billion to combat tax havens. This investment has helped our efforts to recover nearly $25 billion.
They have recovered nearly $25 billion according to that statement on November 6. The same day, she said, “Our efforts have borne fruit. We are about to recoup $25 billion.”
These are the kinds of things the government has said.
Then on November 16, CBC ran a news story and exposed what they called “a lot of baloney”. CBC said that it was complete nonsense, that the $25 billion the government had referred to was really a multi-year number, mostly a result of domestic audits, not from offshore evasion. It included things like GST evasion or lack of remittance. Actually, only $1.8 billion in annual evasion or aggressive avoidance was included in that $25 billion that the minister, and the Prime Minister for that matter, repeated over and over again last fall.
Officials in the department clarified and made the point that a lot of that money will never be collected, that this was money they assess, and believe will be assessed, and that by the time they are finished with the objection process, litigation, tax court, etc., perhaps half of that money may be collected. This is not the offshore evasion piece that members of both parties on the opposition benches have questioned them about.
That brings me to the question I asked the minister on December 5. I said:
Mr. Speaker, the government has been targeting small businesses and people with disabilities while patting itself on the back for supposedly recovering $25 billion from cheaters, including from offshore shelters.
She went on to reply, with a subtle backpedal, that they were on track to recoup $25 billion as a result of audits conducted over the past two years. No longer was that the number they were actually going to recover through going after offshore evaders.
For months the minister was misleading and completely disingenuous in the statements she made in the House to many questions about the serious issue of offshore evasion and avoidance. Therefore, I wonder if tonight we could perhaps hear from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue what they actually think they may be able to accomplish with their stated goal to collect and recapture taxes from offshore evaders and avoiders.