Revenue minister responds to story on offshore havens during St. John’s visit
National Revenue Minister Gail Shea, also minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, answered questions from the media at a local business, Newfoundland Canvas, in St. John’s Thursday. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/ The Telegram
The minister of national revenue says the government is always working to catch those who avoid paying money to the Canadian treasury and that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has new tools to combat international tax evasion.
“We’ve introduced a number of measures, which are new tools to allow CRA to fight that, because any money that’s not paid, any taxes that aren’t paid, it’s not fair to the Canadians who do pay their taxes on a regular basis, which most Canadians do,” said Gail Shea.
Speaking in St. John Thursday, Shea said the federal government has uncovered approximately $4.6 billion in taxes owed to the national treasury since 2006.
Reacting to media report Her comments were made in reaction to a CBC News investigation that identified hundreds of wealthy Canadians who may be hiding financial information from the government through offshore tax havens.
CBC worked with 37 other news organizations in 35 countries to look at leaked financial data.
Asked about the veracity of the $4.6-billion figure given Shea’s department had reportedly told a parliamentary budget officer in January that there was no number to speak of, Shea said there is no number “on the tax gap,” but added a number can be found based on assessed files.
“We have looked at different jurisdictions around the world, many of whom told us we can establish a number, but that’s all it is, an estimate. We want to focus resources we have on fighting real tax evasion as opposed to establishing an estimate.”
Shea said the number of people working on such files has increased by 40 per cent, though she did not mention the time frame relevant to that increase in manpower. Asked to comment on the increased resources in light of a $60-million budget cut Shea said more people do business with CRA through technology.
“We save money. We need less people because people file electronically. The reductions that we made have been to the adminstration at CRA only — not to the audit function.
“We increased the audit function in overseas tax evasion by 40 per cent, but we’ve also added another $15 million in this most recent budget to add even more people to that file.”
The minister said Canada has tax information exchange agreements in place with more than 100 countries.
Shea said CRA would like to see the full list of names connected to the CBC report.
In a note posted on its website Thursday, CBC News editor Jennifer McGuire said, “we are mindful of the reality that holding an offshore account is not evidence of wrongdoing and may not be controversial.”