Clamping down on tax evasion

Local MP Richard Cannings reflects on taxes, the Panama Papers scandal, and tax evasion.

Spring has sprung across Canada, and with the return of the warmer weather we have other annual traditions that come with this time of the year— hockey play-offs, getting together with family at Easter and getting the garden ready for summer. Another spring activity is one that we don’t tend to look forward to but still needs to be done: filing of our income taxes.

Whether we do our own taxes or get a professional to prepare them, the vast majority of Canadians take to this task every year and pay their fair share. They do their part to help ensure that the society that we have helped to build continues to keep providing for all of us.

But as we have seen recently in the news, some Canadians have both the intent and means to avoid or evade paying their fair share. We have seen the Panama Papers story, where thousands of wealthy people around the world have used shady tax havens to avoid paying their taxes. We have seen the case of KPMG, which is accused of having used tax avoidance and evasion strategies for the accounts of a number of its clients. In this case, The Canada Revenue Agency allegedly offered amnesty to multi-millionaire clients caught using their strategy on the Isle of Man. This allowed the clients to be free from any future civil or criminal prosecution, including any penalties or fines. All that the clients had to do was agree to repay what they owed.

We’d all like it if a government agency would bend over backwards to help us if we actively tried to avoid paying our taxes, but I think that most of us have had very different experiences and that’s not a bad thing. Canada Revenue Agency should be vigilant in ensuring that everyone pays their fair share and should be treating everyone the same in that way. This is a matter of simple fairness, something that we expect to come from our government.

I believe that all Canadians must be treated fairly, regardless of income. My New Democrat colleagues and I are determined to target tax evasion and take the necessary measures to protect the integrity of our tax system. We will continue to hold the Liberal government to account to ensure that it walks the talk and reinvests additional resources to target tax evasion, as they promised to do during the election campaign. The government must maintain public trust, but that has been seriously shaken with these recent stories.

Richard Cannings is the MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay