Gail Shea, minister of National Revenue, says that Ottawa will use the courts to get the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to hand over leaked data naming people who have allegedly used offshore tax havens.
“As announced in Economic Action Plan 2013, our Government is taking strong action to tackle tax evasion,” Shea stated in a release. “We are committed to cracking down on individuals who avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”
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In an interview with Canadian Press, she said she’s asked the CBC for the information but it has refused, so now the department will pursue legal means in a bid to get the list.
“We will pursue any legal options that we do have to obtain the list and we are working with the United States and our other international partners to do so.”
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Shea said tax evasion is illegal and the media has an obligation to provide the department with any information about suspected illegal activity, which she said the CBC’s stories suggest is a possibility.
Asked what specific laws apply, Shea said that will be left to the department’s legal experts.
The CBC is the sole Canadian member of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has refused to give Ottawa a list that it says includes 450 Canadians.
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CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the public broadcaster cannot divulge its sources or the data, and it will defend itself in court if necessary.
“Like the other members of the ICIJ, our responsibility is to tell the story,” he said in an interview.
“As a journalistic organization and as a matter of journalistic principle, CBC doesn’t reveal sources nor any related background information.”
Detailed financial information of several thousand individuals from around the world was leaked to consortium, which shared it with other media outlets.
Canadians are already required by law to report any offshore holdings worth more than $100,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency.
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In a release, the CRA reiterated the following measures proposed in the 2013 Budget to close tax loopholes:
- Launching a new Stop International Tax Evasion Program that will allow the CRA to pay individuals with knowledge of major international tax non-compliance a percentage of tax collected, as a result of the information provided;
- Requiring financial institutions who report information on international electronic funds transfers greater than $10,000 to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) to also report those transactions to the CRA;
- Streamlining the process for obtaining information on third parties by conducting an audit, allowing the CRA faster access to information on unnamed individuals for the purposes of civil actions; and
- Introducing new requirements for Canadian taxpayers with foreign income or properties to report more information, and extending the amount of time the CRA has to reassess those who have not properly reported income.