Last week, the CBC reported that CRA officials had been attending “receptions offering free alcohol and hors d’oeuvres paid for by groups and firms in the tax industry,” including firms the agency had been investigating. The articles fuelled existing public outrage about a CRA amnesty offer to clients participating in an offshore tax scheme.

But one tax practitioner says such receptions are a normal — and even necessary — byproduct of consulting with the public about policy.

“I have attended many tax conferences over my career. The information exchanged is terrific,” writes Kim Moody, director, Canadian Tax Advisory at Moodys Gartner Tax Law in a blog post. He praises the Canadian Tax Foundation’s roundtable, calling the session “extremely valuable.”

Moody points out that what’s revealed at conferences can lead to more restrictive, rather than looser, tax planning. “Trust me, the CRA’s responses are not always palatable to tax practitioners,” he writes. What’s more, he says CRA uses such conferences to evaluate tax trends and ascertain whether practitioners are complying with rules.

“To suggest that anything inappropriate is being done by the CRA by having a friendly collaboration and exchange of views with a professional body or at tax conferences, simply because appetizers and drinks are offered to all present, is simple nonsense,” he says.

He’s concerned the public outcry could stymie the tax community’s access to CRA, and ultimately lead to opaque policy-making. “A healthy interchange of ideas between the CRA and the practitioner community is necessary to ensure the system works well and efficiently,” he writes. “If the administration of tax reverts back to [an adversarial system], Canada as a country loses because the exchange of information and debate will be reduced.”

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