Column: Time to crack down on tax cheats

The use of offshore tax havens is estimated to cost Canadians between $5 and $8 billion dollars

The use of offshore tax havens is estimated to cost Canadians between $5 and $8 billion dollars every year, and it is long past time that we crack down on them. The economy should not be built for the few at the top at the expense of everyone else.

The NDP recently moved a motion to tackle tax havens, tighten the rules for shell companies, and remove the penalty-free amnesty deals for individuals suspected of tax evasion. It was heartening to see the Liberal government supportive of the motion, but unfortunately their most recent budget has seen no concrete plans to implement any measures to effectively deal with it.

In 2016, with the release of the Panama Papers, there were many Canadians who were revealed to have taken part in these offshore tax schemes.

Recent investigative journalism done by the CBC and the Toronto Star had found that there were dozens of instances where tax advisors told large companies that they should create shell companies as an easy way to hide their client’s assets.

Tax planners have promoted the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Canada as places that have many tax advantages and high secrecy.

In my experience, the Canada Revenue Agency wastes no time in coming after a regular person who makes a mistake on their tax forms.

However, when the largest companies or richest individuals use shell companies, they can get away with it far too easily. Right now, the government is still letting tax cheats avoid paying by giving them secret amnesty deals.

It is a patently unfair system when people who pay their taxes diligently do not get the services they expect because some of the few richest at the top are not paying their fair share.

This is money that could be invested in health care, job-creating infrastructure, and proper staffing levels for important agencies such as Environment Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. When some wealthy individuals avoid paying their fair share in taxes, it can have a real impact on the government’s ability to use revenue to provide the services that so many Canadians depend on.

We desperately need green infrastructure funds for things like the Cowichan River weir and we need to provide proper resources to our healthcare system, including palliative care and national Pharmacare.

It is now time for the Liberal government to take action. This is about tax fairness on the most basic level, an issue I take with the utmost seriousness as your elected representative.

Alistair MacGregor is the Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan.